What is a Year-Round School Calendar?
Year-round school calendar!? At first thought, this may seem like a horrible idea. When will students and teachers get a break? Don’t let the words “year-round” scare you. This new schedule, which many school districts are starting to adopt, is also more appropriately known as a balanced school calendar.
This year-round calendar model spreads the usual 180 school days more evenly over the year. Summer break is shorter, but additional two-week-long breaks are added in the fall, winter, and spring. The pros and cons of year-round school are still under debate.
Why should school be year-round? And why shouldn’t school be year-round? We’re investigating what school districts have found out.
Moving Away from the Traditional School Schedule
The traditional nine-month school calendar was prevalent by the 20th century when the US was primarily an agricultural society. In more recent years, many school districts across the country have started visiting the idea of a balanced school calendar that more evenly distributes instruction days.
A common version of year-round school calendars is the 45/15 model. Essentially, students will have 45 days of instruction followed by 15 days of vacation. The calendar still considers holidays and gives students shorter breaks for those. Additionally, everyone still has a summer break, typically over a month long. Though this is shorter than what families and staff are used to.
The Edvocate reported that over 2 million US students are currently attending school on a year-round schedule.
Why Should School Be Year-Round?
There are pros and cons to the year-round school calendar and mixed opinions. But plenty of school districts have identified benefits for their students and teachers that have compelled them to make the switch.
Learning Loss Mitigation
One of the biggest arguments in favor of the year-round school calendar is that more evenly spaced instruction will help mitigate learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This reasoning is why many schools have adopted the new calendar in recent years.
South Carolina is one state optimistically implementing year-round school calendars in hopes of boosting academic achievement. Between 2019 and 2022, the average student in the state lost the equivalent of four months of math instruction and one month of reading instruction.
According to research shared by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, students attending school on a year-round calendar do as well or slightly better in academic achievement than students on traditional schedules.
Summer Slide Prevention
A concern that has been prevalent for decades is the learning loss that occurs in students over long summer breaks (also known as the “summer slide”). One of the goals of a balanced school calendar is to prevent the summer slide and spend less instruction time on review. Ideally, students won’t be so “rusty” when they return to school due to the shorter summer break duration.
One group a year-round school calendar could greatly benefit is disadvantaged students. A study by the New York Board of Regents found that disadvantaged students lose 27% more of their learning achievements during summer months than their peers.
More Frequent Breaks From School
Though summer vacation may be shorter, there is more vacation time throughout the year with a balanced school calendar. This is helpful with preventing burnout in both students and teachers.
Furthermore, teachers have more personal time throughout the year to schedule appointments, take trips, complete projects at home, and simply relax. Teachers are no longer waiting months at a time for a significant break.
More Enrichment and Professional Development Opportunities
With more breaks from instruction throughout the year, schools can schedule enrichment activities for students and professional development training for teachers more easily. Students and teachers can continue to learn and improve even while on a break.
To address childcare challenges, some schools on a year-round schedule offer programming for students during breaks. Other schools are offering additional instruction and tutoring during breaks to help struggling students catch up on lessons.
Why Shouldn't School Be Year-Round?
Many administrators just aren’t sold on a balanced school calendar yet. There are still some things to be considered when making the switch.
Limited Evidence of Academic Benefit
Research on the academic benefits of year-round school calendars is limited and often criticized for having small sample sizes or for not being peer-reviewed. Significant improvements as a result of year-round education are yet to be found.
One study found that a year-round school calendar did increase summer learning, but consequently, learning decreased at other times throughout the year. The research concluded that the total amount of learning in one year on a year-round calendar is no more than a traditional school calendar.
While students may have more breaks throughout the year, that doesn’t mean their working parents will. As previously mentioned, some schools are offering programming during breaks as a solution. Regardless, finding childcare on such a spread-out schedule is a challenge. Balanced school calendars present difficulties for guardians’ work schedules.
Consequences of a Shorter Summer
Shorter breaks during warm-weather months make it more difficult for families to schedule vacations. Time spent at summer camps may be compromised. Furthermore, school districts need to consider child custody agreements and visitation schedules (particularly for children with parents who live in different states).
A shorter summer break also comes with economic consequences for older students. Many high school students work during the summer. With less time to work, teenagers will earn less money, which might have been put towards college or another form of education for a career.
Conditions in Schools
After experiencing the hottest July on record this year, many are questioning if schools are equipped to handle the warm weather of early and late summer. Extreme heat has negative effects on student performance. Many schools do not have the proper air conditioning to be operating for long periods of time in hot weather. Additionally, year-round school calendars increase utility costs.
Places Using a Balanced School Calendar
Tempe Elementary School District, Kyrene Elementary School District, and Tempe Union High School District, all located in the surrounding Phoenix area, have been operating on a year-round calendar since the 2021-2022 school year. This year, classes resumed on July 19th.
One teacher in Gilbert Public Schools District, another nearby district that made the switch for 2022-2023, stated they are examining two school years’ worth of data to determine if the calendar had academic benefits. A survey of Gilbert Public Schools parents in 2023 found that 75% of parents favored the year-round calendar.
“The slightly shorter summer helps to mitigate learning loss, and the new mid-year intercessions provide opportunities for teachers to give identified students differentiated and targeted support,” Kelly Brunner, the Kyrnee School District Director of Innovation and Transformation, told a local news station.
64 of South Carolina’s 73 school districts now operate under a balanced school calendar. Georgetown County School District Superintendent Keith Price noted that one huge benefit was that students take their exams before winter break, rather than leaving school for the holidays and then having to return and review for tests. School there resumed on August 3rd.
Around the World
The idea of a year-round school calendar isn’t just an American one. In fact, students in places like Australia, Iran, and Japan attend school year-round.
What schedule does your school district operate on? Have you noticed any of the pros or cons of a year-round school calendar? Share your experience in the comments!
References and More Reading
Boddie, T. Michael. “Columbia School District Could Shift to ‘year-Round’ Calendar in next 2 Years.” The Post and Courier Columbia, Post and Courier, an Evening Post Publishing Newspaper Group, 6 Jan. 2023, www.postandcourier.com/columbia/columbia-school-district-could-shift-to-year-round-calendar-in-next-2-years/article_525da92a-8df5-11ed-addd-4f49cfebe0f5.html.
Dao, Elenee. “More School Districts Move to a Different Calendar Model, Starting Classes Early.” Abc 15 Arizona, Scripps Media, Inc., 19 June 2023, www.abc15.com/news/region-southeast-valley/tempe/more-school-districts-move-to-a-different-calendar-model-starting-classes-early.
Hughes, Mark, and Logan Chamberlain. “School Years around the World.” Infoplease, Infoplease, 27 July 2023, www.infoplease.com/world/social-statistics/school-years-around-world.
Lynch, Matthew. “Should the U.S. Switch to Year-Round Schooling?” The Edvocate, The Edvocate, 15 June 2023, www.theedadvocate.org/should-the-u-s-switch-to-year-round-schooling/.
Mitchell, Octavia. “Georgetown County Schools to Begin Year-Round Modified Calendar in 2023.” WCBD News 2, Nexstar Media Group, Inc., 2 Aug. 2023, www.counton2.com/back2school/georgetown-county-schools-to-begin-year-round-modified-calendar-in-2023/.
Polakoff, Elliott. “Tempe District Schools Start School Earlier despite Record Heat.” AZ Family, A Gray Media Group, Inc., 19 July 2023, www.azfamily.com/2023/07/20/tempe-district-schools-start-school-earlier-despite-record-heat/.
Warner, Andrew. “The Pros and Cons of Year-Round School Calendars.” US News, News & World Report L.P., 15 Mar. 2023, www.usnews.com/education/k12/articles/the-pros-and-cons-of-year-round-school-calendars.
“What Research Says About…/Year-Round Schooling.” ASCD, ASCD, 1 Apr. 2010, www.ascd.org/el/articles/year-round-schooling.