According to the National Center on Time and Learning, a nonprofit research group in Boston, about 170 schools — more than 140 of them charter schools — across the country have extended their calendars in recent years to 190 days or longer. Neither Bethany, who plans to run for student council president, nor Garvin, who was excited about his fourth-grade teacher, seemed bothered by the change. “The kids’ education is more important than all of these breaks that we have,” said their mother, Debra Phillips.
A growing group of education advocates is agitating for more time in schools, arguing that low-income children in particular need more time to catch up as schools face increasing pressure to improve student test scores. “It’s not as simple as ‘Oh, if we just went 12 hours every kid would be Einstein,’ ” said Chris Gabrieli, chairman of the Boston group. “On the other hand, the more time you spend practicing or preparing to do something, the better you get at it.” Education advocates have been calling for more school time at least since the 1983 “Nation at Risk” report presented an apocalyptic vision of American education.
Teachers’ unions, parents who want to preserve summers for family vacations and those who worry that children already come under too much academic stress argue that extended school time is not the answer. Research on longer school days or years also shows mixed results. But studies also show that during the summer break, students — particularly those from low-income families — tend to forget what they learned in the school year. Getting back to school early, supporters of a longer calendar say, is one of the best ways to narrow an achievement gap between rich and poor students.
some experience sharing: both the summer programs I’ve worked with state as one of their primary goals preventing summer learning loss, particularly kids dropping reading levels. I was glancing over the evaluations the teacher did of the kids and it seemed like all or at least the vast majority retained their reading level and several of ours grew. which isn’t due to any intensive instruction but — if it’s accurate, which it probably is — more to the daily half hour of independent reading? according to our training (if I remembe I might try to find evidence of this when I’m not on my phone) if a kid reads 5 books (i assume of a minimum length) over the summer they will probably at least maintain their reading level.
anyway my point is that I think well-structured summer programs are perhaps one happy medium between nothing and full-on school, especially if they include cool non-school stuff. not to mention, a lot of families do need to figure out childcare when school is not in session. so in my magical world funding exists so that these programs are free to families that can’t afford them (and so the people who work them get paid like, actual money). also, free unicorn rides for everyone.
yes, YES! i think it’s really important to determine the mechanism of the longer school year that makes a difference in summer retention - is it regular reading practice? is it instruction? is it just not being in front of a tv all day? there’s all kinds of hypotheses that would make sense, and would make a difference in structuring the most affordable and reasonable program that would still prevent reading loss.
i think the child care point is also really important. sure, there are parents bitching about how their annual summer vacation is going to be disrupted, but there’s plenty more who are likely glad not to have to pay for additional child care costs during times school is out of session. making sure any programs short of full-year school-years address those needs as well is super important.