It may be mid-summer, the season of popsicles, sleep-away camp, and jumping into swimming pools, but students who attend year-round schools are already heading back to class.
Students at Hall Fletcher Elementary School in Asheville, N.C., and Rosa Parks Elementary in Portland, Ore., for example, started new school years on Monday.
Both schools are pilot testing a year-round schedule for the next few years to see if it helps curb summer learning loss. Eighty percent of students at Hall Fletcher Elementary and 95 percent of students at Rosa Parks Elementary come from low-income families (as measured by eligibility for subsidized meals), and summer learning loss hits such students harder than affluent students.
“Children who don’t have really good enriching opportunities provided for them in the summer move back academically,” Principal Gordon Grant told NPR affiliate WCQS.
“We were seeing for many of our students a really huge gap, a lot of loss [in the summer],” Principal Tamala Newsome told Portland CBS affiliate KOIN 6. “It didn’t mean we couldn’t get them caught back up, but rather than focusing on the new learning for our kids, we were focusing on getting them caught back up.”
In Cleveland, three of the four new schools opening in the city school district this year will operate on year-round schedules, with the new academic year beginning next week. The new schools are E³agle Academy and PACT (Problem-based Academy of Critical Thinking), two small high schools that will offer competency-based advancement and flexible scheduling, and the Cleveland High School for the Digital Arts, which will teach game design, recording-arts technology and digital filmmaking along with core courses. Students at all three schools will study for 10 weeks, then break for three weeks, throughout the year.
The year-round schedules are part of a series of school reforms that are being funded in part by a tax increase that Cleveland residents approved in 2012. The district’s chief executive officer, Eric Gordon, promoted year-round schedules to fight summer learning loss when campaigning for the property levy, which is aimed at helping Cleveland transform its schools. E³agle Academy and PACT are also receiving funding from a $3 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. (Carnegie also supports Education Week‘s coverage of entrepreneurship and innovation in education and school design.)
While it seems almost cruel to cut summer short, don’t feel too bad for these year-round students. In late September, when most students are digging in for the long haul, they’ll be getting three weeks off.
For more on year-round schooling, check out these fast facts from the Congressional Research Service.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Time and Learning blog.