Should the school year be longer?
By Morgan on August 7th, 2012
Would you believe we’re in the thick of back-to-school season here at Scholastic?
In New Jersey, where I grew up, school started after Labor Day, so I used to consider back-to-school season to be from about mid-August to mid-September. But the truth is, many schools across the country are already heading back to classrooms this week or next, depending on the region and district. And those discrepancies in timing had me reading this article from the New York Times about the length of the school year with interest. How long should summer be?
The Times spotlights a school in Phoenix that provides just six weeks off during the summers. Griffith Elementary is, along with a growing number of schools across the country, lengthening its school year and, in effect, cutting its summer vacations short. As the Times notes, a typical public school calendar is 180 days, but Griffith is in session for 200 days — which adds up to an extra month. And they’re not alone — the Times cites research that says about 170 schools have extended their calendars in similar ways.
When my freshman English class was assigned a debate about whether summer breaks should be obliterated, I was the only student in my class of 200 kids who argued yes. (Hey, I had my reasons.)
Summer breaks are critical — not just because kids need to earn money and take trips and play sports and go to camps, but because those breaks have the opportunity to be life-changing. (How many books tell the story of the ugly duckling who changed into a swan over the summer, for example? Summer is an opportunity to reinvent oneself!) But maybe the breaks themselves are simply too long. By August, with weeks still ahead of me until school, I would start to feel disconnected from my peers, like I was living in an alternate universe. I’d forget all my French translations and the Pythagorean Theorem. Everything I’d learned seemed to fade away as the days wore on.
There’s research that backs up this idea — like the “summer slide,” which documents the loss in literacy skills during students’ summer breaks. And, like the kid profiled in the Times said, “Sometimes summer is really boring…We just sit there and watch TV.”
So maybe the answer lies in cutting summers short. Or maybe it lies in not having “summer” at all — and instead, having month-long breaks at regular intervals throughout the year. Or maybe it’s something else altogether.
What do you think? Should the school year be longer?