Most schools in the United States follow a traditional nine-month academic calendar with a minimum of 180 days of instructional time. But more and more school districts have started following a year-round calendar for a variety of reasons.
According to the article “The Pros & Cons of Year-Round School” on the American College of Education website, of the 132,000+ elementary and secondary schools in the US that serve students in kindergarten through 12th grades, approximately 3,200 operate on a year-round calendar. Most year-round academic calendars consist of the same number of school days for students as tradtional calendars; but there is ongoing debate as to whether or not year-round schooling is ultimately more beneficial to students.
Many people think that year-round school is not effective for teaching students, while others believe year-round school is a way to offer students an academic advantage. Before deciding between different calendars, it is important to first understand what is meant by year-round school. Year-round school requires that the academic year of student attendance is divided into periods for both instruction and breaks/vacation, with student enrollment over twelve months. Year-round schooling does not mean expanded learning, which is a lengthening of each school day or the full school year; it is simply a reorganization of the traditional school year of 180 instructional days (though some districts do combine year-round and expanded school options).
Year-round school calendars have a minimum of 180 days of instruction, just like traditional calendars. Traditional calendars are divided into nine months of instruction and three months of summer break. Year-round calendars divide these long blocks into shorter ones, with the most typical pattern being a 60/20 calendar (60 days of instruction followed by 20 days of break/vacation). There are several other possible calendar patterns used in different school districts, but they are not as common.
So, basically, a year-round academic calendar reallocates days off over the course of a school year. It decreases the amount of time that students are off in the summer by shifting some of those days to other points during the school year. School districts build their year-round academic calendars to allow flexible restructuring that meets local education needs in the most appropriate way possible.
Americans are by and large still used to the traditional school calendar, and plan around a three-month summer break. But more and more, people are starting to consider whether it is time for a change. As the educational needs of American students change, it is possible that people might start to seek out other academic schedules, such as year-round school. Part two of this blog series will be a brief discussion of some of the pros and cons of using a year-round academic calendar in schools.
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