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Year-round school calendars have no academic advantage

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Cambridge, Massachusetts, Oct. 25, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Year-round school calendars do not increase academic performance and pose a host of difficult logistical issues for schools and parents, Paul T von Hippel (University of Texas at Austin) and Jennifer Graves (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) report in a new article for Education then.

As some states review year-round school calendars to recoup lost learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic, rigorous research of nearly a thousand public schools across the United States reveals that “balanced” schedules fail to increase academic achievement and make life significantly more difficult for working parents and teachers.

“To school leaders who are hoping that changing calendars can undo learning loss due to the pandemic, we offer this advice: don’t do it. The case for year-round school calendars rests on several myths or misunderstandings write von Hippel and Graves.

Von Hippel and Graves present evidence of the impact of following an annual calendar on student achievement in reading and math, as well as the impact of moving from a nine-month calendar to an annual calendar on student test results.

Read the article on educationnext.org.

Among the main results:

  • “Balanced” school calendars don’t equate to more learning time. Compared to traditional nine-month school calendars, year-round calendars feature shorter summer holidays and longer breaks throughout the year. The most common, the “45/15” balanced schedule, divides 180 school days into four 45-day terms, separated by three 15-day breaks and a month of summer vacation.
  • Fewer schools follow year-round calendars. Nationally, the percentage of American public schools that follow a year-round schedule has steadily declined. It halved between 1999-2000 and 2017-18, from 6% of all schools to 3%.
  • The summer school “boost” in schools open all year fades during the school year. Kindergarten and first-grade students attending year-round schools learn more during the summer than their peers in schools following the traditional nine-month schedule. However, the gap narrows over the next nine months as students in schools with traditional schedules spend more time in class.
  • Annual calendars pose logistical challenges for parents and teachers. Parents often have difficulty planning work schedules and vacations if they have children in year-round schools and others in schools that follow a nine-month schedule. Women with school-aged children are also less likely to enter the workforce in counties where many schools have adopted a year-round schedule.

“Instead of embracing disruptive, distracting, and ineffective school calendars, school leaders can put calendars aside and focus on interventions that research shows can work: improving the curriculum, strengthening teaching, effectively using technology and offering targeted supports, such as high-dose tutoring for the most backward children,” von Hippel and Graves write.

About the authors: Paul T. von Hippel is a professor and associate dean for research at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a longtime summer learning researcher who last summarized the evidence on year-round calendars in a 2015 book chapter. Jennifer Graves is an associate professor of economics at Universidad Autonoma de Madrid. She has published eight studies on the effects of year-round calendars.

About Education Next: Education Next is a scholarly journal dedicated to scrutinizing the evidence for school reform, published by the Education Next Institute and the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard Kennedy School. For more information, visit educationnext.org.