Summer vacation is one of the most, if not the most, anticipated event for children and college students alike. Over three months of pure, unadulterated freedom without a single essay or teacher in sight.
How would the world look if summer as we know it ceased to exist? In the United States, a growing movement is calling for a shake in the foundations of our academic schedule.
You may be asking: “What kind of monsters would want to destroy the longest and holiest break a school child receives?” The push is called the Year-Round School movement, and it may sound more enticing than it first lets on.
Contrary to what the name implies, the movement does not want students to go to school for 365 days a year. In fact, some variations of plans call for students to be in class for fewer days than they currently are.
According to the Education Commission of the United States, the average student is in class for about 180 days (roughly half of the year). In Colorado, the minimum number of days that students must be in classrooms is 160, but most academic institutions reach for 180.
Most schools, from elementary to college, structure their breaks similarly: A long summer break, a short winter break and a week for fall and spring each.
According to a Time magazine article, the idea of summer break originates in the 19th century. The practice was built into the school system to not only give children a break, but to also give them time to help with a chance to help with the family farm in rural parts of the country. The trend spread to urban schools in short time, and the rest is history.
The arguably outdated practice is criticized widely by many, especially on the international stage. The average American student gets thirteen weeks off, while other countries give their students more than seven.
The Year-Round School movement is a response to this criticism and calls to simply shorten summer in exchange for longer fall, winter and spring breaks.
The thought of it may make some recoil or shake their heads, but the many implied benefits may outweigh the lost precious summer days.
For example, according to an article from Psychology Today, a study published in 2019 showed that students of almost all ages lost significant learning during summer. This phenomenon is called “Summer Learning Loss,” or more casually, the “Summer Slide.”
After testing these students in spring and once again when they returned in the fall, the study found that students generally lost one to two months of learning in reading and lost one to three months of learning in math.
Furthermore, there are several other implicit benefits to shorter summers. Many low-income students have trouble accessing nutritious food over the breaks. . Shortening summers would help close this gap by allowing students to eat at school for that much longer.
By shortening summer, the other breaks during the year become longer as an added benefit. Imagine a world with a two week Thanksgiving break, for example.
There are different variations to the plan, such as a rigid system where students attend for 45 days and have a 15 day break (45-15 plan). There are other schedules such as the 90-30 or 60-20 plans. The idea is the same across the plans: consistently spaced and sized breaks to decrease learning loss.
While the plan may have many perceived benefits, there are several drawbacks, as there are with any possibly conceived schedule.
Due to the way our world is already structured, many extra-curricular activities are already structured around our system. Clubs and part-time jobs are created for long summers, and vacation destinations rely on three months of tourists to fund their towns.
Furthermore, a year-round school system would be inherently much more difficult for already strained school systems. The change would take away valuable time that teachers desperately need during the summer to plan and recoup from the long semester.
Operation costs of the buildings would also be much more expensive, as for at least three months out of the year, the school does not have to pay for air-conditioning or janitorial services.
Whatever the drawbacks of the system are, many schools are already implementing these types of patterns across the country. Around 10% of schools (serving over 2 million students) in the United States have already begun similar programs, and the trend seems to be increasing.
Perhaps in the distant future, more school districts will switch to the schedule to curb learning loss, but in the meantime, you can rest easy knowing your summer break is untouched.