When public education was first instituted in the United States, the country was basically agrarian. In the summer, children were required to work at home on the farm. Therefore, schools would let out for the summer and begin again after the harvest.
Some educators today argue that this system should be abandoned with the changing times and instead move to a year-round system of education. This does not mean students would go to school for a longer period of time. However, the vacations would be broken up differently so there would be no long summer vacation.
The most common scheme for doing this is the “45–15 Plan,” where students go to school for 45 days (eight weeks) and then have 15 days (three weeks) off. Normal holiday breaks are still built in the calendar. Of course, there are other ways to divide the year.
The Benefits of Year-Round Education
Proponents of year-round education cite many reasons why it is an effective way to structure the school year. For one thing, students tend to forget a lot of what they learned over the lengthy summer break. As a result, teachers spend a long time at the beginning of each new school year reviewing information from the previous year's classes. This time would not be necessary in a year-round system of education. Short breaks could even be used to provide students with periods of enrichment education.
Other advantages are more practical in nature. For one thing, this system allows for a more efficient use of school facilities. Schools would not be closed for two to three months in the summer and allowed to become musty, leading to health concerns. Furthermore, a year-round system allows for vacation planning at any convenient time for the family. Finally, the year-round system is already used in much of the world.
How many U.S. schools have moved to year-round education?
Each year, the number of schools that implement year-round education around the nation is increasing. In 1990–1991, the number of schools that were using year-round education was 859. In 2002–2003, the number increased to 3,181.
It's Not as Great as It Might Sound
Many opponents of year-round education are those who work with sports and other extracurricular activities. They are concerned that students in band and chorus would have to work around the schedule for performances and competitions. Athletes would probably have to continue sports practice during three-week breaks and miss out on vacations altogether. And the problem is not limited to musicians and athletes. Students who wish to have a summer job or participate in summer camps could be adversely affected by this system.
There is no conclusive evidence one way or the other whether year-round education is better for learning. The fact is that students are going to forget information during breaks, even if they are only three weeks long. Some educators claim that in a year-round system, they spend even more time reviewing concepts that are in danger of being lost because of the three-week breaks.