The history of year-round school in the US dates back the mid 1900s. However, over the years, since its commencement, the number of parents enrolling their children for year-round school has increased substantially. Moreover, the number of schools offering year-round school curriculum has also increased. In the year 2004, a national survey conducted by the National Association of Year-Round Education indicated that the number of students enrolled for year-round school program in the US public schools was around 2.3 million (Year-Round Schooling 1). This was approximately 538 percent increase from the year 1987. The same study indicated that the number of public schools offering year-round education increased from 408 in 1987 to 3,181 by the year 2003 (Year-Round Schooling 1). The growing number of enrollment in year-round schools indicates that year-round education has positive effect on attendance, academic performance, and behavior patterns of the students.
When people hear of ‘year-round school,’ they think of schooling with no summer vacations for the students. However, year-round schooling system is a 10-months school program. According to Kelly (2), the year-round school system was established in the US during the agrarian period. The emergence of system was driven by the need to have children work on the farms during summer periods. Nonetheless, this out-dated practice has ceased and parents no longer require their children to spare their summer holidays in order to work on farms. Instead, the modern year-round school system entails operating on a 180-day system, where the days of the year are spread in such a way that students have breaks between the terms.
There are different year-round school plans. One of these plans is the populous 45-15 plan (Kelly 2). Here, students attend school for 45 days and then break for 15 days (excluding weekends). Other plans include 60-20 and 90-30 plans. Schools offering this system of education adopt either a single-track or multiple track facets. Single-track facet entail having the entire school share a common school calendar when all students attend school and break for holidays at the same time. Contrary, multiple track facet, entails dividing students into various groups in order to allow different groups to attend school and break for holidays at different times.
The issue of year-round school has evolved a lot of debate in the recent times. Questions such as whether year-round school improves academic performance and whether it produces globally competitive workforce lay at the hub of this debate. Nevertheless, many people appear to be in favor of this education system arguing that it helps children to improve their academic performance, school attendance, and behavior patterns. Moreover, many research studies indicate that students who attend year-round school perform better than those who attend other forms of education systems. According to Morin (2), President Obama once said, “The challenges of new century demand more time in the classroom.” President Obama implied year-round school is better not only for enhancement of student’s academic performance, but also for enhancement of acquisition of skills and knowledge required to perform jobs in the modern era.
According to Pittman and Herzog (15), year-round school contributes to improved academic performance because it allows full utilization of school facilities. All the academic resources available in schools are utilized for education purposes because the teachers and the learners have time to do so. Moreover, year-round school helps in solving the problems of overcrowding, which in return contributes to improved academic performance. In metropolitan areas where the population of the resident is high, schools offering year-round education usually adopt multiple track facet. This allows different groups of students to attend school at different time without facing the problems of overcrowding in the classrooms. With low number of students in every class, the teachers are able to deliver quality education due to the low student-teacher ratio. A teacher can interact with every student on individual basis, thus being able to notice the weakness areas of every student and provide the necessary support (Pittman & Herzog 15).
Year-round school has been found to be effective in improving academic performance because it increases the retention rate among the students (Pittman & Herzog 15). Year-round school allows students to break for only a short period and then resume schooling. Unlike the tradition schooling system where students would spend the entire summer holiday at homes, year-round school allows student to spend a few weeks of the summer holiday at their homes and then resume schooling. Pittman and Herzog argue that prolonged summer holidays contribute to students’ forgetfulness. This makes the teachers to spend a lot of time reviewing what the students had learnt during the previous term instead of concentrating on covering what the students ought to cover during the current term. Students end up covering a part of what they ought to have covered during the term thus, end up only knowing a part of what they ought to have known. In some instances, teachers are forced to narrowly teach what the students ought to learn during a specific period due to time limitations.
However, when students attend year-round school, they are able to retain more of what they learn in school. This way, teacher do not spend a lot of time reviewing what the students covered during the previous term but instead concentrated on teaching them new things for the term. The teachers have adequate time to extensively cover all the academic areas as well as evaluate the understanding of the students and review the areas where students might have difficulties in understanding. These increase the retention rate of the students thus, improving their academic performance.
Pittman and Herzog cite a meta-analysis of some of the research studies on effects of year-round school on students’ academic achievement indicated positive outcomes (19). In many of the research studies that were analyzed, the participants: students and educators indicated strong support for the year-round schooling system. The results of the meta-analysis indicated that year-round schooling system in the rural areas allowed students to develop a greater feeling of belong to the school system, thus increasing their zeal towards paying attention to what was being taught in the schools. Year-round schooling in the urban areas was also found to contribute to development of greater sense of belonging to the school system by the students. This is because students spend more time in school than they spend at home. Since schools are institution of learning as well as avenues of socializing, the more students spend time in school, the more they learn to appreciate what they learn and start practicing them in life. Although the school settings in urban areas are different with those of the rural areas, the meta-analysis of the previous research studies indicate that year-round schooling system contribute to development of sense of belonging to the school system among the students, thus increasing their enthusiasm in what is offered in schools. This in return contributes to improved academic performance, attendance, and improved behavior patterns.
Based on the centrality of development of sense of belonging among students in year-round schooling, Pittman and Herzog conducted a research student in one of the rural public school in North Carolina offering traditional education system (19). The researchers divided the participants into two groups. One group attended year-round school while the other group continued with the traditional schooling system. Students’ achievement, attendance, and attitudes as well as teachers’ attitudes were evaluated in this research study. The results of the study indicated that during the first year, the grades of the students who attend year-round schooling were lower compared to those of the students attending traditional schooling. The decline was due to adjustment of learning schedule. However, during the second year of the study (when the participants proceeded to the next grade), the students attending year-round schooling started recording high performance than those attending traditional schooling. Every year, the performance differences between year-round schooling students and traditional schooling students continued to increase.
Upon evaluating the effect of the schooling systems on students’ attendance, Pittman and Herzog found that there was low absenteeism in year-round schools than in the traditional schools (23). Although the participants in the year-round schooling system recorded high absenteeism during the first year of participation in the program due to schedule adjustment, in the subsequent years, their absenteeism declined and by the time, the participants were in their 7th grade, the participants in year-round schooling system recorded no absenteeism. Assessment of the students’ attitude toward year-round schooling system indicated positive attitudes. The participants in the year-round schooling system said that they found the system flexible and balanced. Students cited that the spread-out holidays enabled them to interact with their families through out the year. The teachers also cited that year-round schooling enabled them to have spread out vacations, which allowed them to relax and come back ready to teach (Pittman & Herzog 21). Pittman and Herzog concluded that year-round schooling affects the attendance, academic performance, and behavior patterns of the students positively because “it creates better use of facilities, in that they receive heavy use year round; improve student achievement through eliminating or reducing the assumed summer achievement loss; and provide a better fit with lifestyles of the late 20th century” (24).
Like many other researchers, Dean and Marco agree that the long summer school holidays, provided by schools following the traditional education calendar can be harmful to the academic achievement of the students (4). “Students need consistent attention in order to make and sustain steady progress: the longer summer vacations can be educationally devastating” (Dean and Marco 4). This evolves a need among the educators to consider the relationship between learning and time, and its impact on academic achievement of the students. Dean and Macro cite previous research studies on the effect of year-round schooling on academic achievement of students, which demonstrate that students attending year-round schools score well in reading, language, and mathematics, especially as they progress from the fourth to the eighth grades.
To provide further evidence about this claim by other researchers and educators, Dean and Macro embarked on a study of the effect of year-round schooling on the mathematics, reading, and language scores of a sample of 95 students from three different schools during their 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. The results of the study indicated that reading and mathematics scores for students attending year-round school were low in the 4th grade than those of their counterparts attending traditional schools. Language scores are almost similar for both groups during their 4th grade. However, participants attending year-round schools started recording higher reading and mathematics scores during their 5th grade, and continued recording high scores in the subsequent grades.
The overall percentage of attendance for students attending year-round schools was higher than that of students attending traditional schools. This research student provide further evidence that year-round school are the best approach of ensuring maximization of students’ achievement as opposed to the traditional school calendar. Dean and Macro argue that schools utilizing the traditional calendar should recognize the needs of the post-industrialization society (14). The post-industrialization society requires a workforce, which is all-rounded. This implies that students should be trained how to serve in the society throughout the year, off course with some breaks in between the working time. The traditional school calendar does not provide this. However, year-round schools allow students to develop a culture of being productive throughout the year. This helps them to translate into globally competitive citizens after competing school (Svensen 3).
Besides, Dean and Macro state that, year-round schooling system allows students to maintain school norms. Schools require students to be well behaved. When students have short breaks from school, they usually do not have time to engage in behaviors that are likely to dilute their school norms. With time, students attending year-round schools develop a culture of good behavior, thus resulting into development of good behavior patterns among the students, which continue even after the students leave school. Contrary, students attending schools, which follow traditional calendar, have ample time during the summer vacation to indulge in activities that are likely to ruin the good behavior patterns acquired in school. For these students, maintenance of good behavior follows an on-and-off pattern, which does not eventually lead to development of a culture of good behavior pattern.
According to Palmer and Bemis (4), year-round schooling is effective in improving academic achievement among students because it allows teachers to have time to relax, thus reducing work-related stress. When teachers are free from teaching stress, they are able to concentrate on their work. Their output levels are also high than when they work for long periods without breaks. This in return results to increased academic achievement among the students because the quality of services offered to them by their teachers are is high.
In addition, year-round school system provides students with enrichment opportunities (Palmer and Bemis 4). Students whose understanding levels are lower have opportunities to refresh what have been covered in school during the school breaks. The school terms in year-round school system are shorter compared to those in traditional calendar schools. For example, under the 45-15 plan, it is easy for a student to refresh what has been covered in school for 45 days in just 15 days. This allows students to maintain high retention rate throughout the year, thus keeping their academic performance relatively high compared to students who attend traditional schools.
However, not all educators and researcher agree that year-round schooling has positive impact on the attendance, academic performance, and behavior patterns of the students. For example, a research study about the effects of year-round schooling on students with disabilities, Pfeiffer found that attendance to year-round schools did not have a positive impact on attendance, academic performance, and behavior patterns of the students. Pfeiffer’s study found that there was no difference in academic performance and attendance rate between students attending year-round school and those attending traditional schools. A different study by Sutton also indicate that there are no major differences in academic performance, attendance rate, and behavior patters between students attending year-round schools and those attending traditional calendar schools. Sutton argues that the values of the aforementioned variables in these schools depend on the needs and wants of individual students (5).
Despite the counter findings about the effects of year-round school on attendance, academic achievement, and behavior patterns of students, it is clear that year-round schooling is better than traditional calendar schooling. Many researchers and educators acknowledge that year-round schooling creates better use of facilities, improve student achievement through eliminating the assumed summer achievement loss, and provide a better fit with lifestyles of the late 20th century, thus contributing positively to students’ attendance rate, academic achievement, and behavior patterns.