Critical Issues Paper
Ashley N. Pope
University of Colorado at Denver
FNDS 5050 Critical Issues in American Education
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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. &
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.
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.