Argument: Year-round school is not uniquely helpful to at-risk students
"Stop Year-round School in Auburn". A report to the Auburn City Schools Board of Education. 7 Nov. 1998 - At-Risk Student Improvement
Of concern to any school system is the low achievement of at-risk students. The number of at-risk students in the ACS district is 537 as cited at PTA meetings. There are about 4100 students enrolled in the district schools. The advantage of YRS for at-risk students is the possibility that remediation during the intersessions might help. Unfortunately this promise has not been fulfilled. As was pointed out at the Cary Woods PTA meeting, the suggestion that 9 weeks of failure can be remedied in one week of intersession is unrealistic.
Interestingly, Fact Sheet 2 (Document 4, Exploration of An Alternative Calendar), provided by Auburn City Schools, claimed that year round school helped at-risk students. Several references were cited. However, these references DO NOT support this claim.
Put simply, the references were misused in Fact Sheet 2 to justify year round school.
The following paragraphs examine these studies. The full text of these studies is in the Appendix.
Contrary to the assertion in the fact sheet, these papers show that YRS, even with remediation, is unlikely to help at-risk students. Three of the studies (Greenfield, (1994), Kneese and Knight (1995), and Roby (1995)) didn't contain enough information to determine if they applied to at-risk students. Four of the papers (Campbell (1994), Greenfield (1994), Haenn (1996), Peltier (1991)) report no statistically significant effects of year-round calendars on reading, math, or other academically relevant areas. One of these (Greenfield (1994)) did not appear to involve at-risk students and the relevance of the others to at-risk children varies.
The study by Cooper and Nye (Cooper et al., 1996) was not an empirical study, but a review of several empirical studies. The authors write that their report cannot be applied to alternative school calendars. One report (Shields et al., 1996) is a literature review conducted for the British Columbia Ministry of Educa-tion. It points out that the reason that at-risk children benefit probably lies in other reforms that accompanied the year round calendar and not the change in the calendar per se.
One study (Curry et al., 1997) is a detailed report of 12 elementary schools in Austin, Texas. At these schools, 50 to 85% of the students were Hispanic. Bene-fits were reported for Hispanic students. However, a recent news report on Na-tional Public Radio's Weekend Edition (Document 26, NPR Weekend Edition, 25 Oct 1998) revealed that the data from Hispanic students had been changed by principals. There are no studies that show that year round school alone improves the performance of at-risk students.
The following are quotes taken from some of the very papers cited in ACS Fact Sheet 2 as supporting year round school.
"Analysis of a number of student outcomes (basic skills gains, ab-sences, promotion rates, number of books read, and reading levels) found no significant differences in favor of the year-round students (Campbell, 1994, p. 24).
"Results did not demonstrate significant score increase across the years in any of the content areas. Neither did the scores of a single cohort of students, tracked for two years before and then again after YRE implementation suggest improved academic per-formance across time" (Greenfield, 1994, p. 256).
Dr. Freeman, from Auburn City Schools, echoed this at the Dean Road PTA meeting on year round school, 15 Oct 1998,and at the Ogletree PTA meeting, 26 Oct 1998, when she said:
"You can change the calendar and it won't improve a thing."
Dr. Freeman went on to explain that it is what is done during the intersessions that can sometimes improve the test scores of at-risk students.
Even this remediation remains problematic. Consider what must happen for intersessions to be effective:
1) the student must attend, 2) there must be money to fund it, 3) teachers must be prepared for it, and 4) the intersession must be long enough.
Is it reasonable to expect that students will be able to make up 9 weeks of work in 1 or 2 weeks? Will an A during intersession erase an F from the previous 9 weeks?
Especially with kindergarten and elementary students, it is difficult to establish in one or two weeks the trusting, stable relationship required for maximum learning. (Teachers at the Cary Woods (21 Oct 1998) and Ogletree (26 Oct 1998) PTA meetings added that insight). These are some of the troublesome points that must be addressed.