The Pros and Cons of Year-Round School

Inconclusive Evidence Leaves Debate Without a Clear Winner

Calendar on Refrigerator
Jeffrey Coolidge/ Digital Vision/ Getty Images

People generally assume summer vacation gets the ax when the idea of year-round school pops up. But the concept embodies more than just extending classes through June, July, and August. Ongoing debates comparing the benefits and drawbacks raise the question of whether year-round school can improve student learning.

Definition of Year-Round School

Most public schools in America operate on a 10-month system established when the United States was still a largely agrarian nation, and children needed to work in the fields during the summer.

Citing the changing times and social landscape, some educators advocate doing away with what they see as an antiquated system and moving to year-round education. What exactly does this phrase mean? Generally, it means that schools continue to operate on a 180-day system, but the days spread out differently with shorter breaks between each term.

The most common application of year-round education uses the 45-15 plan. Students attend school for 45 days, or about nine weeks, then take three weeks, or 15 school days, off. The normal breaks for holidays and spring remain in place with this calendar. Other ways to organize the calendar include the 60-20 and 90-30 plans.

Single-track year-round education involves an entire school using the same calendar and getting the same holidays off. Multiple-track year-round education puts groups of students in school at different times with different vacations.

Multi-tracking usually occurs when school districts want to save money.

Arguments for Year-Round Education

  • Students tend to forget a lot during the summer, and shorter vacations might increase retention rates.
  • School buildings unused in the summer are wasted resources.
  • Short breaks provide time for students to receive enrichment education.
  • Remediation can occur when it is most needed during the school year.
  • Students get bored during the long break of summer.
  • It gives families more options for scheduling vacations, rather than restricting travel to summertime.
  • Other countries around the world use this system.
  • Schools on year-round schedules can accommodate more students through multi-tracking.

Arguments Against Year-Round Education

  • Studies have not conclusively proven the academic benefits.
  • Students forget information just as easily with a three-week break as 10. Therefore, teachers on a year-round system end up with four periods of review instead of just one at a new school year.
  • Summer programs such as youth camps suffer.
  • Student summer employment becomes virtually impossible.
  • Many older school buildings do not have air conditioning, making a year-round schedule impractical.
  • Band and other extracurricular programs can run into problems scheduling practices and competitions, which often take place during the summer months.
  • With multi-tracking, parents could have students at the same school on different schedules.

School administrators considering year-round education should identify their goals and investigate whether a new calendar can help achieve them.

When implementing any significant change, involving all stakeholders in the decision and the process improves the outcome. If students, teachers and parents don't support a​ ​new schedule, a transition could be difficult.