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Year Round School; Friend Or Fiend

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A main concern for the American youth is the kind of education they are receiving. Over the past 40 years, the debate over reformatting the school year has been constantly discussed. Many schools have switched to year round schooling systems in the hope that students would retain more information over the shorter breaks. However, it seems that neither traditional nor year round school is truly an effective form of education. Though there are benefits and drawbacks to both year round school and traditional schools, some alternate plans could potentially educate students much more efficiently.

The idea of year round school (YRS) is often misunderstood, as people believe that it is every day all year except for holidays. However, school is considered year round so long as the summer vacation lasts fewer than eight weeks (Hellerman 1). Thus, a school system that gives extended breaks and winter and spring holidays and has only a month and a half summer vacation can be considered year round. This arrangement, however, is not the most common form of year round education:

Year round education organizes the school year to provide more continuous learning by dividing the long summer into shorter, more frequent breaks ... Students in a year round program attend the same classes and receive the same amount of instruction as students on a nine-month calendar

(usually 180 days) ... The year round calendar is organized into instructional blocks and vacation periods that are evenly distributed across twelve months (McMillen 1).

The goal of YRS is to make the school year more efficient. If students retain more over shorter, more frequent breaks, the teachers can spend less time reviewing when school starts again. Using the time saved from less reviewing, students can learn more new information.

Currently, there are two well-known types of year round education: single track and multi track. Single track is the most widespread kind of year round school. It can follow one of several formats including the 45 - 15 plan, the 60 - 20 plan or the Orchard Plan. Students who attend schools on the 45 - 15 plan go to school for four equal groups of 45 school days followed by 15 days of vacation. The 60 - 20 plan is very similar to the 45 - 15 plan; students attend school for 60 days then have a 20 day vacation. Rather than four groups of school/vacation days in a cycle, there are only three. The Orchard Plan is considered single track but resembles more of a multi track schedule. The school is open and operating for eleven months. Students are divided into five tracks. They go to school for 60 days followed by 15 days of vacation. Everyone is off from school for the month of July and for two weeks at winter and spring holidays.

Multi track year round school uses several groups of students who rotate being in school or on vacation at different times. Often, schools will use the 45 - 15 plan or the 60 - 20 plan for four groups of students. While three groups are in school, one is on vacation. Using these methods of rotation, a school can accommodate more students. According to Terri McFadden; "Year round schools that use the multi track model can educate more students without having to spend millions on new buildings" (1). Space, however, is not the only reason schools have been tempted to switch to a year round schedule. It has been said that students in year round school learn more; "Some schools have switched to multi track in order to reduce class size, a proven way to improve education" (McFadden 1). Studies comparing year round schools with traditional schools have shown little or no difference among test scores.

The benefits of year round education make for a very convincing argument for schools to go year round. Usually, the first feature to attract districts is that the program could potentially save some money;

By replacing two - month vacations with shorter breaks throughout the year, they found up to 30% more children could be packed into a school. That cost cutting factor in turn attracted the attention of the Calgary Board of Education (CBE), which now has twelve schools operating with unorthodox calendars (Davies 1).

Using multi track scheduling allows schools to educate more students in one existing building. By using a building that is already there, they save themselves the money and the hassle involved in the construction of a new facility.

As the leaders of the district, administrators enjoy many benefits of year round education. As students are in school more, they accomplish more. Increased students productivity results in higher standardized test scores which means the school ranks higher (Forte 1). Schools also rank higher because school attendance is more consistent and dropout rates are lower (Shields 83).

Teachers have found benefits to year round education as well. With the traditional schedule, school days often drag as summer approaches. Teachers feel like the break gives them time to rest so their enthusiasm carries throughout the year rather than burning out before the end (Hunter 1). Teachers may choose to teach during intercession periods to earn extra income (McFadden 1). According to Terri McFadden; "Some schools are able to keep talented teachers in the job loop by hiring retired teachers or woman on maternity leave for these shorter sessions. In this manner, the school system has a better chance of employing and retaining experienced, eager educators" (1).

Possibly the most important factor to consider is the impact year round education has on students. Family life is affected quite a bit by when kids go to school. The reformatted vacations have benefits for families; "... the preference for old-style schedules come from ingrained rights of summer such as camp, sports leagues and family vacations" (L. A. Times 2). This system allows families to travel at times when roads and resorts are less congested (L. A. Times 3). The schedule allows for more time spent enjoying vacations rather than pushing through crowds to get to them.

Being in YRS prevents kids from doing destructive things. As according to one year round principal "... we don't have a lot of parks [and] social centers, and children don't have a lot to do that's worthwhile. I want them in school" (Forte 1). The majority of students take extra enrichment classes during the breaks (Forte 3). Reinforcement during time not spent in school is integral to the learning process. The more time children spend in school, the less time they have to forget what they have learned by not applying the knowledge daily. With shorter breaks, kids will talk about what they've learned in school longer while at



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