Back to school and the end of summer. Back to having six hours of uninterrupted time in your day. Some parents seem to be happy, some sad. Factors such as work, vacation ability, the dynamics of your family and the ages or your children enter into your level of excitement about “back to school.”
 
This all got me thinking – What if our children had three vacations per year lasting four weeks, or four vacations per year lasting three weeks? Rather than one long vacation of twelve weeks? In other words, what would Year Round School do to our society and education?
 
Over the past decade, many State Departments of Education have earnestly tried to reform education and raise student achievement. No Child Left Behind has been a failure, in 2010 Obama proposed an extension of the school day, receiving much resistance. Now we have the new Common Core State Standards.
 
What we know is that countries having the world’s highest student achievement like Japan, South Korea, Germany and New Zealand have more school days and fewer vacation days per year in comparison to the U.S.
An absolute fact is that all of our children suffer summer learning loss. Different sources give slightly different percentages, although the conclusion shows a staggering amount of subject, even discipline loss.Teachers spend at least the first month of the new school year making up for this loss.
 
“More than half of the achievement gap between lower and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college.” (Alexander, 2007). “Children lose more than academic knowledge over the summer. Most children, particularly children at high risk of obesity, gain weight more rapidly when they are out of school during summer break.” (Von Hippel et al, 2007).
 
Harris Cooper is a professor of education and psychology at Duke University. He has been researching school schedules for decades. Cooper says, “More frequent but shorter (school) breaks will lead to less learning loss and therefore teachers won’t have to spend as much time reviewing material when kids come back to school.”  “With regards to fatigue, lots of teachers will tell you there’s actually less fatigue when you have shorter, more frequent breaks.” “Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement.”
 
Although discarding the long summer break would take away summer job opportunities for teenagers and childcare help might be more complicated, my conclusion is that the year round schedule could make a dent in closing the achievement gap between higher and lower-income students. Ultimately, it could be the greatest benefit to all of our students by giving the best opportunity to not only learn, but to retain the knowledge.
 

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