Should Your Child Go to Year-Round School? Here Are the Pros and Cons
You couldn’t pay us to be a teenager again (ugh, so many hormones), but we certainly wouldn’t mind going back to those long summer vacations. But what if instead of the usual 10 to 12 weeks off, your kid had six to nine weeks of school followed by two- to four-week breaks throughout the year? Also known as a balanced calendar, year-round schools have the same number of days spent inside a classroom as a traditional school schedule however breaks are shorter and more frequent. Intrigued? Here, some of the benefits and drawbacks to year-round schooling.
Year-Round Schools Could Alleviate Overcrowding
For schools that are bursting at the seams, re-structuring the calendar year could be a practical solution. Here’s how it works: In addition to introducing a year-round program, some schools also stagger their schedules so that there’s always one group of students (or more) on break while the other groups are in session. Known as multi-track year-round schooling, this also means that the school and its resources are enjoyed throughout the year (instead of sitting empty for three months).
And Eliminate Summer Brain Drain
Research shows that when kids don’t engage with school subjects over an extended period of time, they risk losing those skills. (No surprises there.) Exactly how much knowledge is lost depends on grade level, subject and family income, but one report from the RAND Corporation found that the average summer learning loss for American students in math and reading equals one month per year. Because of this so-called "summer brain drain," teachers then have to spend the first few weeks of the new school season refreshing skills from the previous year. Use it or lose it, basically.
But More Time In School Won’t Automatically Make Your Kid Smarter
So here’s where it gets tricky. While most researchers seem to agree that summer learning loss is real, there doesn’t appear to be a consensus about how the amount of time spent in the classroom relates to educational success. One study published in the Journal of Urban Economics even found that multi-track year-round schooling resulted in a drop of 1 to 2 percentile points in national rank for reading, math and language scores, compared with a traditional calendar. Many experts argue that it’s the quality of teaching that’s really important, rather than the amount of time spent in the classroom.
There Are More Breaks Throughout the Year
Shorter but more frequent breaks could mean less teacher and student burnout, and give families the opportunity to book travel in off-season times. (Hey, those July trips to Disneyland don’t come cheap.) However, these numerous breaks also mean that parents will have to find more short-term childcare solutions, which could potentially be more expensive.
But There Might Be Scheduling Issues
Parents with one child in a year-round schooling system and another in a traditional system are going to have a lot of headaches trying to coordinate schedules. (Just getting one kid dressed, fed and onto the bus is hard enough.)
The Traditional System Is Outdated
Back in the day, most families worked in agricultural jobs and children were expected to help out on the farm. Kids needed to be off school during the summer months because that was an important time for crops. These days, most kids don’t sideline as farmers, so proponents of year-round schooling argue that it’s time to get rid of the outdated school calendar.
Year-round Schooling Could Lead to Less Summer Boredom
With shorter breaks, you just might decrease the chance the chance of hearing your child utter the dreaded words "I’m bored” every five minutes of the summer. (Maybe.)
But Could Make It Tougher for Kids to Find Work
Summer is traditionally the most popular time for older students to earn some extra pocket (or college) money. Not only are these summer jobs great for financial reasons (we made a killing babysitting back in the day), but they’re also wonderful opportunities to learn important life lessons like responsibility, work ethic and why giving your friends free ice cream from your fast-food gig is not a good idea.