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Should Kids Go To School Year Round?

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The kids are getting ready to be out of school for the summer and we all remember what this time of year was like when we were kids. The anticipation of waking up later than normal, hanging out with our friends all day, maybe working a summer job or going to camp. Summer break was a great time for us and every year about this time we would start getting antsy waiting for that final bell of the year.

While the kids are ready to be out for a few weeks, many of our educators are worried that we aren’t teaching the kids enough. According to a recent study, (OECD (2010), PISA 2009 Results: Executive Summary) American 15-year-olds now rank 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math. This is compared to 34 other countries that took part in the study. Get this, only 8 other schools in the study had lower high school graduation rates than the US.

Many educators and experts are calling for education reform nationally to require kids to attend school year round. Many proponents say that it will keep the kids from forgetting what they learned before summer break and will keep the teachers from having to re-teach everything they should still know.

Personally I agree with sending the students to school year round and I’ll tell you why. I grew up in Alabama and had a pretty good education. I had the traditional school year where we started in late August and ended in late May. We had almost 3 months out of school for summer. Did I ever think about what I had just learned in school over those 3 months? NOPE! I forgot most of what was covered in the prior school year. It wasn’t top of mind for me.

After I graduated, Alabama started a year round school program in the counties that had the lowest test scores. They had to do something to bring their education levels up to meet or exceed the rest of the state. What they saw once they implemented this new way of learning was that test scores went up and the kids retained more of what they learned. Now Alabama has implemented year round school for all counties.

Here’s how it works. The students have 2 classes for 9 weeks – about 3 hours per class per day. In that 9 weeks, they cover all the material they would cover in 9 months of 45 minute classes. They have longer access to the teacher so they can help them with their homework and truly teach the kids the lessons. Once the 9 weeks is up, the students test out on the material covered and get 2 weeks of vacation time. When they return to school 2 weeks later, they go to 2 different classes.

In the beginning, parents were worried about summer vacations and holidays and the teachers were concerned about their summer breaks. Once the program was initiated, the parents loved it, the teachers loved it and the kids found it much easier to learn and truly enjoyed it.

My nieces and nephews attended school under this program and never once missed out on anything in life. They actually got about 4 weeks in a row for summer vacation which would allow for summer camps and vacations for them. They knew that every 9 weeks they would get 2 weeks in a row off and families could plan vacations to popular destinations without the overcrowding issues you see during the summer or spring breaks. In addition to this, the kids were able to finish most of their work in class with the help of a teacher instead of spending 4-6 hours per night doing homework. This allowed the kids to participate in after school activities without feeling the pressure of homework when they got home.

I personally think this is a great idea, not only will it give our kids a better chance of learning more and retaining it longer, it will give the parents a break when it comes to dealing with homework that is above their heads.

What do you think? Should the kids go to school year round and why or why not?

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