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Do We Need a Longer School Year?

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the school's-out-for-the-summer dept.

Education 729

Hugh Pickens writes "Jennifer Davis writes that while summer holds a special place in our hearts: lazy afternoons, camping at the lake, warm evenings gazing at the moon, languid summers can be educationally detrimental, with most youth losing about two months of grade-level equivalency in math computational skills over the summer and students from low-income families falling even further behind. A consensus is building that the traditional nine-month school year might be a relic of the 20th century that has no place in an increasingly competitive global work force and an analysis of charter schools in New York reveals that students are most likely to outperform peers if they attend schools that are open at least 10 days more than the conventional year. What of the idea that summer should be a time of respite from the stresses of school? There are two wrong notions wrapped up in this perspective. The first is that somehow summer is automatically a magical time for children but as one fifth-grader, happy to be back at school in August, declared, 'Sometimes summer is really boring. We just sit there and watch TV.' The second mis-perception is that school is automatically bereft of the excitement and joy of learning. On the contrary, as the National Center on Time and Learning describes in its studies of schools that operate with significantly more time, educators use the longer days and years to enhance the content and methods of the classroom. 'We should expect our schools to furnish today's students with the education they will need to excel in our global society,' says Davis. 'But we must also be willing to provide schools the tools they need to ensure this outcome, including the flexibility to turn the lazy days of summer into the season of learning.'"

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729 comments

No (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216699)

Next.

Re:No (4, Interesting)

TWX (665546) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216861)

Wrong.

We need several things. The end of the massive summer off. Take the quarters and put a couple of weeks between them. Second, the end of grade levels beyond sixth, or maybe beyond eighth, as important metrics. If proper feedback testing on their abilities and instruction was performed for the years leading up to this, the student gets placed in classes in each discipline relevant to the student's abilities. Allow parents to have one free "appeal" in the form of a test to re-place the student, but after that initial result, all further appeals cost the parent to prevent helicopter parents from abusing the system. For students that place at mediocre levels, offer practical electives so that when they get out of high school they have something that they can do for their income where they won't need a lot of further training. If anything, start with an intro to trades type of class where students get exposure to trades, and use that to place them.

Some may call this unfair, as it no longer gives each and every child equal opportunity. I would say that parents choose the path their child takes from the very beginning, and the school should accommodate that decision while still allowing those who choose to excel despite home choices to do so. If little Johnny wasn't encouraged to do well in school then little Johnny doesn't get to be placed into the classes where his sheer presence gets to drag others down to his level if he is inclined to do that. He doesn't get college prep classes as he's probably not going to college. On the other hand, if he does well in school, for whatever reason, he'll be placed to where it's expected that his education will continue past secondary school.

Lastly, for hellions, boarding school. Uniforms, curfew, mandatory attendance, the works. Put a fence around the place if necessary. We do not serve them by letting them get away with outright bad behavior. Boarding school is expensive, but as a whole, is it cheaper to let them disrupt normal school and keep them there?

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216915)

In a time of massive layoffs of teachers and restricted education budgets, how the hell are you going to pay for this?

The current system is shit, but it is paid for. In every debate on education, people talk about results, results, results and how we need to improve them. But the only thing the legislators and taxpayers care about is the cost. If you don't have a revolutionary idea on how to pay for your program then don't even bother with it, or it will end up in the junk-pile labeled "one million and one education reform ideas".

Re:No (3, Informative)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217193)

It doesn't cost any more than the current system. In fact, there have been estimates that a year round schedule will cut maintenance costs.

Re:No (4, Insightful)

colin_faber (1083673) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217195)

At the risk of being modded under a bridge I'll comment here..

> In a time of massive layoffs of teachers and restricted education budgets, how the hell are you going to pay for this?

Huh? Where is this happening? Maybe private sector teachers, but deficiently not public sector ones.

> The current system is shit, but it is paid for. In every debate on education, people talk about results, results, results and how we need to improve them. But the only thing the legislators and taxpayers care about is the cost. If you don't have a revolutionary idea on how to pay for your program then don't even bother with it, or it will end up in the junk-pile labeled "one million and one education reform ideas".

We can't talk about the single major factor in the deteriorating education system in this country. Teachers Unions. How was it we successfully educated generations of students prior to the unions and now we consistently produce students which can barely read, write, and spell.

My own experience in the California public school system was HORRIFIC. Some of the newer teachers were good, however they lacked funding to really do anything, that said, the rest of them where HORRIBLE and should have been fired long ago.

With the current system in place, the unions will not allow for a longer school year, and no amount of additional funding you dump into the smoking hole known as public education will fix this. More money in, more money to get redirected into union dues and pensions.

But on a bright side, failure at this level is impressive, and doing it so uniformly is also a major accomplishment.

Re:No (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41217051)

We need several things. The end of the massive summer off.

You know, you're probably right. If we had no summer and short breaks instead, we'd probably be better off academically.

But I don't think academic efficiency should be our paramount goal, above all others. I don't think we should be looking at kids and asking ourselves how to maximize their future utility as workers - even though it is for them.

When I look back at my summers, I remember vast stretches of time where I was basically free to do anything and had little or no responsibilities. I didn't have to worry about having to do anything. I was free like most of us never will be until maybe retirement. Sure, maybe I didn't use it productively. I mostly laid around or played with friends. I read a lot of books. Sometimes I was bored and just wanted school to start back. But it was great. And I sure wish I could have that back. There's more to life than working and yeah, even learning.

If you want to take some kind of psychohistory perspective, maybe you could even say that we owe a lot of our individualism and ideals to all that.

Re:No (1)

Beardydog (716221) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217125)

"after that initial result, all further appeals cost the parent to prevent helicopter parents from abusing the system."

I think you meant to say, "to allow only wealthy parents to abuse the system."

Re:No (2)

epyT-R (613989) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217187)

No. We need better curriculums that focus on math, science, REASONING skills/logic, and english language shortcomings. We also need to lose the social and political propaganda stuff being taught in 'social studies' and health class and encourage self reliance whenever possible. It's not an issue of quantity but of quality.

I agree with your statements about the separate tracks, as long as each student is given ample opportunity to test out.. maybe once a year?

Hellions do not respond to prison any better than they do laissez faire 'open study.' They're hellions for other reasons. These reasons should be addressed.

Re:No (1, Insightful)

BigBunion (2578693) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217001)

The education experiment in the United States has consistently shown that the more resources we throw at it, the worse the results are. If history is any guide, extending the school year will make our children dumber, not smarter.

Alternate hypothesis (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216703)

Rich kids with parents that care about their future attend schools that stay open longer. The kids care, and the parents care, so they outperform their inner-city peers.

Re:Alternate hypothesis (5, Interesting)

fiziko (97143) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216797)

That absolutely is a factor, but this is far from the first research I've seen (as an educator myself) that indicates three weeks is the longest break the average student can take before skills start to regress. This is why some schools use the "happy medium" of year round schooling. The number of school days is the same as a ten month school year (standard here in Canada) but no break from school exceeds three weeks. Instead, there are more frequent and longer breaks during the school years. (Three weeks at winter, a week at Easter, four days off instead of three for most long weekends, etc.) Academic results are higher (on average), students usually like it once they've tried it because of the more frequent breaks, and working parents enjoy it more. The true test, however, needs to be comparing two otherwise comparable private schools. As you have correctly pointed out, any private system should be able to outperform the local public system on average because the parents who really don't care and produce students who don't respect the need for education send their kids to the public system.

Re:Alternate hypothesis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41217163)

So three weeks after graduation, all of that schooling starts to fade away. So much for education.

In reality that's not a big deal, because even if you have trouble recalling things you once learned but haven't used for a while, it tarts coming back once you start using it regularly again. It's always still in your brain. It's just that your brain has the most frequently used stuff queued up and ready to go.

In that light, the real measure of how effective education is would be to see how long it takes someone dropped into a situation (e.g. New job) where they're using something they learned a long time ago to reacquaint themselves with it.

Re:Alternate hypothesis (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41217179)

I'll second year-round schools. I have kids in both traditional and year-round, and the year-round academic performance is by far better. They get 2 weeks off for the winter holiday, and 3.5 weeks in 4 times a year. You eliminate the "I'm tired of school" and the "I'm bored, when is school starting back?" and actually keep the momentum going.

Re:Alternate hypothesis (5, Informative)

cappp (1822388) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216815)

The articles themselves pretty much cede that point.

During the school year, disadvantaged children manage to catch up somewhat to more advantaged students. But during the summer, they lose those gains while their more advantaged peers -- whose parents can afford to arrange for summer enriching activities -- maintain theirs.

Moreover, they note that the issue is more complicated than just throwing a couple of extra days into the mix.

We should note, however, that a long school year tends to go part and parcel with several other policies, such as a longer school day and Saturday school, and this should make us cautious about assigning too much importance to a longer school year in and of itself. A more conservative conclusion would be to think of the package of the three policies having a positive association with student achievement.

Re:Alternate hypothesis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216831)

Saturday school? Seriously? Is nothing sacred?

Re:Alternate hypothesis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41217203)

Also, because of school lunch programs, poor kids get fed longer.

Summers off? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216717)

Schools were out during the summer so that children could work in the fields. How relevant is this now?

[Aside: my high-school started a full week later than ever other school in the district, because we ere rural, and we actually did work the harvest.]

Re:Summers off? (3, Interesting)

frisket (149522) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216801)

Schools were out during the summer so that children could work in the fields. How relevant is this now?

For some people here in rural agricultural Ireland, very. Ditto elsewhere in the countryside. But that's maybe 5-10% of the population. If school isn't going to be a year-round thing, then cut some of the summer holiday and add it to the other breaks. Or make the timings entirely local, as you described.

Re:Summers off? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216979)

With unemployment, even under-employment being a problem, I think we can give the jobs to out of work adults instead.

The rest of the year they can build pyramids for Pharaoh.

Re:Summers off? (1)

s0nicfreak (615390) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217079)

If school is scheduled at harvest time, they aren't going to hire someone to do it; they'll just have the kids be absent from school.

Re:Summers off? (2, Insightful)

guttentag (313541) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217107)

There are very good "economic" reasons for a small percentage of the population, but for the entire population there are very good "experiential" reasons for summer vacation. The new places you go, people you meet, the experiences you have an the things you learn from all that are invaluable, whether the kids are working, at a summer camp, on a family vacation or cruising the neighborhood on their bikes. You have to show kids that there is more to life than the scripted environment in the same old classroom, otherwise how do they know what they're working for?

I also think it's important to have a well-defined beginning and end to the school year, otherwise they just bleed into one another. If you've been working at the same job in the same building for 4 years or more, can you honestly say you remember what year you learned a certain skill? Was it two years ago... Maybe three? If you can't remember, how well have you really learned. But ask a kid what grade they learned cursive or their multiplication tables. They'll have little trouble telling you what grade because those periods of their life are separated and well-defined. If they were in school year round with a week off here or there, I'm sure they'd lose that, and their knowledge retention would be lower. They're human beings, not containers to pour knowledge into.

Re:Summers off? (3, Informative)

mister_playboy (1474163) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216845)

I'm glad I got summers off... neither my elementary nor my high school had AC. (Both do have it now however)

Re:Summers off? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216887)

It is relevant as children still get summer jobs, they are just not on the farm.

And as certain demographics has gotten more successful and be able to go on holidays and only work 8 hours a day they had time to lounge around and go on holidays, why should their kids no partake in this as well.

Re:Summers off? (1)

Jetra (2622687) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216999)

Parents need to learn to stop tossing their kids to school like it's a jail.

Teachers need to teach and stop striking every year.

Longer school day =/= Better education

Quality teaching == Invaluable learning


Gee, where could the problem lie?

Re:Summers off? (3, Informative)

Mashiki (184564) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217053)

Schools were out during the summer so that children could work in the fields. How relevant is this now?

I don't know about where you live, but in my neck of the woods(Ontario), kids still work in the fields here. In fact, kids will still be working in the fields here until about the end of September and sometimes right up until mid-October. The provincial government doesn't like it, not a single bit, they've tried reallllly hard to piss all over farmers who have kids who do this. In most cases, the answer of parents have been to homeschool. It's gotten exceptionally bad in the last 6 years since the Liberals(left) have come to power over it, and they keep sloshing around the "try to ban kids from working on the farm" it keeps getting knocked down by the PC's(Conservatives who are right of centre) and NDP(far left).

Though I shouldn't be surprised at this response from the odd ball American. Especially since Obama dept. of agriculturehad tried to ban kids from working on the farm, and driving farm machinery.

Re:Summers off? (0, Flamebait)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217111)

>>>the Liberals(left) have come to power over it, and they keep sloshing around the "try to ban kids from working on the farm"

Although it's popular to believe it is Christians that like to control your life, I've found the left-leaning politicians FAR more proficient at this. Christians just thump their bibles while liberals pass actual laws *forcing* you to live according to their own beliefs. Like your example: Forcing farmers' kids not to farm.

Dicks.

Yes (2)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216725)

The school year should be 23 months with a month off to scrape all the gum off the underside of the desks.

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216775)

Yes, more schooling may have done you well.

simple answer: NO (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216727)

School holidays are for learning social skills, learning that thinking/making can be fun and that not everything you do is controlled by schoolteachers.
Its not for homework, and its certainly not for anyone with a chart full of grade averages to cut short.

Re:simple answer: NO (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216827)

Are the school holidays effectively meeting those goals, though? Or just giving children a chance to study their cartoons?

Re:simple answer: NO (3, Insightful)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216865)

There will always be losers, layabouts, and lazy people. No school schedule will chance this.

Re:simple answer: NO (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217057)

School holidays are for learning social skills

That'll get you a job!

You can do basic math and have no real reading comprehension, but hell, you know how to use Social Media, paly a few drining games, and give / get blow jobs!

That will help you get a job!

Don't even need to read the summary, or RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216729)

No.

Public schools are the most socialized, most obvious failure one encounters. The less time my kids are there, the better.

What an unbelievably stupid bitch (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216735)

Nt

Leave Summers Alone (0)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216739)

Leave summers alone, and instead actually make the students (and teachers) attend during the school year!

These days they have so many days off, due to things like parent-teacher conferences, teachers' meetings, holidays, etc. etc. that it's just ridiculous.

Letting kids out for the summer might no be so bad if they actually had to BE in school the rest of the year.

Re:Leave Summers Alone (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216803)

5 days a week for 3/4 of the year is 195 days.

According to NCES [ed.gov], the average school year is 180 days long, so they miss 15 of those days due to holidays or whatever. (Personally, I think it's more than that due to "special" days like teachers' conferences, but let's go with that.)

So... let the school year be 15 days longer to compensate, and let them get their full 195 days in.

Re:Leave Summers Alone (4, Insightful)

CubicleZombie (2590497) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217035)

My wife is a teacher. Do you know what teachers do during "Teacher Work Days"?

Mandatory All Hands Meetings.

You might think they're working on lesson plans or report cards or grading papers, but that's what they do at home at night.

Re:Leave Summers Alone (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217191)

My wife is a teacher. Do you know what teachers do during "Teacher Work Days"?

I didn't imply they weren't working, or anything like that. I simply said that those days when students are absent should be made up with further attendance days.

How about a shorter school year ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216741)

Do students really need any MORE anxiety and social propriety than we already put on them ?

I said it before and i'll say it again. I never let school interfere with my education.

What about actually shaking things up a bit and splitting the school year in half at the same token creating a real nose to nose work program for grammar/jnr/high school students, god forbid we actually do that ? right ?

Re:How about a shorter school year ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216777)

I completely agree. Not because we should try but because its the right thing to do!

Two weeks (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216743)

Kids should get two weeks off per year and it should be treated like holiday or personal time where each student can choose how to split up their time and when to use it. It keeps them learning, it keeps them out of trouble and it's reflective of what they will have to deal with in the real world.

Re:Two weeks (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216931)

The problem with mini-holidays like this is that teachers will just give you lots of homework.
Many are already doing this for summer, but you can only give so much in one giant chunk.
And you cannot have every student learning something different in a class, because they all take holidays at a different time.

you know what we need less of? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216747)

Hugh Pickens. Too bad Roland Picquapeckofpickledpeppers isn't still here to submit him into submission.

Suggested by someone who has forgotten (4, Insightful)

cloricus (691063) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216753)

Take off the rose colored glasses. Learning constantly for 12 years is hard. Meaningful breaks are very important to avoid burnout and keep morale up. If people want to look at schooling maybe we should reconsider how the school time is allocated but lets not do it from the perspective of 'lazy students, they need to do more'.

Re:Suggested by someone who has forgotten (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216853)

I agree that meaningful breaks are important, but WHY does it have to be a three month long break? My cousin's son goes to a private school that takes a month off for winter break (usually starting after the first week of December), six weeks off for Summer (usually centered on July), and one week off for Spring and Fall breaks. I've always thought that was a great idea, any reason it isn't implemented in more places?

Re:Suggested by someone who has forgotten (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216869)

I think we should be taking a much deeper look at how education itself is dispensed. In this information age, we should very easily be able to provide the brighter students with all of the tools they need to advance at their own pace, and rewards to encourage this behaviour, while ensuring that other students get a solid standard education. Its a truism to say that learning is entirely, in the end, up to the student, emphasising this by reforming the educational model could do a lot of good.

Ebook readers, tap a word or equation to find its meaning, if that doesn't make sense tap the words in the explanation and so on, a dedicated knowledgebase of discussions from past pupils and tutors to answer common questions, a growing library of video tutorials, and live tutors for students when none of that provides answers, shared and translated internationally, and all this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Re:Suggested by someone who has forgotten (2)

Hadlock (143607) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216953)

Alternately, most people are going to end up as wage slaves for the rest of their lives, and just as many may be working too hard building a carrer to take a sizeable vacation until they're 30. Most of them will be lucky to take two full, consecutive weeks off in a row each decade for the remainder of their lives once they graduate from high school (or college, if they're lucky). A couple months of unemployment was a blissfully happy time for me. Three months a year of actual living before taking responsibility for your own welfare is the least we can afford our citizens these days.

Re:Suggested by someone who has forgotten (3, Insightful)

CubicleZombie (2590497) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217075)

Learning constantly for 12 years is hard.

This.

My son has his whole life ahead of him to have his soul crushed in a cubicle. He has only one chance to be a kid.

"We just sit there and watch TV"
That's the parent's fault, not the school system.

meh (4, Interesting)

vux984 (928602) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216755)

my kids are in a semester system. one month at christmas off, one at spring break, one in summer... same number of days as the "traditional method" without the big gap in summer. works just fine imo.

Minor corrections (1)

overshoot (39700) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216763)

summer holds a special place in our hearts:blistering afternoons, camping in front of the TV, sweltering evenings gazing at the calendar

... waiting for October to finally arrive and bring with it daytime temperatures below 40C and the hope that before long (November, perhaps) we can actually go outdoors in something other than a mad dash to reach air conditioning again. Then, before we knew it, April arrived and it was back into our shelters.

Break it up (1)

LordLucless (582312) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216779)

Instead of one huge chunk of time, break up the year a bit more with a few weeks in mid-term. They can still have just as much time off, but not in one brain-draining slab. Also, I'm dubious about the "open 10 days more" claim - that study's looking at charter schools, and there are a whole slew more variables there that don't look like they're controlled for in this study. In fact, the study makes that same point:

We should note, however, that a long school year tends to go part and parcel with several other policies, such as a longer school day and Saturday school, and this should make us cautious about assigning too much importance to a longer school year in and of itself.

Re:Break it up (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216805)

Not to mention charter schools are allowed to expel poorly performing students.

That last sentence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216783)

including the flexibility to turn the lazy days of summer into the season of learning

I think this exists, it's called summer school.
I can somehow buy that it's not magically mandatory for summer to be free time,
but I also wouldn't want my kids having to go to school every day of the year.
Going to school serves one purpose: to prepare you for later life so you can do the shit you enjoy.
Life is not about spending 12h per day slaving away.

Maybe they should have just like with real jobs that you can take days of school.

Not a longer school year; just better distribution (5, Interesting)

dskoll (99328) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216787)

We don't need a longer school year. What we need is better holiday distribution. RIght now where I live (Ontario, Canada) our kids get two weeks off in December, one in March and about 9 in the summer.

It would make more sense to have August, December and April off so there are three month-long breaks. That way, there's no long summer holiday during which kids can forget what they've learned. It also makes holiday planning a bit easier on parents; we don't have to cram everything into the summer.

Re:Not a longer school year; just better distribut (0)

Onco_Rx (2600353) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217043)

We don't need a longer school year. What we need is better holiday distribution. RIght now where I live (Ontario, Canada) our kids get two weeks off in December, one in March and about 9 in the summer.

Just try and convince our coddled teachers to do that...

Re:Not a longer school year; just better distribut (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41217177)

I'd tend to agree. With the required "working groups" needed to review this, and the unions screaming its unfair it will be 2020 before this is even considered.

Quantity over quality? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216793)

Quantity over quality? That's how it looks to me.

I don't live in the US, but I dislike a lot of things about the educational systems world wide, this 9 month cycle, tests that test memory or test-taking ability and so on.

Looks like homeschooling will become even more popular.

dumb poor people? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216817)

"students from low-income families falling even further behind"

So poor people get dumb faster? That's why they're poor!

Quality not quantity. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216833)

I'd rather see kids keep their ~3 months of free time to be kids (if they even know how to be kids anymore, what with their iphones and facebooks.) And attend the other ~9 months having quality schooling.

Shorter School Year (1)

Jonathan A (1584455) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216835)

How is it that this topic comes up every year at about this time? :) Around here we've been shortening the school year. It doesn't have anything to do with educational objectives. We're just doing it to save money.

2 months in one block might not be so good (2)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216841)

2 months off in one block is probably not so good. A month off in the summer, 3 weeks in the winter might work better (as in an extra week in the winter). And then another week to coincide with some major culture group's major holiday, or in the middle of each 'term'. Say a week off in october and a week off in march, with school running august to june.

Teachers still need some vacation time, as do kids, and taking teachers out of the classroom for holidays is usually a disaster for the kids. Winter is probably a good time to have time off because kids pay relatively little attention when they have christmas coming/new toys anyway. Not to mention the problems with winter in general messing up schedules. Teachers also need prep time, so you can't really compact too much more and still leave them time for vacations + prep time+training etc.

But sure, overall, kids would probably overall benefit from more time at school, having to reteach 2 months of work because kids were gone for 2 months isn't really doing you any favours. Especially if you could make up that difference by teaching for an extra 2 or 3 weeks.

One of the universities I went to had a week long 'reading week' in each semester*, one in october, one in february, and the one in the summer was about mid july (the summer timing is a bit strange). The quality of work from those students was actually a lot better than were I am no, where they only get a break in the midst of february. The 4 months where most students aren't here doesn't do a lot of favours, but the one week break makes a huge difference to stress/sleep/quality of work, and I would suspect the same effect would apply to younger kids.

Semesters are sept-dec, Jan - > April, may - > august.

Re:2 months in one block might not be so good (1)

Nrrqshrr (1879148) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216993)

I dunno where you live, but here in North Africa, summer is the season when hells' gates open and the heat of a thousand suns hits our cities. Third quarter of July, the temperature managed to hit a record 47 C. I don't think anyone can do something productive in such temperature. Comuting in a bus under those conditions is hard enough, let alone to actually study.

Re:2 months in one block might not be so good (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217197)

Sure, but you don't have -30 winters with 1m of snow.

I'm near toronto ontario, in canada, and the article is mostly centered around the US education system being a disaster, not that canada is a whole lot better in terms of school years.

If you're somewhere that gets insanely hot, insanely cold etc it's not reasonable to run school in those times, so don't.

How does this miss the only relevant issues? (2, Insightful)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216847)

I have 2 opinions that fall on both sides of this debate. Personally I do not see how they were not mentioned, as they are based completely in known facts.
1) If school was really all that stressful, such that you need months of free time to recover your sanity and physiological strength, then we should not be forcing children to spend 8 months at a time there.

2) You do want to create people who are able to function in society, you do not do so by locking them away from the world for the first 17 years of their lives.

4 day school week (1)

barefoot_professor (2655607) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216871)

Another option I'm surprised has not yet been mentioned is the four day school week. Some schools have already gone this route with interesting results.

Re:4 day school week (1)

alcourt (198386) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217069)

The four day week has interesting implications. Currently, our culture says that students should spend no more than 180 days in school per year. Accounting for 104 weekend days, 14 break days (using the federal holidays for a number, as that is one of the most generous in the US), you have 67 days off. That's incredibly generous.

If one took your four day week, that means 210 days, leaving 30 days for breaks scattered through the year. Quite generous, and if distributed evenly, would result in no longer a school year (still averaging 180 days), but avoiding the extra long break which is the real problem I've heard many a teacher complain about.

Works for us pretty well (4, Informative)

jht (5006) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216875)

Our son is going into 5th grade. He's attending a public school that has a 190-day school year with an extended 8-3 day, and they go to school until late July, only getting 5-6 weeks of summer vacation. In compensation for the long July in school, they get a vacation week in late October and another one in the beginning of June that other kids don't get.

For the most part, he loves it. And when he and his schoolmates get back to school, there seems to be less time getting kids back up to speed than there is at the conventional schools here in town. Overall results trend better here as well, and we've got a lot of overall issues in the system here outside of our school. Within reason, I think an extended day/extended year model is ideal for most learning situations, but not necessarily universal. I don't think school should be fully year-round, there should be some sort of summer break. But the 2+ month summer vacation is a relic of this country's agricultural roots, and it certainly could go away without causing a problem.

Re:Works for us pretty well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216949)

How is 8 to 3 considered extended? That is normal.

Get better teachers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216901)

If my kids have to spend more time with them, the teachers better be worth a goddamn.

Re:Get better teachers (1)

alcourt (198386) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216969)

So teachers are now to blame for students coming in with an attitude of "I am supposed to forget everything I learned last year over the summer" and do not come at all prepared to learn?

Re:Get better teachers (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217049)

If they forget it that quickly, they never learned it at all, it was just crammed in long enough to pass some standardized test or another.

Re:Get better teachers (1)

alcourt (198386) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217147)

That culture predates extensive standardized testing. Even when such tests were introduced, a lot of students knew that it had no impact on their individual grades.

Missing part: family (4, Insightful)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216909)

The one missing part is the family of the kids. Families do things like take vacations or trips, or large projects around the home that need the kids to help with. Summer vacation isn't just a break from school for the kids, it's a large block of time where the family doesn't have to plan everything they do around the school schedule. It's when the family can take a week or two for a trip. It's when they can take a week or two to haul the furniture out of the house one room at a time to do a thorough cleaning and rearranging of everything.

And frankly, competitive with the rest of the world? I deal with a lot of outsourced IT people daily, and it wouldn't take much to be competitive with them. Not just helpdesk types, software developers and the like too. I don't want the kind of educational system that makes you better at being like them. I want the kind of educational system that led to being able to "make this <holds up a square filter> fit in that <points to a round hole> using nothing but these <dumps out a random assortment of supplies>".

Re:Missing part: family (4, Insightful)

Dr Fro (169927) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216995)

The whole point of the education system is to make the square students fit into the round holes of standardized testing.

Re:Missing part: family (2)

lurker1997 (2005954) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217039)

Not to mention summer jobs. This is only important from maybe 12-14 onward (I did stuff like mow lawns and do gardening for elderly neighbors when I was 12) but a summer job is a really important part of growing up and is at least as important in a teen's development as what they are doing in school.

Re:Missing part: family (1)

John Bresnahan (638668) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217115)

There is also the fact that a year-round school year would have major impact on the economies of areas with significant tourism.

Part of my family lives in an area that lives for the three months of summer tourists. They have a limited number of available hotels and cabins, and if the vacation season was cut in half (for example) their incomes would also be cut significantly, even allowing for the increased demand for their rooms during the shortened vacation season.

I'm not suggesting that this is more important than a quality education, but I am pointing out that there are significant costs, well beyond the obvious ones.

I better solution would be to change the system to allow students to schedule vacations at any time, just like their working parents. But the current public school system isn't anywhere near agile enough to allow for this.

Look at US movies (1)

ozduo (2043408) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216913)

Movie producers are smart people they know their audience. US Movies are so dumbed down these days that none US citizens (like me) feel insulted to watch them.

Its not the students its the cirriculum (2)

eggroll0d (2606969) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216921)

If students go so far as to regress in simply 2 months after 10 months of education, then its not the students, but the way they are taught. Before we cut the summer vacation maybe we should focus on enhancing education that's received in a 10 month window and make that better instead of adding another 2 weeks of subpar education. Sure summer can be boring, but that's up to the individual child. If you sit in front of a TV all day you are going to be bored, but if you actually got up and did something productive with the time you had off, you'd be much better off. Also, that second "mis-perception" is by far the norm in America. More classes then not were void of enjoyment and learning in my education, and the way the education system is set up today, students are made to work toward a magical number so the school can receive funding, instead of creating joy in learning. We need to change the time we do have in the classroom, before we start adding more time to an already defunct institution.

increasingly competitive global work force (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216945)

Everybody's favorite buzzword to justify near-slave labor... Lengthen the school year, but shorten the 'work year'... to the point where you forget where you work.

Priorities clearly defined here (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216947)

I admire the self-confidence with which someone speaks of the importance of education strictly through the lens of the global marketplace.

If that doesn't make you feel like a cog, the way it makes me feel like one, I'm not sure what will.

Defining how we raise kids based on their eventual suitability for employment under people who will casually replace them at every convenient turn sounds to me like a perfect way to deepen the chasm that is growing between those people who call shots and have freedom of time, thought and movement, and the rest of us. Being employable is not such a tremendous gift when you must be tethered to the same location 95% of the year, must always sleep and get up at the same time lest you be replaced with people better at self-nullification, and your ideas are only considered as worthy of your time as their capacity for growing corporate coffers...

I wish our economy could figure out a way to hybridize capitalism with collectivism, where it is considered normal to expend some of our resources on the necessities which keep people healthy and educated, and some of our resources playing that other game, of trying to outshine our baseline achievements, for commensurate rewards.

There are plenty of people who would do amazing, truly amazing things, if only given the opportunity, but who never will because they couldn't get a scholarship doing what they love. Well, what about earning a 'living' with 50% of your time, and then doing wonderful stuff the rest of the time (like rest and looking after your health and family, or your hobbies). I only see cultural momentum preventing this, but it is what I hope for. Science, the arts, community living would all benefit. Even the job market would benefit, as more 'half-time' jobs would be available. Of course many people would want to keep their full-time job because they're not sure what else to do with their time, but ...

All this rambling is just meant to point out I hope the search for a more humane economic system is not over. Thanks.

My god, what happens when they graduate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216955)

After someone graduates from college, they will likely spend decades without ever setting foot in the classroom. Clearly we need compulsory education for everyone from birth until death. We must close the adult education gap or we won't be competitive with other countries that have shorter school years.

Doesn't matter. (1, Informative)

Exitar (809068) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216957)

You can have students attend school even 365/365, but if in end you teach them Creationism I don't think they'll "excel in our global society" anyway.

WORKS GREAT FOR JAPAN (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216965)

Kids there are happy and creative! Not. Birth Rates are low, the majority of the population act like automatons, and suicide rates are high in school children.

Yes, throw children in an institution their entire childhood with longer hours and days, almost like a prison, and when they get out into the real world, they only know what the institution has readied them for. Bad enough school already takes up a good portion of your life. If anything, school needs to become more efficient and start teaching skills that can be applied in real life, rather than shoving wrote memorization down the throats of students, bashing the same concepts for several years over their heads. have them apply it, have them use their knowledge beyond testing and paperwork.

The reason they start forgetting over a summer session is because it was simply yelled at them, and were told to just write down what the teacher told them, rather than having them apply what they learned (applying a math equation to a real life situation, for example. Having students write a speech for the class at the end of every week, proof read, etc for english, making sure they actually use correct spelling and grammar, rather than correcting sentences every day for an entire school year as part of their english requirements!) and so on and so forth.

This solution just pushes the wrote memorization bullshit further, and instead of smarter, more engaged children, you will have an increased dropout rate, lower grade point average, and children just no longer caring after a few years. It happens to workers too, work someone too hard without a break, watch their efficiency drop, eventually they just stop caring. I have personally experienced it.

Public schools fail, so give them more ? (4, Insightful)

kimanaw (795600) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216967)

If the current system is failing, why would we want to give kids even more of it ?

Much learning occurs *outside* of classrooms. Learning to be a good person, how to camp, swim, fish, etc. and enjoy life.And how to work, btw. I'm not aware of any curriculum that includes those classes. Are we going to add them in those 3 more months of failed public schooling ?

Our school system has many issues (starting w/ the NEA and - ironically - underpaid teachers). Turning it into a 12 year long death march isn't going to fix it. In the "land of the free", its important for kids to know what freedom is.

I might be a hardass, but (1)

melted (227442) | about a year and a half ago | (#41216977)

I might be a hardass, but my kid does math homework even in the summer. An hour in the morning, an hour in the evening as a prerequisite to doing all the "fun" stuff, like computer games, watching cartoons and so on. He doesn't seem to mind too much. That's in addition to private math teacher that he goes to twice a week year round.

Re:I might be a hardass, but (2)

lurker1997 (2005954) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217109)

You could be scarring him for life you know. If he doesn't have an aptitude for math, this will not help him. If he does have an aptitude for math, this is a complete waste of time. Whatever the case, you are not helping him in any way, making him resent you, and causing who knows what kind of social problems / insecurities for him. Hopefully he will be strong enough to just laugh it off as something his crazy father made him do.

Also, maybe you should suggest he go play outside an hour in the morning and evening, if his "fun stuff" is watching TV and sitting at the computer. This will do much more for his future quality of life than math tutoring

Re:I might be a hardass, but (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41217157)

"He doesn't seem to mind too much. "

The serial killer part of his life comes a bit later.

Practical budget concerns (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216989)

Many schools don't have good air conditioning systems, and may resist due to the extra burdens on their utility bills.

Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41216991)

..only if you want more broken paperwork pushing drones.

Next question.

Huh? (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217007)

I didn't know people did 9-month school anymore. All my nieces and nephews went to 12-month schools. All the school zone signs in the last two towns I've lived in have "12 Month" warnings. Are my observations a statistical fluke?

At any rate, I think summers off are a good thing. IMO being a kid is an important part of becoming an adult. Let them have a break for all those dirt clod fights and stuff.

The trouble with education (2)

extar (2418280) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217033)

The trouble with education is that everybody has an opinion on it.

Fewer Hours in School is better (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41217067)

I'd rather not be emulating second tier systems wherein more time is spent in school. Instead, I'd prefer to emulate top-tier school systems like Finland and have children spend less time in school.

I have a vastly superior idea (2)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217073)

They should drop traditional teaching, which EVERY kid hates, and do like 1 month of independent study for 7th graders on up. That would let them apply whatever field of learning they most enjoy to a real world project. If you're into chemistry, build a battery and solar array. If you like computers, build and test one. Okay those are really expensive but still :-P If you're into history, do a gigantic research paper/presentation into a specific event or research the town's history. Giving kids a little freedom while forcing them to actually use their brains would be a great idea.

Iama (1)

antant007 (1702214) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217085)

I'm a high school senior and personally I think that summers are a very important thing. I don't have a phd or anything that would make people listen to my opinion, but I think the problem with our education system is that we need to learn more when we're younger.

Doesn't matter (0)

Kohath (38547) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217091)

Teachers like summers off. Teachers' unions control schools. Forget about making any significant changes until the unions are gone.

Heading backwards (1)

jcohen (131471) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217101)

The LA Unified School District, starved for funds, has cut one week of instruction from the school year; it is threatening to cut a month from the school year if Proposition 30 (temporary tax hikes) doesn't go through. Public education in California is headed into the toilet, and it's taking the students with it.

no (3, Insightful)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217103)

Kids do 75% of their growing during 25% of the year: the summer when they actually get sleep mostly and also sufficient food whenever they want to eat it. So cut out a bit of the summer, and we're gonna have some short kids :-P Of course, several school districts in the US bumped start time up 1 hour to like 9:00 and behavioral problems basically disappeared, skipping school stopped, test scores went through the roof, and kids' opinions of school went up. Since kids aren't designed to get up that early, it's just because of their selfish, lazy, assholes parents that both work, maybe they should just implement that instead.

And paying for this how? (1)

Dhrakar (32366) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217137)

How do we pay for this? Many school districts are struggling to pay bills as things are and with their teachers on 9 month contracts. Is there the will to start paying teachers for year-round contracts? For paying janitorial staff for the summer months? Many schools don't have good enough ventilation and/or air conditioning since they are usually closed during the summer.
    If we can start actually valuing education again as a society and pony up the money, then this might work...

Who pays? (3, Informative)

gmhowell (26755) | about a year and a half ago | (#41217153)

Who pays for the extra month(s) of school? Localities across the US are already strapped for cash. Increase teacher's salaries by 20% (ish) and things get worse. And when will they do their continuing ed to remain accredited or get higher degrees? Similar stories for custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, etc. In many (most?) school districts, only parts of the administration are 12 month employees. There's also an increase in electricity and possible retrofitting of AC in places that don't have it.

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