Round Schooling — a solution or a slogan?
“More is better,’ is an ethos that is often frowned upon by parents and teachers alike when it comes to, for example, chocolate or recess. However, when it comes to year ’round schooling, even some school administrators are inclined to blanch at the prospect, according to Ann McGlynn of the Journal of the School Administrator. In her March 2002 article on the subject, she notes how the cherished institution of summer vacations came under attack on one Kentucky school district known as Bardstown. But because of poor performance, changing the district’s five schools to a year-round calendar seemed to be the only logical route for the princple at the time. He decided to break up vacations “into smaller pieces and offer remedial and enrichment activities during those shorter breaks.” (McGlynn, 2002, p.1)
The principle made his decision ten years ago. Since then, “the 1,800-student district located 40 miles southeast of Louisville has a higher ACT composite score, a higher percentage of seniors attending college, fewer discipline referrals to the office and a lower dropout rate.” (McGlynn, 2002, p.1) Ironically, the most strenouous opposition came, not from parents or students, but from football coaches who feared the altered schedule would injure the conventional seasonal pace of the training. Once the principle got the coaches on board, convincing them of the athletic as well as the academic merits of year ’round schooling everyone in the district was willing. Even the principle, however, stresses that such a decision is a local decision, and he does not advocate it for all districts. (McGlynn, 2002, p.2-3) Another Rhode Island elementaryschool district embarking upon a similar plan in 2001 placed copies of research promoting year-round schooling throughout the community to inform residents of the pros and cons of year-round education.”We said if the community does not want to do this, we won’t,” said the principal. (McGlynn, 2002, p.1) They did, and soon beachballs were hanging from the rafters of the kindergarden in July.
Although the Kentucky-football mad ethos of the Bardsville town may not be universal to all districts, its example, as well as the educational success stories of other formerly failing districts does highlight the importance of a community’s collective willingness to change and shift its seasons of vacation and schooling, as such a change affects not simply students, but parent’s work schedules and vacation time as well. More importantly, however, the question remains — does the innovation of year round schooling really improve test scores and drop out rates, or is the change at Bardsville merely reflective of a greater resolve to buckle down and devote more time to academcis on the part of its students? There may be a correlation between improved performance and better test scores, but causation remains to be shown.
There are two ways, the article helpfully notes, of going about a program of year-round schooling, one of which is a year-round calendar with shortened summer breaks and increased other, seasonal breaks during the school year. “A multitrack calendar generally breaks children into four groups. Three groups of children attend the school at any one time to allow a school to accommodate more students. A single-track calendar allows all children to attend the school at the same time.” The latter is often purused for cost as well as academic reasons, as it allows more students to make use of the same faciltiies within a district. For instance, Murrieta Valley in California, a mostly white, middle-class school district near San Diego, was forced to go to a multitrack year-round calendar in 1990 when an explosion in enrollment left the district with not enough classrooms. In 1989, the district had 2,400 students. More than 13,000 students attend school there this year. (McGlynn, 2002, p.2) In contrast, year-round schooling can cost a district as much as 100,000 per additional student.
The year-round calander is considered the most extreme, but one advocate notes it “minimizes learning loss that occurs during a typical three-month summer vacation.” Still “Calendars don’t teach kids, teachers do,” says the executive director of Time to Learn. “There are a lot of other ways to improve education.” In other words, merely lengthening the school year may not address the real educational ailments of the district. Parental involvement may be the real reason Bardsville improved so strikingly, and not all districts can afford the additional cost.. (McGlynn, 2002, p.1)
McGlynn, Ann. (March 2002) “Districts that School year-round.” Journal of the School Administrator. Retrieved 12 Feb 2005 athttp://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0JSD/is_59_3/ai_83698555/pg_3
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