For the majority of public school students in the U.S., summer break is currently in session, with the thought of school being the last thing on their minds. However, there are over 3,000 public schools in the U.S. that run on a year-round schedule, meaning that there are more frequent breaks throughout the school year, but in turn, there is a much shorter summer break (around 1 month compared to the traditional 10-12 week summer break). There are advantages and downsides with both schedules, bringing up one major question: which schedule is better?
Currently, there are very few studies on the academic advantages of a year-long schedule, however, there is one obvious benefit. Students who are on a year-round schedule most likely have better information and skill retentivity, as many traditionally-schooled students tend to forget what they have learned over the long summer break. According to David Hornak, the executive director of the National Association for Year-Round Education, “On average, a teacher on the traditional calendar is required to re-teach between four and eight weeks annually after the summer intermission.” This gives teachers substantially less time to teach new curriculum and teachers may even have to cut corners lesson-wise in order to re-teach previous information. On the other hand, year-round schools are often able to skip or drastically shorten the “re-teaching phase” that traditional schools commonly carry out after summer breaks.
Non-academic wise, a year-long schedule allows for more opportunities to schedule vacations. With more 2-3 week breaks throughout the school year, families are able to take vacations more frequently and have a greater chance of planning a vacation that works with everyone’s schedule. However, with a traditional schedule, families are more limited in scheduling a vacation but they are able to go on vacation for a longer period of time, which is great for international vacations. Although this could be considered a minor benefit compared to the other ones mentioned here, the ability to fully comprehend other places’ customs and cultures is important to intellectual growth, especially because it is something that cannot fully be taught in a classroom.
A non-academic disadvantage with a year-long schedule is the access to opportunities over the summer. Certain summer camps and programs may not be available for year-round students due to their schedule. Year-round students most likely won’t be able to participate in any camp or program that is in July, because at that point they will be back in school, meaning that the number of opportunities that year-round students are able to pursue over the summer is severely limited. On the other hand, traditional students have access to all of these summer camps and program opportunities because there is no conflict with school, which is a major benefit.
Both schedules come with their benefits and drawbacks, and it is just a matter of personal opinion of which one you prefer. A traditional schedule seems to have more non-academic benefits, however, a year-long schedule logically has certain academic benefits that traditional schedules don’t (although it hasn’t been widely proven yet). Regardless of which schedule you are on, both approaches to education ultimately have the same goal in mind: to prepare students for the real-world and promote the pursuit of learning.