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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Extending the school year?

Extending the school year?

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I am a third grade teacher in Eastern Montana and am wondering what the feelings out there from other educators on extending the school year? I would love to hear what others are thinking, I know there are pros and cons on the issue, but I have to say I am not really for it. I do believe we have been pushing our kids to the limit as it is, kids need more time to be kids and use imagination and creativity- as I see public schools are losing that. We expect so much of our kids, I think it would be great for the educators, as most of think there aren't enough hours in a day to get the things we need to get taught or accomplished. However, I think it would be very hard on the students we teach. I know in our community the high school is seeing higher drop out rates than ever before. With that being said, I think it will only become a larger problem. I have three kids of my own and feel as if we don't get enough time at home as it is. As an educator I also think teachers need that down time from teaching. I use my "down time" in the summer to go back school, keep up with the current trends in education, and work on my personal teaching assignment. (Working in my classroom...) I invite discussion on this topic, I would love to hear from all- those that are for it and against. Trish

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Julie's picture

I agree that it is not a wise idea to extend the school year. Kids are pushed to do more and more and they need down time too - as do their teachers! I like what we have come up with in our district. We use a different schdule that keeps learning breaks shorter but still allows for quality family time. I'm not sure if you call it modified year round or modified traditional but as both a teacher and a parent I really like this schedule. We start the year the very first week of August or even sometimes the last couple of days of July. We have a two week break the first of October, returning the middle of the month. We have a traditional two or three day plus weekend for Thanksgiving and then three lovely weeks at Christmas time. We return the second or third week of January, then a two week break in the spring, usually the end of March, beginning of April. We go until the second week of June and the summer break is six to seven weeks long. We basically have ten to eleven week quarters and we can take great vacations in the off times of Fall and Spring. We are a ski resort town and this schedule allows our older students to have some decent time working (or skiing) at the local resort. THe two or three week breaks are great for recharging our batteries and I do not find that students lose any learning during this time. They return restored and more enthusiastic. The summer vacation is just long enough - one year we did have the traditional calendar due to remodeling that needed to be done at campuses and we all thought we would go crazy. The year felt incredibly long - as did the summer break of 3 months. The parents told us that the kids were whining and wanting school to start back up. Anyway, it is not a longer year but I find that it keeps learning and going to school fresher for everyone involved.I have taught traditional schedules and other year round schedules where we went three months, off one, and I found that I always had a lot of reteaching to do after these vacations. I find on this schedule I go over the rules again the first day or two but we are right back into learning quickly and easily. The kids are very used to it and seem to really like it. I know that as a family we have n=been abe to take nice vacations at other times of the year than just summer and as a a teacher I can recharge, read, relax, and learn, then return ready to go again.

Kimberly's picture

Everyone can find advantages and disadvantages in both summer breaks and a year round school allowing for breaks in between. As a mother and teacher, I personally do not prefer a year round school year because all schools would not be on the same schedule. My son is an only child which means that his cousins and other friends from other areas will be in school while he is at home on break. We also use this time to travel to Puerto Rico and stay for a month, visiting my husband's family. A year round school year would change a lot. Also entending the school year would most likely be distasterous to some areas which already have a difficult time getting students to come to school. As a teacher, I believe that students and teachers need one long break to relax, travel, go to camps, etc. Agreeing with Trish, I also use my summer vacation to take classes to better myself as an educator. I have a problem with year round school, so I definitely would not want to extend the school year. If I need this time to recharge myself, I know that children do.

J D Nick Yinger's picture
J D Nick Yinger
AP Chemistry, General Chemistry, Physical Science

My comments come from a High School Teacher's background:

I have mixed feelings about the extended school year. I think students would greatly benefit from having school for a shorter day over a longer year. This would allow them to focus on fewer subjects more deeply and reduce the amount of re-teaching in September when kids forget everything over the summer break.

Also, with the extra time in the day that isn't spent at school students could use for job shadowing, co-op, school-to-work, or any number of experience building programs that would give them more real world experience to relate to the classroom.

However, on the other side, I personally need the summer break to recalibrate and work on professional development as well as spend needed time with my neglected family.

Trish Mires's picture
Trish Mires
3rd grade teacher Montana

I never thought of the extended year that way. Having a shorter school day, but extend the year. Hmmm... that I will have to think about- great food for thought. I do like the idea of job shadowing, school-to-work ect... I think the more our students can do to help them get the experience they need the better off we all are. Thanks for a different look at this topic!

Mandi's picture

This is my second year teaching and I feel I am going to see year round schooling before I retire. I would be willing to try a schedule like Julie's school with two-three week breaks throughout the year but I am so used to having a long summer break. I am from Ohio and most of our schools are not ready for year round school. If all of the school buildings would be updated with air conditioning then I would be more in favor of year round schools. I feel students would be missing out on summer camps and activities outside of school if there was not a summer break. Like I said before, I would be willing to try it but it would be a huge change and I do not think I would be in favor of it.

Pamela's picture

I think it is always interesting to hear the discussions around an extended school year. I am currently teaching in a year round school, so the option for an extended school year is not possible. I have taught in both year round and traditional schools. I must say that I do prefer the year round school calendar. I realize that I miss the famous summers off that teachers claim to love. I much prefer our schedule of being on for nine weeks then off for three. I have the opportunity to "recharge" my batteries much more often and I see a difference in the students as well. The gaps in curriculum and material that students seem to have after a summer off are not an issue for me. I have read some comments above where people are hesitant to have a year round schedule, but I think it promotes more success for the students.

Brigitte Haas's picture
Brigitte Haas
Teacher for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing

I worked in Las Vegas for 6 years when I first began my teaching career and my school down there are year round. I absolutely LOVED it! I agree with Pamela (above) that I found the students retained a greater amount of the curriculum, and the break was always at about the right time. After all, we do all need breaks. The students I worked with did tend to experience more success because there just wasn't time for them to forget what they had learned. When I look at our students, I feel that the United States is falling behind in the education of our students. This is not due to the teachers or the curriculum - I do believe we have some of the best of both. I feel it is because our students spend so much less time in the classroom than other students in other countries. I guess I am one of the odd people who would actually advocate for year round or extended year schools across the United States. After all, isn't making our children competitive in the world full of knowledge and understanding our ultimate goal?

Taylor M.'s picture

This is a very interesting topic. I teach in Minnesota and we have a traditional school year here. We start school right after labor day and usually are done by the first week in June. We have about a 10-11 day break during Christmas and a week off for Spring Break. But, other than Thanksgiving and Easter, we don't really have too many other days off. I have heard on the news that legislatures were talking about going to year round school, but the resort owners here in Minnesota were absolutely against it. We have many lakes here and in the summer time most of the resorts are full of campers or vacationers. It is a huge part of the economy here. They said that if we went to year round school that they would lose so much money because families wouldn't take as many summer vacations up north because of school or sports. And certainly most people won't vacation up north during the winter because it is too cold. Anyways, I had heard that on the news and thought that I would share.

Personally, I don't mind the sound of having those extended breaks every couple of months. I would have to think that students would pick up where they left off pretty fast. And I think that teachers would get a nice mental break every couple of months too. There are pros and cons to both sides of the argument.

Katie's picture

Year round school, just the thought of it makes me nervous. That is at least the first feeling I had about it, until I read some of the postings. Some people are making very good points on how it would benefit the students. I think it would benefit the high school or young adult age students more so than the middle and elementary kids. I think that the younger students need that break and time off. Especially with the random testing going on so frequently, it is important that they are allowed to be "kids" for a while. We can't expect them to stay couped up in the classroom all year with 2-3 week breaks taking tests and writing constantly. The summer time is their time to decompress and let off some stress they get towards the end of the school year with end of year or end of grade testing.

However, I say this and I think that as far as comprehending information and all that goes a long with that, it would be nice to have students NOT come back from summer break remembering nothing from the school year before. If they consistently had school, they would not have so much time to "forget"

I am torn on this it seems, but it is great to see the pros and cons that everyone has posted!!! It really makes you think what would be best...

Julie's picture

I am not sure if this is a misconception on my part or not, but when I hear people talk of extending the school year I understand them to mean that that would be more days in the classroom total. Our year round schedule does not add more days to the 180 days required by our state, we just spread them our differently with some carefully planned breaks. Right now our state budget would never allow us to add to our calendar. Besides, I do not feel that we should extend the length of the year because I think that to have a truly well-rounded child you need one that spends time with their family and friends and knows how to work in the classroom. The same applies to having well-rounded teachers too!

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