Public opinion is divided on the issue of whether or not American schools should adopt year long curriculums. But conventionally, schools across the country have adhered to schedules that would give pupils a break of three months followed by nine months of study. In recent years, some journalists and commentators have suggested that year long schooling could benefit the students in the long term. This essay will foray into the arguments made by proponents of year round schooling.
At the root of the debate is the fact that the knowledge and acquired skill levels of students in America is on a steady decline. This is indicated by statistics pertaining to standardized test scores. The supporters of year-round schooling argue that such an arrangement would help improve the knowledge and skill levels of students. In other words,
“With the heightened emphasis on standardized test scores and the implementation of rigorous, mandatory tests for promotion and graduation now being required in Virginia and other states, students need all the extra instruction they can get. Some students, particularly in urban and rural districts, may never pass without added instruction. And parents should be well aware by now that social promotions are happily a thing of the past.” (Washington, 2001, p.2).
Viewing this issue from the perspective of the teachers, it could be said that the presently valid mandatory schooling period of 180 days does not allow them to cover the entire course material, thereby leading to poor learning outcomes for students. In the prevailing system, a high schooler gets an average of “five hours of instruction per day for five days a week for nine months”, which is way below the education standards in many European countries (Washington, 2001, p.2). Students in most industrialized nations attend school six weeks longer on average than their U.S. counterparts. Moreover, in the United States, “37 of the 50 states have fewer than 10 year-round schools and just three (Florida, Texas, and California) have more than 100. Less than three percent of public schools are year-round, and 84% of year-round sites are at elementary schools, mostly in states with benign climates.” (Reading Today, 2004, p.39)
There is a legitimate concern that year-round schooling would disrupt social activities such as family get-togethers, camping and travelling, which have educative value in their own right. But for some parents longer schooling year serves as a child care facility. Research findings also point out that shorter breaks during the academic year helps students retain more information as they rejoin after vacation. Proponents of year-round schooling argue that the real advantage of this format is that it is less disruptive to the process of instruction and assimilation. The format also enforces a sense of discipline in students through its routines, which is an important aspect of schooling as well. As Adrienne Washington asserts, the discipline acquired by following daily routines “can be the most valuable teachers about boundaries, limitations and responsibilities. Most teachers agree that students simply retain more information with breaks shorter than the 12-week brain-drain hiatus each summer” (Washington, 2001, p.2).
School authorities understand that students look forward to and cherish their holidays. But there is evidence that suggests that shorter breaks are more effective than longer breaks, and that many students prefer the former over the latter. Even from the students’ perspective, toward the end of a long three month break they feel very bored and are happy to resume school As experienced high school teacher Adrienne Washington remarks,