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Year-Round School? Yes, Please

Long breaks make it harder for kids to retain what they've learned. Why not make it easier on kids and parents alike and invest in a more practical school calendar?

I am ready for my kids to go back to school now.

I have purchased all the supplies and fashion updates they require to begin the academic year. But that is not my point.

I am ready for them to go back to school because Holy Mackerel, they are driving me crazy. And I'm not even home during the day.

The last two weeks of summer break are the best argument for year-round schooling imaginable.

The good news is that my 14-year-old is going out for JV soccer in the weeks before he starts high school. After a summer of lazing at home, he is being worked into exhaustion on a daily basis.

The bad news is that his practice times change every day, and the school buses aren't running yet. If it weren't for the kindness of another mom (thanks Lisa Z!!!), he would be walking back and forth to his twice-daily practices.

(Then my mother-in-law would be reporting me to child protective services for endangering the health of a minor. But that's a topic for another column.)

My younger kids are home. When I get home at night they physically attach themselves to me and demand entertainment. The boy is wild, the girl is mopey.

They had me home for most of the summer, then they spent two weeks at "Camp Grumpy" (11-year-old son visiting my parents in Florida) or Slayton House Camp of the Arts (8-year-old daughter attending drama day camp). The lack of stimulation now is driving them crazy.

The summer break is a survival of the days when kids were needed to work on family farms during harvest season. Most employers these days are less eager to have our kids' help.

(According to my uncle the farmer, his harvests are so automated now that the only time he needs help is planting season, in the spring. That gives us some interesting spring break options, but it doesn't help out with the summer doldrums.)

It would cost the county and state government a lot of money to run schools year round. But parents are already paying a lot of money to keep their kids occupied over the summer.

Long breaks make it harder for kids to retain what they've learned. Why not make it easier on kids and parents alike and invest in a more practical school calendar?

Phyllis Frank August 22, 2011 at 09:01 PM
Howard County (K-12) and the nation's public school districts should transform the traditional academic calendar year to one balanced or modified for efficient, effective, equitable use of existing time and resources to learn, teach, plan, partner and play. The term "summer learning loss" (SLL) is measurable and observable for all children but most disproportionally for children living in poverty and second language learners. The adults plan for the loss and its cumulative effect year in and year out. The term SLL should be busted and teachers and parents need to lead the way. I appreciate the author's frustrations but the issues are way, way larger. Just ask the kids. After six weeks of summer they are ready to see their friends and journey on in the structure of school. Sure, after 45 days (quarter) or 60 (trimester) they are ready for a timely break. Balanced opportunity to learn with timely supplementary catch up, keep up, and enrichment as funds are available. Costs? Minimal. Biggest cost is salary and that is already paid out in 1 month increments around the year. Thanks for bringing up the topic! Go to a school board meeting and those engaged in district strategic planning to start considering a learning calendar instead of a forgetting academic calendar year. Phyllis Frank, Natonal Association for Year-Round Education
FL August 22, 2011 at 09:14 PM
If Howard County had year round school, I can only imagine the number of "fun days" and "educational" trips to restaurants and such that would be involved. School should be about learning, not babysitting.
Robert Rhodes August 23, 2011 at 12:24 AM
Given all that American children to to learn, learn about, practice, problem-solve, etc. to catch up with the rest of the modern world, year-round school is a great idea. I cannot imagine who wants to keep to this 100+ year old school calendar anymore. Teachers would welcome the added income, parents the "babysitting," and colleges and business the better educated kids. Can anyone tell me an argument for keeping a school calendar in 2011 that was even updated in the 1960's?
Emily Steele August 23, 2011 at 11:43 AM
I'd love a year round calendar. Let's have some breaks throughout the year and relieve everyone of this way too long summer break. Even my son, who loves his summer vacation, is ready to get back to school long before summer is over.
bill bissenas August 23, 2011 at 01:12 PM
I'm a fan of getting rid of teachers unions, making teachers work full weeks during the school year and shortening or eliminating breaks at Xmas and Easter (Spring break). Two additional months of salary for teachers isn't going to solve the education problem. Why? Because the education problem has little to do with time in the classroom. Howard County homeowners already pay the highest taxes in the state. And Howard County property taxes are 42nd highest in the nation out of approximately 800 counties.
bill bissenas August 23, 2011 at 01:13 PM
CATO study debunking the leftist myth that we spend too little on education: http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa126.html
Robert Rhodes August 24, 2011 at 01:10 PM
bill, typical teabagger rhetoric. Blame everything wrong with education on teachers and unions. Are there no good teachers in HC? Are all of the HC teachers lazy, money-grubbing "unionists" hellbent on destroying your world with their "leftist" ways? You act as if it is the teachers in the classroom who create the school calendar when, in fact, a draft is created by a committee made up of parents and system staff. The school calendar is approved by the elected political school board. There was a time in this country when teachers were highly respected unless and until they proved they deserved lesser treatment. You seem to have the guilty until proven innocent attitude that blames all teachers for all that is wrong. Does the Cato study also "debunk the myth" that American children fall behind their international peers because they spend far less time actually engaged in learning? Money is not the #1 answer. The primary goal must be to attract the nation's brightest & best to teaching as well as the nation's brightest & best to lead our schools as effective principals. We need to allow leaders to fire ineffective teachers, pay highly-effective teachers a salary commensurate with results, etc. This means that unions need not disappear. Rather, they need to change. Finally, do away with the tenure system as well as the requirement that every teacher get a Master's degree (a recent study said Master's degrees have little to no direct impact on instruction).
bill bissenas August 24, 2011 at 02:44 PM
Correct, money is not the answer, if it were, DC and Bmore schools would be tops in the country. The issue is the family. If parents are involved and make education a priority, then children can succeed. Maryland could cut back its school spending by 30 percent and not see any difference in its performance/test scores. The best way to do that, and a good first step, is to eliminate the teachers unions.
Kate Yemelyanov August 24, 2011 at 03:33 PM
My kids are not needed to bring in the harvest, but the academic calendar is built around the assumption that they are. Why not look at the demands of the modern economy and workforce and see what kind of academic calendar makes sense for that? The academic calendar wasn't built around the convenience of the teachers, I assure you. But given the relatively low prestige and salary associated with teaching (or early childhood education, or being a paraeducator), the calendar is one of the things that makes teaching attractive. So are the benefits, if a teacher is lucky enough to be employed by the state or local government. If you believe that the state has a legitimate interest in educating its citizenry - and apparently not everyone agrees with that premise - things that will make teaching attractive as a profession are important to consider in planning an academic calendar.
Robert Rhodes August 26, 2011 at 12:34 PM
And how do you go about eliminating a union?

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