Is the traditional 180-day school year long enough? While most students would answer that question with an emphatic “Yes!” many parents and education experts disagree. Adding more hours to the school day and adopting year-round school years have become the answer for many school districts hoping to improve their students’ learning and test scores. Now a middle ground is beginning to emerge: 200-day school years.
Balsz Elementary School District in New York recently adopted the 200-day school year, with school reopening on July 30th after a six-week break. Most of the kids attending schools in the district come from low-income families and arguably need more time at school to help make up for lost educational time over the summer. But is a longer school year the answer for all districts?
What are the benefits?
Keeping kids in school longer definitely has academic benefits. With a shorter summer break, they have less time in between grade levels to forget what they learned over the previous school year. Longer school years may also allow for enrichment programs, such as art and music, to be reinstated in schools where they have been cut in favor of focus on academic subjects and test preparation.
“I love it because it is more education for them,” said Sheena Padia, a mother whose children attend an elementary school in the Balsz district (NYT).
What are the drawbacks?
While more time in the classroom is undeniably good for students, it also presents some drawbacks. A shortened summer break limits students’ ability to participate in summer sports programs, camps, and family vacations. It gives them less time to recharge between school years. And it keeps them inside and sedentary for an entire extra month of the year. Unsurprisingly, teachers’ unions also protest the institution of longer school years, fearing that teachers will not be adequately compensated for the longer hours they will work.
Proceed with caution
Longer school years could definitely benefit students, but only if the additional curriculum is well-planned and truly takes advantage of the extra time.
Kathleen Puryear, a veteran teacher, said, “Quantity is great, if you have the quality to back it up” (NYT).