In my previous two posts, I’ve emphasized the need for all American K-12 schools to transition to a year-round school calendar. I’ve highlighted and debunked the most common arguments against year-round schooling and called for educators to stand behind a push to shift to a more consistent school calendar that maximizes student learning. Perhaps one of the strongest arguments in favor of year-round schooling however is the boost it would give to minority and other traditionally disadvantaged groups.
About More than Academics
Anna Habash of Education Trust, a nonprofit that works with schools to better serve their student populations, says that for minorities, a year-round school schedule does more than help academically. In an interview with Education News, Habash said that schools with high numbers of poverty and minority students benefit greatly from year-round schooling because it keep students “on task” and leads to more “meaningful instruction.” When there are not a lot of academically sound options at home, students from disadvantaged backgrounds benefit from the consistency of classroom instruction on a streamlined schedule, without large gaps of time away from it. A recent Congressional Research Service report also found that of year-round school attendees, 75 percent were receiving free or reduced lunches.
It is well documented that minorities drop out of high school at rates that are higher than their white counterparts. The solution to this problem, according to some like Jessica Washington of Politic365, is year-round schooling. She reports that the national dropout rate is 5 percent, while the dropout rate for year-round school students is just 2 percent. These dropout statistics are not broken down by racial or socioeconomic backgrounds, but it stands to reason that if the overall dropout rate is lower for year-round schooling setups, the minority dropout rates in this model are also lower. The reasons why dropout rates are lower in year-round setups are easy to deduce: students have less time to adjust to time off from school, and in the case of high schoolers, they have less time to work.
This has actually been cited as a pitfall of year-round schooling - this inability for teenagers to work and make money in the summer months. I’d argue that the disadvantages of that point are short-lived though. High school graduates earn $11,000 more per year than those with a G.E.D. or less, and that number rises to $36,000 more with a bachelor’s degree. Giving up a few summers of minimum wage (or even slightly higher than minimum wage) work in exchange for the higher lifetime earnings a high school diploma affords is a small price to pay.
Expelling the Summer Slide
Year-round schooling also means that students do not fall victim to the “summer slide,” or the well documented phenomenon that students can actually unlearn some of the knowledge they worked so hard to attain when too much consecutive time is taken off from school. Research shows that it takes anywhere from 8 to 13 weeks at the beginning of every school year for new teachers to get their students back up to speed and ready to learn the new grade’s material.
The summer fallback impacts minority students, students who speak English as a second language, economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities the most, too. The achievement gap between these academically disadvantaged groups already exists; the summer slide just broadens it. If that wasn’t enough to affirm the need for year-round schooling for minorities, researcher Daniel O’Brien concluded that minority students progress their learning proficiency the fastest during the school year when compared to white and economically advantaged students. By implementing year-round schooling, minority and other student groups benefit from the consistent build of information, without the remedial work cutting into the new school year schedule.
Closing the achievement gap for minority students is always the topic of discussion and it seems to me that we have at least a partial solution right in front of us. Implementing year-round schooling will not only lead to minority students who are more engaged with their academics, but ones who come to rely on the consistency of their educational schedule and are more apt to stick with it.
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The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.