Year round education (YRE) is implemented in 436 U. S. school districts with very few complaints. In fact, school districts that have been participating in YRE and extended school days (ESD) are raving about the benefits in pupil's achievement level, their new found enthusiasm in learning, as well as the many programs that exist in the extended day promoting the decline in latch key children. Some schools decided to initiate YRE and ESD because of swelling enrollments and lack of student achievement. There were many issues raised when deciding if YRE and ESD were a step in the right direction.
For one, we are all creatures of habit, and to implement a new school schedule would mean extensive changes. Second, how would this effect the taxpayer's dollar? Is the proposal cost efficient? For year round education and extended school day to work the community (to which the proposal apply) must be for the change. Therefore, providing extensive positive literature, newsletters, and constantly keeping the community updated on all aspects of the program's benefits will help ensure success of YRE and ESD. The traditional nine month academic year originated in an agrarian period when the long summer months were used for children to assist their family in farm tasks. However, the nine-month calendar is far from being sensitive to the current industrialized world we live in today. Fathers as well as Mothers are most likely in an office from nine in the morning to five in the evening leaving an extensive, unsupervised time during the day.
Children go home to empty houses, are told not to answer the door, and when the phone rings they are prompted to say that Mom or Dad is in the shower. Children under utilize long summer months. During this time children have little to do but spend countless hours watching television, roaming the streets, and hanging out on sidewalks seeking out entertainment. This can not be a productive situation and could lead to dangerous activities due to boredom. Furthermore, during these under utilized months most children tend to loose information taught from the previous school year. This can be an increasing problem for at-risk students who are usually lacking in the socioeconomic status (SES), originate from foreign speaking countries, and the learning disabled.
Year Round Education and ESD will give teachers more contact time with these students and help at-risk children retain information, as well as help foreign speaking students retain the English language. By keeping the child in school on a year round schedule or ESD students will be less likely to loose information due to a long summer recess and have more time in a learning environment, therefore, enriching the child's learning abilities. There are different types of YRE and ESD schedules. The most popular schedule is single-track and is usually implemented for the purpose of academic improvements. On a single-track schedule children attend school year round with frequent intersessions or breaks. Typical schedules might be 90-30, 60-20, or 45-15 where the first number indicates days of instruction and the second, days of vacations (Opheim, Mohahjer, Read, 1996).
There is also a multi-track schedule, which is known to be more cost efficient. This schedule is often implemented when the school is overcrowded, in poor neighborhoods, as well as in inner-city schools. On a multi-track schedule students schedules are consistent with the single-track 90-30, 60-20, or 45-15, however, students are assigned to one of the several tracks which are staggered therefore, no one group of students has the same intersession at the same time. By staggering attendance schedules, class size is deducted. Studies have concluded that decreased class size promotes more efficient learning. During an intersession children can spend time with their families or take advantage of enrichment programs, which are offered, at the school.
In these programs teachers have remedial classes available to all children, have planned educational field trips, some school districts even offer martial arts, dancing, and even cooking lessons. This schedule not only benefits children but also teachers. In the intersession teachers can decide if they want to teach (in which they would earn extra income), take a vacation to relieve stress, or use the time to develop course materials. It has been said that YRE and SES contribute to less teacher burn out and better teacher satisfaction as a result of student enthusiasm toward learning, opportunity to earn extra income, and the various different ways to take advantage of the intersessions. Some districts decided upon YRE for academic reform hoping that the implementation of YRE would contribute to higher test scores. As a whole, YRE's reading, math, and science test scores are higher than the traditional calendar school (TCS) students yet not by much.
This also applies to at-risk students in YRE who score higher on reading, math, and science, however the scores are not statistically significant. Furthermore, YRE is a fairly new concept and research on test scores should encompass a time span of at least four years. Recent statistics have only encompassed a year to two-year research. Some schools were concerned with the cost of YRE and ESD. However, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, City Schools can be considered as a role model for schools contemplating cost efficiency of YRE and ESD.
Murfreesboro, Tennessee, City Schools have employed the simple business approach of supply and demand. They have developed extended time programs that are appealing enough for parents to want to purchase them for their children. Revenues from parents far exceed $1 million per year and parents only have to pay a dollar per hour per child for after school programs. No one child is excluded because a parent can not or will not pay (Jones, 1995). To keep the programs affordable, they identified many live assets that could be tapped to support the extended learning time.
Murfreesboro's capital assets included nine school campuses valued in excess of $65 million (Jones, 1995). These schools traditionally sat idle all but 180 days a year as all children were sent home by 3 p. m. (Jones, 1995). The school's district believes that no profit-making business could survive allowing an investment of that magnitude to sit idle for so many hours of the year, and a school shouldn't either.
Murfreesboro receives around $300, 000 for Chapter 1 Programs and $150, 000 from Tennessee's Career Ladder Extended Contract program. These funds are primarily used to pay personnel who work during the extended hours / days (Jones, 1995). More public revenue also is available because of the interest in providing quality childcare (Jones, 1995). Their city schools receive $100, 000 annually from the Department of Human Services because the extended school program is meeting school-age childcare needs. They also capitalized on already existing human resources by using them more flexibly.
Flexible time schedules have been set up for teachers and educational assistants (Jones, 1995). Support personnel work from 11 to 5 for 220 days instead of 180. Traditionally, regular classroom teacher's worked from 7: 45 to 3: 15 (Jones, 1995). But, with the new program teachers leave work at 1: 45 for a quarter of the year, leaving 67. 5 hours to be assigned during extended hours or days. Also the largest K-8 school gave up 15 percent of its allocated positions (worth $297, 500) so those funds could be used for other programs.
So clearly there are cost efficient ways of implementing YRE and ESD; Murfreesboro is a prime example. Another YRE success story is evident in El Paso County, on the border of Texas and Mexico. This district is rapidly growing, having doubled the number of student enrollment from 10, 000 to 20, 000 in the past eight years. They are a property poor district with unemployment over 12 percent. The districts population consists of 90 percent Mexican American and 70 percent economically disadvantaged.
Yet their students score at or above the state average on all mandated tests. Their dropout rate is less than one percent, and 65 percent of their graduates attend college. Socorro originally adopted YRE to make more classrooms available, to slow their new building programs, and to maintain a reasonable tax rate. While they continue to build new schools, they have benefited by the multi-track schedule. They have already saved the cost of building four new schools at about $30 million taxpayer dollars over the past five years. Socorro is on a 60-20 calendar.
In the intercessions students have the option of going on vacation, volunteer work, or involve themselves in other positive activities. Also, students can come back to school and make up attendance, attend accelerated classes, or developmental classes. They also have the option of participating in field trips, special projects, and other numerous activities. Furthermore, by using the intercession time, over 60 percent of children are in school for 200 days a year. The intercessions have allowed their district to improve students overall academic performance in all areas. Furthermore, improvements in math, science, and language arts have been most significant.
The extended year provides time for students who have missed too much school, or have fallen behind for any reason to catch up with their learning (Barber, 1996). Intersession class sizes are small and encourage creative learning, traditional time constraints are eliminated, and teaching and learning are described by teachers and student alike as being fun (Barber, 1996). About 65 percent of the student's come from homes where Spanish is the dominant language. Being able to attend school for more days, plus not having the long summer in which to forget, has been most helpful for those children (Barber, 1996). The most important advantage of this calendar, where students are never out of school for more than one month at a time, is increased student performance (Barber, 1996). As a group, Socorro Independent School District's students earn the highest scores on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills, of any district in the country.
All 19 campuses are state accredited, with almost 50 percent of the elementary schools receiving state recognition for student performance (Barber, 1996). Socorro School's are yet another positive example YRE and ESD. Year Round Schools do not only exist in the south and southwest. About 10 years ago Trenton, New Jersey schools fell exceedingly short on measures of facilities improvement and academic achievement. Students had the lowest achievement level and the highest dropout rate in the state. No longer willing to tolerate few successes and tremendous failure Trenton schools made a decision that something must be done.
After researching YRE they found that it has long been touted for making the best use of school facilities and reducing the need for new construction, but even more important they found that it also has a positive effect on academic performance especially among at-risk students. The Joyce Kilmer School, in Trenton, New Jersey decided on a 45 -15 plan and they would use the intercessions for remedial classes, planned activities, and special programs which include field trips, tours, and programs with visiting authors, artists, dancers, and musicians. The year round students at Kilmer attend school for 200 days, or 20 more than the 180 required by New Jersey law (Venable, 1996). The school does not force children to enroll in the year-round program. However, 331 of Kilmer's 530 students are enrolled year round. So far, the school has seen an improvement in all aspects of pupil's progress, from attendance to parent involvement, to less discipline referrals.
Teacher's report that year-round students are learning more and forgetting less, which means they require fewer classroom hours of review so more time is dedicated to creative learning. Teachers can also keep track of their students' progress better with the shorter vacation breaks. They " re better able to help students throughout the school year. One teacher of the second grade transitional class composed of students who had been recommended for being held back in first grade stated 'Year-round education literally turned the page in the lives of these students' who needed 'the consistency of more time on task.' (Venable, 1996). The school's speech therapist says that year-round students are making such rapid progress that she expects some will leave speech therapy sooner than usual (Venable, 1996). So far the retention rate of students and the special education referrals have been lessening in this school.
Furthermore, because so many students are finding success, the school has reported fewer discipline problems. In fact, the principle reports almost a complete absence of disciplinary referrals, and last year Kilmer reported only one suspension. The drop in discipline problems has occurred among all year-round students: special education, gifted and talented, at-risk, and average kids (Venable, 1996). Teacher's attendance rate at both schools was almost 100 percent for the first few months of the year-round program (Venable, 1996).
Even at the end of eight months it was still impressive at 97 percent. Student attendance has also risen. Kilmer reports an average daily attendance rate of 96 percent. Children have carried their enthusiasm home, and parent involvement is up. The principle reports that parents are visiting and volunteering more than in the past (Venable, 1996). I believe that YRE and ESD are the answer for improving American schools.
Nine-month schooling and three-month vacation is a thing of the past. The United States should recognize YRE and ESD as a reality. The U. S. in a now an industrialized country with, more often than not, both parents working.
Year Round Education and ESD allows children the extended time to learn instead of coming home to an empty house. This extended learning time will also benefit at-risk children who run the risk of falling behind. The more time they have in a learning environment will provide further enrichment to the students' life and will further they " re retention skills. Year Round Schooling is also beneficial to foreign speaking students because of the consistent stimulation to the English speaking learning environment. Also intercessions help at-risk children by providing additional classes during the break so students can keep up with their studies. Intercessions are also beneficial for latchkey children whose parents are at work most of the day.
During the intercessions children have the option of remaining in class, participating in field trips or extra curricular activities. I also believe that YRE and ESD are beneficial for teachers. Students are more enthusiastic about learning in this environment, therefore teachers tend to feel more appreciated in their teaching efforts and by their students. Also, intercessions, in my opinion, contribute to less teacher burn out because the breaks are frequent, children are more enthusiastic about attending school, and academic achievement is overall better than traditional school year students. In YRE and ESD it is reported that there is less student delinquency and less disciplinary problems. I believe this is true because underutilized time is being diminished, and more time is spent in a learning environment.
Some school districts may be worried about financial difficulties when deciding to implement YRE or ESD. However, even the poorest of school districts has managed to implement YRE on the cost efficient multi-track plan and with supply and demand strategies. Year Round Schooling or ESD should be in every school district throughout the United States. The U. S. needs to do something about our education and a conscientious first step would be to implement YRE and ESD.
We have seen all the benefits that come from this plan. It seems only logical for the future of our success as country to implement YRE and ESD nationwide. References Kneese, C. , (1996). Review of Research on Student Learning in Year-Round Education. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 29, 60-72 Opheim, C.
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Executive Educator, 18, 24-26 Gee, W. , (1997). The Copernican Plan and Year-Round Education: Two Ideas That Work Together. Phi Delta Kapp an, 78, 793-796 Warrick-Harris, Elaine. , (1995). Year-Round School: Balfour Elementary School, Asheboro, North Carolina.
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, (1996). Year-Round Schooling Really Works: Socorro Independent School District, El Paso, Texas. The Education Digest, 62, 31-33.