This FAQ presents cited, rational answers to many of the questions that have been raised on the subject.
- Is the proposed calendar "balanced" or "year round?"
- Does the year round calendar improve education?
- Is year round school a new idea?
- Is year round school a trend with momentum?
- Isn't the "traditional" calendar is an obsolete agrarian calendar?
- Doesn't the traditional calendar give kids too much free time in summer?
- Won't kids remember more with a shorter summer and more frequent breaks?
- Doesn't intersession learning opportunity help at-risk kids keep up?
- Don't families like the opportunity to take off-peak vacations?
- Will summer jobs be affected by the new calendar?
- What good is the "balanced" calendar?
- How will County Parks and Recreation be affected?
Is the proposed calendar "balanced" or "year round?"
Advocates of the proposed calendar call it a "balanced" calendar. A true year-round calendar, they say, does not have eight weeks summer break but only four to six.
Here's why we insist that calling this calendar a "balanced" calendar is simply PR.
Under the proposed "balanced" calendar our kids will be in class all or part of 11 months of 12 of the year.
Read that again: our kids will be in class all or part of 11 months of 12 of the year.
It is a year-round calendar. And that's what we call it.
Does the year round calendar improve education?
"Research generally does not show educational benefits to either the traditional or balanced calendar."
- Dr. Rebecca S. Sharber, Director of Schools, Williamson County, Tenn., in her flyer home to parents, early December 2005. This flyer is no longer on the WCS site, but here is a digital image.
“There’s no hard data that supports that achievement is increased” by a balanced-calendar.
- Jamye Merritt of the Metro Nashville Education Association, Jan. 12, 2006 at a public meeting attended by a CCC member and also quoted by WRAL-TV news.
"After 30 years, the evidence is overwhelming: changing school calendars does not change school performance. Some families just like a year-round calendar. It's a preference, a choice, but it is not an issue of school performance or educational need."
- David Carleton, Ph.D., Middle Tennessee State University (cite)
The only reasonable conclusion that can be reached from this body of literature is that changing the calendar, per se, is inert educationally.
A reduction in class size might be beneficial. The addition of remedial or other programs might be beneficial. But none of these things is linked in any way to the calendar; they can be added without any modification of the traditional calendar. My review leads me to conclude that, academically, changing the calendar is about as useful as changing the color of the school buses. For many school systems (certainly for ours) it is very disruptive and a "reform" that has a high cost and little benefit.
- M. C. Newland, Ph.D., Auburn University, after reviewing 100 academic studies of non-traditional calendars.
Is year round school a new idea?
Year-round school is not a new idea. It was originated in Bluffington and Gary, Indiana in the early 1900's and has been promoted heavily since the late 60's and early 70's. After almost forty years, only 4% of public or private students in America use it in grades K-12.
-Source:. Hermansen & Gove; Glines
Is year round school a trend with momentum?
01/08/2006 -No. After four decades of focused effort by proponents, only 4% of public school students and 0.4% of private school students are on a "balanced" calendar. Since 1980, 95% of schools that have switched to this system have switched back to the traditional calendar. As you can see on the Summer Matters Reject List, in the 1990's alone, at least 1,000 schools switched back to a traditional school year, many of them among the 15 largest year-round school programs in the nation. The real trend is away from year round school. Additionally, in the last few years several states have enacted laws requiring public schools to start no earlier than labor day and end no later than June 1.
Isn't the "traditional" calendar is an obsolete agrarian calendar?
The current traditional calendar of 180 days with a long summer break was only adopted widely after WWII. It was adopted because it best served the needs of both rural and metropolitan families once broad access to high school became possible through government funding.
- Source: Shepard and Baker, 1977
In 1932, students took a vacation lasting three to six weeks to pick cotton. ...
Many call the traditional approach that starts the school year in mid-August an outdated agrarian calendar, yet the Depression-era board policy to start sooner was made for agricultural reasons, according to Nell Blankenship, past president of the Rutherford County Historical Society.
"They went (to school) for six weeks and got out for cotton-picking season," Blankenship explained.
Students picked cotton for three to six weeks, and board members determined how long the break would be for their own districts. After returning from the harvest, students would take more breaks for the holidays but stay in class until the end of the school year in March in time for the planting season.
That was as agrarian calendar," said Blakenship, noting it wasn't until the 1950s when the school year started after Labor Day. "We've just gradually worked back to July. Each year we go a little bit further back to that calendar of the 1930s."
- The Daily News Journal, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, February 19, 2001, by Scott Broden
Doesn't the traditional calendar give kids too much free time in summer?
Most Williamson County families spend quality time during the summer doing things that are actually educational as well as fun for their children. From sports camps, music programs, Girl and Boy Scouts to church camps, mission trips and summer jobs, today's kids are engaged with healthy learning experiences during the summer.
“Children learn many things out of school. It is absurd to suggest that children aren’t learning during the summer. It’s a different type of learning, which simply is not tested.”
--- Dr. Leo Wisebender, Los Angeles Unified School Program and Evaluation Branch
Won't kids remember more with a shorter summer and more frequent breaks?
Actually, after two weeks, short term memory is defeated and review must be undertaken. Williamson County AP teachers and teachers who teach single semester courses believe their job will be much harder with the proposed "balanced" calendar.
The difference in the amount of forgetting after four weeks or 12 is not significant. In fact, one could argue that a year-round calendar, with its multiple breaks, offers more opportunity to forget.
- Chris Newland, professor of psychology, Auburn University
Doesn't intersession learning opportunity help at-risk kids keep up?
The North Carolina Department of Education required intersessions for at-risk kids in most schools. A March 2000 studyby the state's Division of Accountability Services found the year-round calendar resulted in no academic advantage when compared to children on the traditional school calendar.
Experiences with intersession remediation in other systems found that unless the system provides transportation for at-risk students to get to classes, the remediation is very poorly attended. There is no plan by WCS to provide such transportation.
Of the 20 weekdays of spring and summer breaks, only 10 are usually used for remediation in systems that use this calendar, five in the fall and five in the summer. How effective can that be? Experience shows, not very.
Don't families like the opportunity to take off-peak vacations?
Some do, but most families don't take a vacation during every break and are burdened by the extra cost of child care during the frequent breaks and the difficulty of matching their schedules to the schedules of family members from other parts of the country they might like to visit.
When the kids get older and enter middle school - and especially high school - the attraction of such vacations diminishes quite a bit. Elementary kids are still very much centered on parents and siblings and home. That doesn't last. School clubs, bands, soccer, swim teams and other activities predominate students' attention and desires after elementary school. Most of these activities will continue through all or most of the year-round calendar's intersessions, especially the fall one. And the older a student gets the more important a full-length summer becomes.
There is another thing about the proposed year-round calendar's breaks that seems not to be realized much. One is that the winter break remains two weeks, same as now, so it offers no additional vacation time in December-January than at present, nor at a different time. Another is that while the spring break is two weeks rather than the current schedule's one, it won't be at a different time of the spring than now. So don't count on smaller crowds or lower rates at vacation destinations under the year-round calendar.
Will summer jobs be affected by the new calendar?
Many high school students count on summer employment to help pay for their college education and prepare them for life's future experiences. Getting out of school late will cause them to miss jobs already filled by others who got there first and the shortened summer will reduce their earning potential substantially if they can find a job.
Employers are also effected. Travel, tourism, camping and amusement related businesses won't have the summer help they count on to handle the peak season efficiently.
What good is the "balanced" calendar?
This is a tough one. Some families have told us they like the year round schedule because of their particular schedules. Also, we have heard some teachers say they want a break in the middle of the year. However, since...
- there is no educational benefit
- the majority of families do not have schedules that fit the schedule
- AP and other teachers who have been around a while don't like it
- our kids should be the focus of this issue, not parents or teachers
- there are dozens of unanswered quuestions and concerns
...it doesn't seem to us that any justification exists for this plan.
How will County Parks and Recreation be affected?
According to a senior administrator of the Parks and Rec office we spoke with in December 2005, there will be lower overall summer attendance and lots of trouble hiring lifeguards and other help for the summer.
WCPR houses eight of its summer programs in Williamson County school buildings. Under the current calendar those WCPR programs run for eight weeks. If the school system changed to the proposed "balanced" calendar, with teachers and school staffs returning to work on July 13, the summer programs offered by Parks and Recreation would be cut back to no more than five weeks - or even less.