The other day while driving to work, I was listening to the radio. On the radio, the commentator interviewed a professor from Duke University about the Year Round School Pros and Cons. The Duke University professor was very pro year round school and he began his argument with the following question:
If aliens visited the earth, what would they say about our school buildings that are empty 3 months out of year?
I laughed at the question – I thought it was funny. But then, I realized how right he was. For as much as we claim education as a priority, it doesn’t really show in our actions by choosing to wholesale close our schools down during the summer.
So, from a public policy perspective and, more importantly, what is best for our children? Year Round School or the traditional 3 months off type of school year?
Pros of Year Round School
As a parent, I can think of several reasons why year round schooling might make sense. Here are a few:
- Consistency: As with most things, learning comes in small bite sized pieces. That usually means learning a little bit everyday for a long period of time. Having a year round school supports that idea. For parents, this is a good thing. It allows parents to plan for the year and prevents issues around finding child care during the summer, as for some households, both parents work.
- Mental Dullness: When taking breaks from learning for long periods of time, such as 3 months, it takes longer to get back into the groove when school does start again. Moreover, our memory is weakened and we remember less from the last 90 days. And, because of all of this, we likely learn at a rate slower than if we had continued to learn throughout the year.
- For the teachers, this is a good thing. It ensures more consistent pay and earnings. This creates stability and also allows the teachers to plan more effectively by having a year round schedule.
Cons of Year Round Schooling
The concept of year round school isn’t perfect or is it a panacea for learning or education. It has some weaknesses and here’s some I could come up with:
- Kids need breaks. And, some kids actually need 90 days of breaks.
- Parents plan for vacations during the year and really rely on the 3 months summer vacation. One way to get around the lull of not learning for 3 months is to hire a private tutor. Doing that however is an added cost that could be avoided if we had year round schooling.
- Teachers often have a second job during the summer to supplement their income. Taking that away would impact some teachers pay.
I’m not sure where I fall in the debate exactly. I do feel that year round schooling has significant advantages and can’t help but think it’s better for students. I think the public policy debate often ignores the recipients of the change. In this case, it’s the kids. What do most kids think?