Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Year Round Schooling

This posting may be a repeat but it is an issue I am starting to feel stronger and stronger about, Year round schooling. Yes, yes, yes I know how dare I mention this. I have heard the arguments about kids need time off to work in the fields or family business (and yes I know I am contradicting myself but hear me out), to explore alternatives to traditional schooling, go on the family vacation (or staycation), etc. Yes we need to take these things into account when we talk about year round schooling but we also need to look at what research says about learning and retention with long breaks in schooling.

In many states year round schooling is already going on with some degree of success ( There are also studies out there that claim mixed or even negative results of year round schooling, however in a cursory search using Google most of the articles I found were by organizations supporting summer vacation. The one telling article I found on ERIC ( found that if Year Round Schooling is "…carefully planned and implemented…" it had "…high levels of satisfaction for all stake holder groups." To me this says a lot about the direction we should be headed in education.

Now don't get me wrong, as a teacher I do enjoy the time off that I get (after all it is one of the hidden benefits of my job). Although I do get burned out on breaks especially summer vacation. By about mid July I am ready to head back to work as I have finished most of my honey do list, and/or other projects that need my attention. As a new parent I am learning the benefits of year round schooling from my daughter's day care. They offer a year round program for the younger kids (toddlers) and some type of summer program for the older kids (pre-kindergarten and kindergarten) albeit at a reduced day. She has been in this school for a year and a half now and I am seeing great strides in her learning. Now some of you may be thinking what am I doing with a 2 year old in school over the summer. Why am I not taking time to be with my daughter and enjoy the lazy days of summer playing and exploring the world with her. To you I say I am. So far this summer we have gone to the Aquarium, Fishing, the Pacific Science Center, the Oregon Coast, Geocaching, and numerous other activities. But on the days she goes to school her mother and I are able to work on home projects (landscaping, remodeling) and a small business (my wife) as well as take care of our two 9 month old twins. Without a year round school for our 2 year old we would be going bat crazy by now not to mention having a failing business. It has allowed us to be flexible and the type of year round school I would like to see is a flexible one as well.

I have read about two main ways of scheduling year round schooling, one being the "single track scheduling" where all students are on the same track with the same vacation schedule and the other being "multi-track scheduling" with various tracks for students and teachers and both have their pluses and minuses. Of the two I think single track is the most workable and the one that fits my view of year round school, although the multi-tracking system certainly is appealing from a cost saving point of view. My idea hopefully takes all stake holders accounts in to consideration. I would like to see us move to a university type system.

In the university system you have, for the most part, 4 quarters of schooling, fall, winter, spring, summer with the most heavily attended being the first 3. Most students take the summer off to work, vacation, relax, etc. but there are those that do take summer classes for various reasons. Some want to finish early, some are looking for enrichment or remediation and therein lies the key to my plan for year round schooling. In this day and age of budget cuts, high stakes testing, accountability, and program cuts. Year round schooling offers a viable solution for everyone.

With the university model of year round schooling you have the major areas of academic study (math, reading, writing) be mandatory but also sprinkle in some of what I will call the enrichment type courses (shop, art, music, etc.) but the focus is on the basics. Over the summer quarter you offer remediation and enrichment type courses. By having a semi-optional summer quarter you are giving parents a place for their kids to go, you open up your academic offerings for students, and you give teachers the ability to teach more and time off for those that want it. Not everyone would have to or need to attend the summer quarter only those that wanted to or needed too hence the semi-optional. For those students in need of remediation they would need to attend over the summer to boost their skills, unless they could show evidence of work towards improving skills areas needing remediation.

But what about vacations I am hearing some of you say. Well you would get more vacation throughout the year during the quarter changes. There would be 4 natural breaks around each quarter. How much time for each break would need to be hammered out but should be no longer than one month at a time to minimize academic loss.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on this post as always. I know there are a lot things I haven't considered and I would love to hear from you about those things.

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