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                     Critical Issues Paper

                       Ashley N. Pope

                University of Colorado at Denver

         FNDS 5050 Critical Issues in American Education

                          FALL 2010
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        Each and every day people try to adapt their lives to meet the ongoing changes and needs

the nation is experiencing. These adaptations are necessary in all aspects of life and are seen in

such areas as the latest trends, technology and fashion in order to stay ahead of the curve. All

educational systems have not incorporated the latest ideas and concepts in relation to the school

calendar system. The needs of students have changed and the educational system needs to start

adapting to these changes. Adaptation is the secret to efficiency and if our schools system is

trying to be the most efficient, it must take the steps necessary to incorporate year-round


Educational System Background

        The origins of the traditional school system were based on the demands of the local

community. The community in which the school was located in dictated the schedule in which

the school followed. Rural students experienced much less demanding schools with fewer

required hours of attendance. On the other hand schools located in urban areas were open up to

49 weeks of the year and had more academic demands on the students. Urban schools pushed for

shorter schedules in order to have summers off due to no air conditioning and teachers’ needs of

supplemental employment. Public pressures on rural schools pushed for longer school years to

help protect children from industrial labor and to better prepare students for the workforce. The

two school systems tried to become balanced within their community ties. The compromise of

this developed the 180 day calendar typical of the schools today. (Johnson, S. & Spradlin, T.

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The Need for Change

       To meet the needs of the students today a change must be made to this system that was

created more than 150 years ago. The nations concerns on our schools performance and the need

for more time in the classroom are not being met with the current system. In 2007, a report by

Elena Silva of the Education Sector, entitled On the Clock: Rethinking the Way Schools Use

time, she addresses the continuing challenge of administrators to create innovative ways to

increase student achievement (Johnson, S. & Spradlin, T. 2007). Year-round schooling offers a

solution to this problem.

Johnson and Spradlin write:

       Federick M. Hess, director of Education Policy Studies for the American Enterprise

       Institute for Public Policy Research, notes that few countries offer more than seven

       consecutive weeks of vacation for students –as opposed to the United States’ average of

       thirteen weeks. Hess suggests that following the agrarian calendar is an anachronistic

       way of running schools. (p.2)

With the changing times and changing needs of our students, we need to change and adapt and

use a system that is more productive for the current period in time.

Year Round Calendar Development

       The first year-round program was created in 1904 by William Wurt the Superintendent of

Bluffton, Indiana. He developed it as a work-study-play school system. This was in an effort to

increase school building capacity and improve student achievement. He had other goals of

maximizing the facilities usage and improving educational outcomes. His thoughts have

provoked many schools to follow in his path. There are now over 3000 schools using the year-
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round system and they have adapted over fifty different scheduling patterns. (Palmer, E. &

Bemis, 2006).

Year Round Calendar Description

       A year round calendar redistributes the school days throughout the year and eliminates a

long summer by replacing it with shorter breaks throughout the year called intersessions. The

most common example of the year-round calendar is the 45-15 plan. In this plan the students

attend school for 45 days and then they have three weeks or 15 days off. The normal breaks such

as Holiday Break and Spring Break are still built in. Another pattern of scheduling is the 60-20

or 60-15 patterns. In this schedule the year is divided into 60-day sessions with three 20-day

vacation periods. A variation to this is the 60-15 where it allows for a common three to four

week vacation. (Kelly, M. 2010)

       Year-round calendars are usually broken into either single-track or multi-track systems.

Single-track calendars involve the entire school using the same calendar and having the same

holidays off. Multiple-track calendars have groups of students attending school at different times

with different calendars. Each track follows a given schedule so that one track is on vacation

while the other ones are in school. As you can see the year-round school system is not a longer

school year, it is just a better organized and more productive school year.

Summer Learning Loss

                A main concern of the nation is the academic efficiency of our school system and

one of the setbacks in this involves summer learning loss. Summer learning loss is the

information that students lose not being in the classroom over their summer breaks. Students lose

one to three months of learning by the end of the summer. The greatest summer loss can be seen
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in math computation and spelling. This effect of summer learning loss increases with each grade

level, peaking in ninth grade. If all schools were to implement a year-round calendar teachers

wouldn’t have to spend valuable time reviewing the material that was lost or forgotten, they

could do a little review and move on. When implementing a year-round calendar system schools

can increase the retention rates of the students. (Ballinger, C. 1995)

       Chris Pultz, a third-fourth-grade teacher at Trailblazer Elementary in Douglas County,

       Colorado, likes the year-round schedule. “I can go full tilt for the entire nine weeks,

       realizing that I have a three-week break coming up.” Pultz told Education World, “I

       cannot even imagine maintaining the high level of individual instruction for longer

       stretches of time…We spend a day, maybe two, reviewing when we come back to school

       after a three-week break. Then it is off to the races” (Chaika, G. 2009).

Effects on Attitudes

       Attitudes of the teachers, students and their parents can have a huge impact on the

efficiency of the school. With the Year-round calendar system we can see the positive impact of

frequent breaks. In a study asking about the ease of scheduling personal and family activities it

showed that year-round teachers expressed significantly higher satisfaction than traditional

calendar teachers. In the same study when asked about the school climate and effectiveness, the

scores also showed higher in year-round teachers than traditional calendar teachers. When the

same question was asked of the parents, they too had a more positive attitude towards their

children’s education, climate and effectiveness of the school (Prohm, B. & Baenen, N. 1996).

The breaks in this system also allow for better attitudes with students, helping them be more

open to new concepts.
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       Mary Brown, a middle-school teacher in Wake County (where three-week breaks occur

       every nine weeks), says “Our schedule offers the kids a break from school right when

       they need it. Earlier this year after their first three week break, the kids seemed refreshed,

       they didn’t have the bored, gazed-over look of kids who had been in school for weeks on

       end with no breaks in sight” (Morin, A. 2009).

Effects on Academics

      For the students who are struggling in school, the breaks can serve as more than just a

reprieve from school but as an academic purpose. Students can get academic help before it is too

late. When students have to wait until summer to attend additional academic enrichment

programs they can suffer. In the year-round calendar it enables more frequent and immediate

help. Schools are able to set up enrichment programs during each of the breaks and parents are

able to get their children help throughout the academic school year.

Financial Effect

       Not only can schools be efficient by improving academic time, building positive attitudes

and providing frequent enrichment programs, they can also become more financially efficient. If

a year-round school chooses to go with multi-tracking system they can enroll more students than

the buildings would normally hold. An example of this system saving a considerable amount of

money is Florida’s Marion County. They estimate that the district saved more than twelve

million in construction cost just for switching to multi-track year-round schooling. Tom Payne,

year-round education consultant for the California Department of Education, told Education

World he estimates that California saved more than $4 billion when it switched 1027 of the 1517

single-track year-round schools to multi-track schedules (Chaika, G. 2009).
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Having schools in session year round also helps reduce the amount of school vandalism and the

number of burglaries. The financial efficiencies go further than just the school saving money.

The parents of students in a year-round system can decrease their child-care expenses by cutting

down on private babysitters and having their child spend maximum time in the classroom.

Money can also be saved by families trying to travel in prime vacation dates with inflated prices

since they can now pick from multiple times throughout the year and are not restricted to just



       Year-round calendar schools have shown to have many positive effects on all areas of the

school. There are many articles that can be found showing the positive relationships in year-

round schooling and academic success. In one article from Center for Public Education, they

found that Year-round schools have a positive relationship to academic learning, especially in

reading and Math. In another research by Cooper, it is shown that year round schooling has a

positive effect on students who are deemed at risk for academic problems such as low-income

families and low academic performers. The study also showed that significant gains in

achievement were made by English Language Learners. This was in direct correlation to the fact

that year-round schooling usually results in smaller class sizes and more time for individualized

instruction. One longitudinal study of six elementary schools, three on traditional calendars and

three on year-round schedules, discovered positive effects of year-round education. It found that,

in most cases, the sample of students in the year-round schools posted overall test-score

increases that were higher than those of their traditionally schooled counterparts (Center for

Public Education, 2006).

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       Year round calendars offer many benefits to all aspects of the school system. They

benefit the school in relation to the students’ academic success, morale of the teachers, students,

and parents. The benefits also align with financial obligations of schools and the families

involved. All of these contribute to the efficiency of the school system. The times are changing

and the needs of students are evolving. The school systems in the United States are falling

behind the curve. Implementing year-round school calendars in every district will be one step in

catching up. The evidence is clear that the impacts of implementing a year-round school system

will help increase the efficiency in all aspects of the school system. Schools leading the way are

showing great success and so will the schools to follow.
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Ballinger, C., "Prisoners No More," Educational Leadership, 53 (3), 1995.

Center for Public Education, (2006). Key Lessons: What Research Says About Reorganizing
       School Schedules. Retrieved by web on September 30, 2010.

Chaika, G. (2009). Is Year-Round Schooling the Answer? Retrieved from web on October 1,

Cooper, H., Valentine, J.C., Charlton, K,. Melson, A, (2003) “The Effects of Modified School
       Calendars on Student Achievement and on School and Community Attitudes.” Review of
       Educational Research, 73 (1), pp.1-52.

Johnson, S. & Spradlin, T. (2007). Education Policy Brief: Alternatives to the Traditional
       School-Year Calendar. Volume 5, Number 3. Indiana University School of Education.

Kelly, M. (2010). Year Round Education: Pros and Cons. Retrieved from web on October 3,

Morin, A. (2009). The Pros and Cons of Year Round School: Is Going to Year Round School a
       Good Idea? Retrieved from web on October 1, 2010.

Palmer, E. & Bemis, (2006) A., Year-Round Education. Retrieved by web on October 4. 2010.
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Prohm, B. & Baenen, N. (1996). Are WCPSS multi-track elementary schools effective? Raleigh,
        NC: Wake County Public School System. ERIC Document Reproduction Service No, ED

Year-Round Schooling. (2004). Retrieved from web on October 3, 2010.

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