Summer School

Sorry for the late post, but I was out of the office for a week and a half and had a lot to catch up on. Then I got strep throat and was out of commission.

So with summer school in full swing I wanted to broach a subject that has been a popular subject for quite some time: an extended school year (or even year-round school).

I’d be surprised if there were large numbers of people who thought there weren’t serious issues with the American educational system. I’m reasonably sure there is not one single issue that, if “fixed,” would remedy the situation, but there are certainly front-runners for the most serious problem. I’m wondering how many people feel that the comparatively short school year that American students sit is the largest (or would even be considered a “major”) problem with the system. It’s no secret that the countries who out-perform US students in most areas have, at the very least, a more extended school year than does the US. Do you think the additional time in the classroom is a major contributing factor to that success, or is it a situation where “correlation doesn’t equal causation”?

If you could change one thing about the US educational system with the goal of improving the competitiveness of US students in the global community, what would it be? Would it be an extended/year-round school year? Would it be something else? What do you think would make the biggest difference to the performance of our students? I’m inclined to think that an extended school year (or even a year-round system) would result in a significant improvement in student achievement in both domestic context and global competitiveness. I know there are many school systems in this country that have already moved to an extended school year, but that has mostly been at an elementary level, and it is also more of a scheduling change rather than additional classroom time. And it is done mostly for monetary reasons, making the resulting performance of students less significant than actual increases to time in the classroom for students initiated with the single goal of improving student achievement/knowledge acquisition.

As long as I can remember (in my professional educational career), I have been in favor of increasing student time in the classroom. Whether this is through an extended school day (not my first choice), an extended school year (my first choice), or year-round school (my second choice), I believe additional classroom time would make a significant difference in student achievement and knowledge acquisition. I also support later start times for middle and high school students, which is supported by neurological research (although it is an argument entirely separate from ESY). This is why the extended school day is not my first option. I also believe that an extended school year schedule would relieve teacher burn out and student behavior problems.

My proposal is that the school year start on August 1st and go until a break at the end of September (4-day weekend), then go until Thanksgiving break at the end of November (a full week), then go until winter break (two full weeks). After New Year’s, go until a break at the end of February (4-day weekend), then go until the end of April (4-day weekend), then go until Memorial Day at the end of May (3-day weekend), and then go until the end of June and have a 4-week summer break. This schedule would give students roughly 210 days in the classroom (if you factor in some non-student days for intermittent teacher planning) instead of the traditional 180. It does cut out spring break, but I suppose it could be up to the district to make a full week spring break rather than 2 4-day weekends in Feb/April. But I wouldn’t recommend it because it would lead to teacher burn-out.

Thoughts?

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