One hears a great deal today about the poor quality of education. While some children do well, others cannot seem to learn even the basics. Reading, writing, and arithmetic -- the famous four R's -- have garnered a great deal of attention in one educational initiative after another. Presidents, governors, mayors, and school district superintendents have all taken up the battle cry. Numerous ideas have been proposed, but so far none have been adopted universally, perhaps because none have been proven fool-proof. Clearly, we must look closely at the problem at hand; determine precisely what it is that our children are lacking; what our goals are, and how these goals can best be achieved. Among the many proposals that have been floated is the idea of Year Round Schooling. A marked break with tradition, Year Round Schooling would seem to offer various advantages. The lack of extended breaks would seem to work against the disruption of the learning process, eliminating the need for so much review and repetition. A Year Round School System could also help cash-strapped school districts to educate more children with limited resources -- children could attend different school sessions. The lack of resources also encompasses human resources -- teachers, administrators, etc. -- by teaching more than one session a year school districts could also solve chronic personnel problems. Most definitely, the idea of Year Round Schools needs to be investigated more closely.
The issue of year round schools is a complex one, with numerous pros and cons. Any investigation of the subject requires breaking down the problem into its component parts. Firstly, there are the supposed advantages of the year round school plan. In general, these perceived advantages are weighed against the more traditional approach to education; the idea that each year of a child's schooling should be distinct from any other. According to traditional ideas, each school year consists begins in late summer, or early fall, and ends the following spring. The year is followed by a break of several weeks, after which the next school year commences. The pattern is followed through from Kindergarten to the finally year of high school. All children in a family, and all children in a given school district, attend school during the same period of time. While different schools -- physical school buildings -- or different levels of school -- high school, junior high school, and elementary school -- may have different hours, they are normally in session on the same day, and likewise, share the same breaks, vacations, and holidays. The traditional school year envisions a steady progression on the part of each student, from grade to grade. Each grade represents an advance over the prior grade, and though the curriculum is largely distinct at each grade-level, a certain portion of time at the beginning of each school year is allotted to a review of the prior grade's material. Each grade, as well, is normally occupied by children of roughly the same age, the vast majority of students in any given grade having been born the same year.
As for the staffing of the traditional school, it should be obvious that a sufficient number of faculty, and administrative and operational staff, must be present at all times during which school is in session. As all students in each district attend school on the same days, there must thus be sufficient, qualified staff, on any given school day, to handle the full load of students enrolled in the schools of each district. In addition, there must be sufficient physical facilities for the full student body, each of which must be lighted, heated or air conditioned as the case may be -- all at the same time. Each district too, must be r4esponsible for the salaries and benefits of all staff regardless of whether school is in session on that particular day. Under the traditional arrangements, each district normally must finance a significant amount of "down time" during which almost all of the faculty, and much of the rest of the staff, will be doing no actual work, and will not present on school grounds. In most districts, school is in session for only half the year (taken as the sum of all days school is in session). This means that for, fully half the year, man faculty and staff are being paid though they perform no actual work.
It is against the backdrop of this idea of the Traditional School Year that the Researcher will examine the issue of Year Round School. The Researcher will take into the wide range of arguments both for, and against, the Year Round School Concept. The Researcher will evaluate the Year Round School Concept on each of the above-named levels -- academic, financial (physical maintenance of the school environments), and personnel. The Researcher will also examine possible effects of the Year Round School Concept on other facets of community life, as for example, but not limited to, the effect of Year Round Schooling on seasonal businesses that depend on the patronage of vacationing students and their families, and school staff and their families; and that also depend on students (mostly high school students), and school staff being available for full-time work during these seasonal breaks and vacations. Therefore, it is the intention of the Researcher to examine the Year Round School Concept in as broad a manner as possible, in order that all considerations be taken into effect before forming a final judgment on the advisability of implementing the idea.
One of the primary arguments in favor Year Round School is the argument that the concept represents a more efficient use of scarce resources.
Efficiency provides for either economic control or accountability. Efficiency policies ensure that standards are met. Efficiency also applies to the government's role in creating and maintaining order .... Examples include maximizing gains to optimize program performance while minimizing costs, making programs more cost effective, improving the use of tax dollars, implementing a year-round school schedule to reduce overcrowding. (Heck, 2004, p. 91)
Traditional Schools result in a large staff that is paid even on the significant number of days that they do not actually work. As well, very large numbers of staff, and school buildings and facilities, are required because all children are attending school at the same time. The scarceness of resources is brilliantly illustrated by the example of the Oxnard School District, a school district in California. The Oxnard School District suffers from a shortage of resources on all levels:
The Oxnard School District (K-8) is a rapidly growing district of 15 elementary schools, three intermediate schools, and one alternative school. It enrolls a total of 16,000 students. Two-thirds of the students are from low-income families, and 52% of the district's Spanish-speaking students need ESL (English as a second language) instruction. The four-track year-round schools are filled to capacity (700 to 1,100 students each). The district spends $5,900 per pupil, which is about average for the state. On the SAT 9 (Stanford Achievement Test), Oxnard students received among the lowest scores in the region.
(Chrispeels, 2002, p. 382)
As can be seen, the Oxnard School District has already adopted the Year Round School Concept. The Year Round School Concept does not, by itself, seem to have had much of an impact on the district's academic performance. While stretching the use of limited funds to accommodate as many students as possible, the Year Round Concept -- in Oxnard at least -- does not appear to have resolved any of the other problems of the Traditional School Concept. In fact, on the basis of the Oxnard Experience, one is forced to consider whether enough has been gained by the adoption of the new system. In this particular case, one would have to examine the financial and employment difficulties of the district prior to the adoption of the Year Round Schooling Plan to determine whether there had been sufficient improvements in these areas ... enough to justify the change.
Oxnard does bring up another problem that is common in today's schools -- the difficulties inherent in educating a highly-diverse student body, and one that contains many students who either do not speak English, or who speak English only as a second language. The Year Round School Concept has often been touted as an aid to Latino Students, and other students who speak foreign languages. In this situation, the Concept is seen as aiding students by maximizing lesson time, and eliminating the large gaps in the school year. The argument here would be that students do better because they receive attention all the time, and that their progress and needs can be tracked more closely. Presumably, following up with students continually should produce superior results. Limited English Proficient (LEP) students often score lower on standardized tests:
Many studies of innovative programs used evaluations that compared gains made by program students on standardized tests, In studies of limited English proficient students that use…