Year Round School Schedule Coming to TN?

This past weekend a news story was picking up popularity on the internet with the title, “will longer school year help or hurt US students?”

There are some educators and the Education Secretary are discussing proposals catching on around the country to lengthen the school year.

The downside, a much shorter summer vacation.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a chief proponent of the longer school year, says American students have fallen behind the world academically. He says this will allow educators more time to enrich instruction, adding meaningful in-school hours is a critical investment that better prepares children to be successful in the 21st century.

In case you didn’t know, Tennessee is among 5 states announcing they would add at least 300 hours to the academic calendar in some schools beginning this year.

The three-year pilot project will affect about 20,000 students in 40 schools in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee.

Proponents argue that too much knowledge is lost while American kids wile away the summer months apart from their lessons.

 

The National Summer Learning Association cites decades of research that shows students' test scores are higher in the same subjects at the beginning of the summer than at the end.

Supporters also say a longer school year would give poor children more access to school-provided healthy meals.

Yet the movement has plenty of detractors - so many that groups are starting campaigns to stop the move of longer school years and days.

They note that advocates of year-round school cannot point to any evidence that it brings appreciable academic benefits.

“Save Our Summers" alliance of parents, grandparents, educational professionals and some summer-time recreation providers fighting year-round school. Local chapters carry names such as Georgians Need Summers, Texans for a Traditional School Year and Save Alabama Summers.

Camps, hotel operators and other summer-specific industries raise red flags about the potential economic effect.

The debate has divided parents and educators.

Families must fill the gaps with afterschool programs, day care, babysitters and camps.

The National Center on Time & Learning has estimated that about 1,000 districts have adopted longer school days or years.

Some places that have tried the year-round calendar, including Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and parts of California, have returned to the traditional approach. Strapped budgets and parental dissatisfaction were among reasons.

 

School years are extended based on three basic models:

-stretching the traditional 180 days of school across the whole calendar year by lengthening spring and winter breaks and shortening the one in the summer.

-adding 20 to 30 actual days of instruction to the 180-day calendar.

-dividing students and staff into groups, typically four, and rotating three through at a time, with one on vacation, throughout the calendar year.

 

The U.S. remains in the top dozen or so countries in all tested subjects. But even where U.S. student scores have improved, many other nations have improved much faster, leaving American students far behind peers in Asia and Europe.

Still, data are far from clear that more hours behind a desk can help.

 

A Center for Public Education review found that students in India and China - countries Duncan has pointed to as giving children more classroom time than the U.S. - don't actually spend more time in school than American kids, when disparate data are converted to apples-to-apples comparisons.

The center, an initiative of the National School Boards Association, found 42 U.S. states require more than 800 instructional hours a year for their youngest students, and that's more than India does.

 

Here’s the interesting part, the center's study also found that some nations that outperform the U.S. academically, such as Finland, require less school.

Many schools are experimenting with the less controversial, less costly interim step of lengthening the school day instead of adding days to the school year.

A 2007 study by Ohio State University sociologist Paul von Hippel found virtually no difference in the academic gains of students who followed a traditional nine-month school calendar and those educated the same number of days spread across the entire year.