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Research Spotlight on Year-Round Education

NEA Reviews of the Research on Best Practices in Education

Found In: teaching strategies

Most schools in the United States operate on the 10-month calendar that was established when America was still an agrarian country. But times have changed and many people propose doing away with this "outdated" system and moving to "year-round education."

In this updated system, schools continue to operate 180 days per year, but they stretch out the 180 days over the entire year and take shorter breaks between each term.

The most popular form of year-round education is the 45-15 plan, where students attend school for 45 days and then get three weeks (15 days) off. The usual holiday breaks are still built into this calendar. Two other ways to organize a school calendar are the 60-20 and the 90-30 plans. Perhaps, the most important facet of year-round education is how it is implemented. Schools may operate on a single-track schedule where all students are on the same calendar and get the same holidays off, or a multi-rack schedule, which has groups of students attending school at different times with different vacations. Multi-tracking is popular because it allows schools to enroll more students than buildings would normally hold.

Some arguments for year-round education include:

  • Students tend to forget a lot during the summer break, so a shorter time away from school might increase retention rates.
  • It's a more efficient use of school space because otherwise buildings are unoccupied during the summer.
  • Remediation can occur when it is most needed – during the school year.

Some critics of year-round education contend:

  • Band and other extracurricular programs suffer from problems with scheduling out-of-school practices and competitions.
  • If an entire district does not adopt a year-round calendar, parents could have students at different schools at different schedules.
  • Studies have been inconclusive to its academic benefits.

Is year-round education a reform that will greatly increase student achievement or just another attempt to oversimplify some of the concerns with education? Here is what the research offers on year-round education:

  • All-Day, All-Year Schools
    In this article, Ruy Teixeira (The Century Foundation, 2004) shows that when year-round education is accompanied by enrichment and remedial programs and other extensions of the year – as opposed to simply stretching out the school year, but with smaller breaks – achievement effects tend to be positive.
  • Student Segregation and Achievement Tracking in Year-Round Schools
    Student Segregation and Achievement Tracking in Year-Round Schools – Authors Ross E. Mitchell and Douglas E. Mitchell present this case study, which reveals substantial differences in the characteristics of students and teachers across the four attendance tracks of eight YRE schools in one large California school district.
  • Alternative Calendars: Extended Learning and Year-Round Programs
    Authors E. A. Palmer and A. E. Bemis provide a comprehensive updated review of the literature and research on effective models of year-round education.
  • Research on Year-Round Education
    Educational researchers Carolyn M. Shields and Steven L. Oberg of the University of British Columbia visited schools and districts in the United States and Canada, examined student achievement results on standardized tests, and surveyed parents, teachers, and administrators to assess the impact of year-round schools.
  • Year-Round Education
    Author Tyler Weaver explores the possible benefits and the points to consider before adopting year-round education. (ERIC Digest, Number 68)

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