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Argument: Year-round schools, with equal vacation time, is no better for learning

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"Year-round Schools Don't Boost Learning, Study Finds". Science Daily. 14 Aug. 2007 - ScienceDaily (Aug. 14, 2007) — Students in “year-round” schools don't learn more than their peers in traditional nine-month schools, new research has found.

A sociologist at Ohio State University found that, over a full year, math and reading test scores improved about the same amount for children in year-round schools as they did for students whose schools followed a traditional nine-month calendar.

"We found that students in year-round schools learn more during the summer, when others are on vacation, but they seem to learn less than other children during the rest of the year," said Paul von Hippel, author of the study and research statistician in sociology at Ohio State.

The problem with year-round schools may be that they don't actually add more school days to the 180 typically required, von Hippel said. Instead of a three-month summer vacation, year-round schools typically have several breaks of three to four weeks spread throughout the year. The total number of school days and vacation days remains unchanged, but they are distributed more evenly over the calendar.

Although school districts often adopt year-round schedules to help alleviate overcrowding, some educators have claimed that eliminating the long summer vacation will provide academic benefits for students.

“The results don't support that claim,” von Hippel said.

Von Hippel presented his results Aug. 11 in New York City at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

[...]Von Hippel said he was able to take into account issues such as poverty and overcrowding when comparing scores to ensure that comparisons between test scores in year-round and traditional schools were fair.

Reading and math tests were given to students at the beginning and end of kindergarten and first grade; comparing these test scores allowed von Hippel to estimate the amount learned during kindergarten, during the summer between kindergarten and first grade, and first grade.

Over a twelve-month period, average test score gains were less than 1 percent larger in year-round than in nine month schools – which von Hippel said is “an absolutely trivial difference.”

[...]“On the other hand, if a school is considering a year-round calendar in hope of boosting academic achievement, it seems unlikely that those hopes will be realized,” von Hippel said.


Merino, B.J. (1983) The impact of year-round schooling: A review. Urban Education. - "Most studies found no significant differences between the two types of schedules with two actually showing negative effects for year-round schooling."[1]


"Year-Round Schools May Not Be the Answer." Education Resource Information Center. 11 Sept. 1992 - Three large urban school districts (Los Angeles; Houston; and Prince William County, Virginia) experimenting with year-round education found no significant positive effects on academic achievement. In two other districts (Lodi, California, and Orange County, Florida), other factors may account for increased student achievement. Los Angeles and Houston also found that year-round schools only temporarily relieved their overcrowding problems.


"Stop Year-round School in Auburn". A report to the Auburn City Schools Board of Education. 7 Nov. 1998 - 4.3 Continuity of learning

It has been suggested that a year round calendar will provide a greater continuity of learning by reducing the length of the summer break. In a letter about YRS pub-lished in the Opelika-Auburn News, 18 Sep 1998, the President of the ACS Board of Education wrote, "The only difference is longer breaks throughout the year and a shorter break in the summer. The premise is more continuity of learning " (Document 3, Opelika-Auburn News, 18 Sep 1998, p. A-5). Year round school (YRS) can reduce the summer break to 6 or 7 weeks.

However, summer learning loss doesnÌt happen in all academic areas nor does it happen with all children. One study (Cooper et al., 1996) investigates academic loss during the summer vacation. This was not an empirical study, but a review of several empirical studies. It found that some students gain, some lose, but most show little change on standardized tests between spring and fall. Perhaps most important is their conclusion that children who have the opportunity to do things during the summer improve on tests of some subjects and return better off than when they left in the spring. Those children who do not have these advantages either show no improvement or, in some cases, loss.

YRS also introduces another break in the school year compared to the traditional calendar. This gives the students one more time to forget what they are learning. As one parent at the Auburn High School PTA meeting, 20 Oct 1998, pointed out, breaks in the school year are particularly difficult for children with learning disabilities to handle. These students do much better with a consistent schedule.

YRS can also lengthen the current winter and spring breaks to 3 weeks (see sam-ple calendar D in ACS Newsletter, Document 4, Exploration of An Alternative Calendar). This gives students more time to forget. KneeseÌs comment that "In some single-track designs there are shorter intersession periods, which may produce as advantage of greater learning retention" (Kneese, 1996, p. 70) suggests that rather than serving to provide a continuity of learning, intersessions cause learning loss.

In the middle and high schools, where single subjects are taught by individual teachers (science, math, English), year-round school amounts to Block Schedul-ing, which already exists at Auburn High School. Block Scheduling provides up to twelve months for student forgetting between courses. For example, a student may take a math course for 18 weeks in Fall 1998, finish in January 1999 and not see another math book until January 2000 under Block Scheduling. This causes a long "startup" period with Block Scheduling. This is not "continuity of learning." It is, rather, a very lengthy time for forgetting.

(Note: Implementing Block Scheduling is a well-known technique to begin the transition to year-round school without the public understanding the significance (Gee, (1997) pp. 794 & 795).)

"Continuity of learning" does not take place in year round school (or block sched-uling). It is not a reason to switch to year round school because YRS provides greater discontinuity of learning than a traditional calendar.

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