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Should summer vacation be abolished?
July 25, 2013 1:03 PM   Subscribe

There are few more cherished nostrums in American life than the importance of equal opportunities. Unfortunately, one of them is the importance of summer vacation... A 2011 RAND literature review concluded that the average student “loses” about one month’s worth of schooling during a typical summer vacation, with the impact disproportionately concentrated among low-income students. “While all students lose some ground in mathematics over the summer,” RAND concluded, “low-income students lose more ground in reading while their higher-income peers may even gain.” Most distressingly, the impact is cumulative. Poor kids tend to start school behind their middle-class peers, and then they fall further behind each and every summer, giving teachers and principals essentially no chance of closing the gap during the school year.

Karl Alexander, Doris Entwisle, and Linda Steffel Olson of Johns Hopkins University have research from Baltimore indicating that a majority of the achievement gap between high- and low-socioeconomic-status students can be attributed to differences in summer learning loss. Even worse, for many poor kids, subsidized school lunches on which they depend for sustenance essentially vanish during the summer months, leaving them both undertaught and underfed.
posted by bookman117 (136 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is such a tough issue for me. Summer vacations were so important to my childhood, in part because of the awesome educational experiences I had during them. But I had those experiences, in part, because my parents could afford them. And the ones that were free (like spending all day reading) wouldn't have happened without my parents modeling behaviors that not all parents model.

I wonder if it would be possible to strike some kind of compromise, to have a one-or-two month term in the summer that would be focused on self-directed projects, with the teachers acting less like teachers and more like mentors. That is, have a summer term that would be less like school and more like Odyssey of the Mind or Destination Imagination.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:10 PM on July 25, 2013 [15 favorites]


As a public high school teacher in Ohio, my first thought is that nearly all of Ohio's school districts cannot afford to pay us for the additional 4-6 weeks of teaching we'd undertake. And my second thought is that I'd rather have the time than more money. I use the summers to reflect on and improve my lesson plans, curricula, and to improve my content-area knowledge (German/French).

My teaching friends in Hamburg for example have a six-week summer vacation, which seems to work nicely for them.
posted by vkxmai at 1:11 PM on July 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


A lot of schools around here are moving to a "year-round" calendar, with 4 three-week vacations per year instead of a long summer vacation. My daughter is in a "modified year-round" school which has an 8-week summer vacation and then three two-week vacations spread through the year. I think the modified year-round system is a nice compromise, but the real advantage of the 4-track year-round system is that only three tracks are ever in the school building at the same time, which means you can get more kids in the same building.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:12 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hated the idea of year-round school as a kid (my school wasn't year-round, but I was horrified to learn of kids in neighboring districts being subjected to such inhumanity). Now I'm all for the idea, and my fiancee's 16-year-old daughter OMG CAN'T BELIEVE I could ever begin to entertain such an obviously stupid notion. But it just seems like so much more efficient use of schools and brains to keep the learning steady, with shorter breaks spaced throughout the year.
posted by Rykey at 1:13 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've occasionally wished for year round schooling for my kids; but I enjoyed the quiet of summer break, too, though my parents could afford to have me with family most of the time instead of chaining my ankles to keep me out of trouble.

For now, we're scraping through with day camps and short family swaps ... when they're teens we'll likely entrust them to be on their own. Somehow. Not a lot of full day camps for teens; mostly part day or CIT style camp activities, which may not be their style.

The other thing we're doing is putting off the gap by continuing summer education opportunities (merit program for working on worksheets or independent projects of educationalish value / fun) but it's not cheap - buying "prizes" (used gewgaws they like), finding material (thank you internet!), and keeping it organized (15-20 min per week once it's all organized, several man hours organizing it). There are more groups out there doing similar things, but I wish there were more available to everyone, aside from the free school breakfast/lunch program at local schools in the summer. Need to win lotto and start something.
posted by tilde at 1:16 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would have killed myself as a child without summer vacations to get me out of fucking school for awhile.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:17 PM on July 25, 2013 [67 favorites]


Lets get those kids used to the year round grind early!
posted by stenseng at 1:17 PM on July 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


I know this is pedestrian, but how are maintenance projects carried out when the school's never out of session?
posted by psoas at 1:17 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


As long as we can make sure public school buildings aren't blazing ovens in the summer and that the salary infrastructure necessary for this exists, it's a good idea. I can't imagine that 21st century voters and politicians are going to be, en masse, in favor of something that means more money is being spent on education. I realize that is cynical of me, but I suspect the attitude will be "if those poverty line people would just feed their kids and send them to a decent private school, this wouldn't be a problem - stupid, evil poverty line people!"

Then again, as I mentioned, I am cynical.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:17 PM on July 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


The amount of worthwhile education I got in school could probably be distilled down to 7-8 years from the 12. I think school needs to be a lot better before we have a lot more of it.
posted by spaltavian at 1:18 PM on July 25, 2013 [52 favorites]


Wow, Rock Steady, that is more or less the schedule I remember from Wake County Year Round when I was at West Lake Elementary in 1993. Points for consistency, I guess. I did that schedule (Track One and Track Four) and I actually really liked it. I was also not a kid for whom traditional summer vacations were very important, so I'm sure not everyone would have loved it. I think the value of it would also depend on when the parents can get time off; summer is sometimes an easier time to take off, even if you're not in education.

The amount of worthwhile education I got in school could probably be distilled down to 7-8 years from the 12. I think school needs to be a lot better before we have a lot more of it.

The thing is, for a lot of kids (especially in low-income schools), the mediocre (or worse) schooling they're getting, is still light-years more valuable than what they're getting when they're out. If you've got anything approaching special needs, as well, the time off can be really bad for you. Having a lot more school, even bad school, can be really helpful for those kids.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:23 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


As much as I appreciate the efficiency of using the school buildings all year, I treasure those lazy summer months of my youth. Yeah, it was in a different century and in a place where I could safely roam without constant direct adult supervision, but there are few luxuries as delicious as a wide swath of unstructured time. Every kid should have the opportunity before having to slip into the harness of adulthood.
posted by Longtime Listener at 1:24 PM on July 25, 2013 [17 favorites]


We have some year-round schools now — are they really producing that significant of positive results?
posted by klangklangston at 1:24 PM on July 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Going to camp for me was just as important as going to school. I was great at academics but not great at the social stuff, and having to be social all summer was important in my growth process.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:26 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a parent of a child with two working parents, I used to dread summertime. Even for a middle-class family it's a serious pain in the ass (and wallet) to figure out what to do with your kids during the summer. I have no idea how families that can't afford summer camps and day care and such deal with it.
posted by octothorpe at 1:26 PM on July 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Moving multiple shorter breaks throughout the year instead of one big summer vacation gets brought up quite often around here, but apparently (according to my wife, a teacher) the big problem is that there are a lot of older schools with no AC. They get stinky-hot enough May/June and September. I can't imagine them in July and August.
posted by fimbulvetr at 1:28 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is a great idea!

We don't let prison inmates out for the summer, and it's obviously best to get them used to it early.
posted by jamjam at 1:29 PM on July 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


So, assuming that many children have siblings in the same school system, how does a year round schedule work? Do parents just need to find help for their kids at different times of the year and never go on family vacations (except perhaps during Christmas, which becomes even more expensive), or are siblings guaranteed same vacations?
posted by jeather at 1:29 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


What do they do in Europe? this random website suggests it's 6–8 weeks for summer. But there's more long holidays in the rest of the year.

One of my awkward teen-growing-up memories was talking to an English teacher I really liked, very friendly guy, we played Bridge together after school. He remarked once how in the summer he helped do handyman jobs around the school, like fixing the roof, that kind of thing. "Oh how nice of you to help the school!" I remarked. Then he politely explained he needed to get paid in the summer, too. I felt terrible.
posted by Nelson at 1:29 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The biggest obstacle to year-round schooling: old school buildings without air conditioning.
posted by SansPoint at 1:29 PM on July 25, 2013


So, assuming that many children have siblings in the same school system, how does a year round schedule work? Do parents just need to find help for their kids at different times of the year and never go on family vacations (except perhaps during Christmas, which becomes even more expensive), or are siblings guaranteed same vacations?

At my year round school siblings were enrolled on the same track, so they had the same schedule. I don't see how you could do it any other way.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:31 PM on July 25, 2013


At my year round school siblings were enrolled on the same track, so they had the same schedule. I don't see how you could do it any other way.

How does that work if you have siblings in different grade levels? What about if you are a teacher, does your child get the same track you have guaranteed?
posted by jeather at 1:34 PM on July 25, 2013


And relatedly, as a high school student, if you're in year-round school you can't get a summer job, and I can't imagine how team sports work if you compete against long-summer schools. But if high schools alone get the traditional schedule, then you run up against the same problem of siblings.

I wonder if a better solution would be subsidised camps during summer, but that would never happen anyhow.
posted by jeather at 1:37 PM on July 25, 2013


Alternatively, can we extend (paid) summer vacation to all working adults as well?
posted by asperity at 1:38 PM on July 25, 2013 [26 favorites]


Not to dominate the thread, but siblings in different grade levels were still on the same track, even if one was in elementary and the other was in middle. I know there's an issue when kids get to high school, although I left in seventh grade, so I didn't notice that personally. Actually, where I did this (Wake County, NC) one track (Four) is very close to traditional summer break, and apparently it's overwhelmingly the most popular track in part because people are worried about transitioning to high school. Obviously, there are problems, but as I said, I liked it.

My mother was a teacher, as well, so I was always on her track. When they moved her from One to Four, they moved me, too.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:42 PM on July 25, 2013


Having a lot more school, even bad school, can be really helpful for those kids.

Then it would cheaper and less disruptive all the way around to develop programs for those kids.

I found school pretty terrible, and I wasn't an outcast or anything. And I really needed the 40-45hrs of work I was able to get 3 months a year.
posted by spaltavian at 1:47 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Florida Department of Agriculture manages summer nutrition programs for many school districts in the state; the downside is that many rural children don't have transportation services to reliably get to the meal sites, but, the program does help tens of thousands of urban kids each year. I suppose many American states and localities have similar programs, and some accept donations and look for volunteers to help extend their services.

On the topic of summer learning, whatever happened to summer reading lists, and projects? My freshman year public school summer reading list (from a small town Kansas Unified School District) called for 44 books from a list of about 150, all available from the local public lending library, which was 4 books a week, over 11 weeks of summer vacation. You could expect essay and class speaking assignments calling upon your summer reading in the first 6 weeks of the new school year, and woe to you if you came up short, as a single demonstration of ignorance about a book you said you'd read, called into question your whole summer reading list assignment. If you only read 39 books, you quickly learned to only claim to have read 39 books, and you took your lumps for missing your summer reading assignment. Those "lumps" were generally restrictions on extra-curricular activities, and notes to your parents. In tough cases, where a kid just didn't do summer work, they could be held back a grade, despite previously passing it.

And if you were in the college track high school group, you were also expected to do a summer project (my freshman year summer project was keeping the biology department's spider monkey for the summer - other kids did songbird census, Meals-on-Wheels delivery, or volunteered at the local nursing homes and hospital. Some of the better athletes played town team baseball, or got themselves invited to KU or KS football camps, which, weirdly, counted, too, as summer project work). And, most kids in my town had real work to do in summer, from putting up hay, to helping mend fences, to painting barns, to cleaning ditches/culverts on rural roads for drainage, or anything else the local Grange deemed necessary. And then most of us, after we turned 16, and could legally work for pay, had paid part-time or full time jobs, too. I was a lifeguard at local lake's public swimming beach for two summers, and a night cook at a local grill my senior summer.

Most of us looked forward to school in the fall, or going away to college, just to get some damn rest.
posted by paulsc at 1:48 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


summer school: many schools lack air conditioning except in administration offices
posted by Postroad at 1:54 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


We homeschooled our kids and did 1/2 time through the summer. It makes a big difference. We never had to go back and review stuff when we kicked it up in the fall, because the kids didn't have that unnatural break between learning season and summer. Dedicated parents can fill it in, but that is asking a lot when both are probably working just to keep food on the table.
posted by COD at 1:56 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


From what I've heard from my year-round NC friends, you might have to work to get the kids on the same track, especially if they are at different schools and if you need to throw special education (from severe disability to dyslexia) in the mix.
posted by tilde at 1:58 PM on July 25, 2013


I think the core point is pretty good. Most of us agree that public education is a worthwhile service, so why should it only be provided 9 or 10 months of the year? If you were designing an education system from scratch today it would seem unreasonable to have a blank 3-month stretch. The reasons against seem to all come down to custom ( "I didn't have school in the summer when I was a kid and I liked that") or holdovers from the custom (schools not having air conditioning).

Thinking cynically you can say it's too hard of a change to happen, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be beneficial.
posted by ghharr at 1:59 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Are they frikkin kidding? bad enough that some schools start before Labor Day. Kids need Summers like fish need water. Here's an idea. Get the parents involved and responsible. Assign reading lists. Don't promote kids at the end of the school year, promote them at the beginning AFTER a test on the Summer reading. You flunk, you stay back. That'll motivate their little heinies.
posted by Gungho at 2:04 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


People will spend most of their lives working five days a week. Why shouldn't this extend to childhood? They'll just do what they want with that time anyway.
posted by JHarris at 2:04 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It would be nice if funding could just be found for optional summer-session or enriched childcare over the summer. As much as people go on about "summer slide", most of the support for this sort of thing really comes from the childcare issue.

As for the European system, at least in the UK, it's not a solution: people in the UK (6-week summer, other breaks throughout the year) still advocate for year-round all-day school for everyone - they're just more honest that the motivation is childcare costs in the absence of the "antiquated summer vacation" excuse.

It's also very hard to take children out of school for any reason during "term time" in the UK - people I know have actually been stopped in the airport travelling for a family emergency because they didn't have letters from the head teacher excusing their kids from school, and you can be fined. Homeschoolers and kids from schools with different vacation schedules can also have issues visiting museums or other public areas. By making state school year-round, you are essentially making it illegal for all kids to be seen outside school buildings or activities during the day for all but a few weeks a year in order to help a smaller group of families, many of whom would gladly participate in optional programs or make other plans. I think that's a terrible idea.
posted by Wylla at 2:05 PM on July 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


But ghharr there's also hardware infrastructure involved as well.

There are charter schools all over the place in FL (I'm just starting to look at them as my public school options seem to flag) - some of them are breaking it with a different schedule, not just yearly but daily. Part of the hardware problems are solved with building the new schools with enough HVAC - but part of the problems are in life infrastructure.

If the school starts later than the rest of the district, what happens to those 800 kids for a week or two? Teacher work days that don't match district? Early release days? I know from chatter at the local Y and other third party off site providers that this is a problem - staffing up for an unknown number of kids on those odd days. If the winter and spring breaks are longer, same - who can care for them? Some of them do offer in school care by third party providers, but that doesn't fully cover the entire series of gaps.
posted by tilde at 2:07 PM on July 25, 2013


the average student “loses” about one month’s worth of schooling during a typical summer vacation

Exactly. We don't want them TOO smart (just as your elders didn't want YOU to be too smart).
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:09 PM on July 25, 2013


Here's an idea. Get the parents involved and responsible.

Ten thousand teachers smack their heads and wonder why they didn't try that.

Problem. Solved.
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 2:12 PM on July 25, 2013 [58 favorites]


tilde: If the school starts later than the rest of the district, what happens to those 800 kids for a week or two? Teacher work days that don't match district? Early release days? I know from chatter at the local Y and other third party off site providers that this is a problem - staffing up for an unknown number of kids on those odd days. If the winter and spring breaks are longer, same - who can care for them? Some of them do offer in school care by third party providers, but that doesn't fully cover the entire series of gaps.

There is a large industry of "track-out camps" here in Wake County.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:14 PM on July 25, 2013


By making state school year-round, you are essentially making it illegal for all kids to be seen outside school buildings or activities during the day for all but a few weeks a year...

This seems like a really bizarre concern. Given that school is obligatory, who are these kids running around aside from homeschoolers, who either already have problems or don't, so I don't see what difference year round schooling would make? (Surely if the state schools went year round, private schools would too.)
posted by hoyland at 2:14 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Poor kids tend to start school behind their middle-class peers, and then they fall further behind each and every summer, giving teachers and principals essentially no chance of closing the gap during the school year.

So isn't the question here why low-income kids lose more than high-income kids? Does dealing with that really require abolishing summer vacation for everyone, or would a more targeted program for low-income kids (whose parents would probably welcome a program that fed them and supervised them during the summer) not do it? Not regular school, but something like educational day-camp, so that they still had more free time and little to no homework.

Although the chances of any additional spending on education happening seem so slim right now as to be laughable, so I don't know why we're bothering with this discussion at all.
posted by emjaybee at 2:20 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


School is miserable enough already. Do we like forcing kids to suffer? Why are we seriously considering this?
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:21 PM on July 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


Summer vacation lets you get a jump on next year's math subjects without the distraction of having to turn in homework.

It's possible my experience was atypical.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:21 PM on July 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


School is miserable enough already. Do we like forcing kids to suffer? Why are we seriously considering this?

Kids are raw materials. If we can only get the factory assembly lines tweaked just right, we can stamp them all into identical little consumers.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:23 PM on July 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


The Rand cooperation, the same geniuses that gave America the Vietnam War, making sure the next generation of Americans will grow up as obedient little drones.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:24 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hoyland: The presumption that kids outside of a school building are "loitering" or there illegally actually causes all sorts of problems on a practical level in practice, and not just for kids who homeschool or have differing vacation schedules. Year-round truancy enforcement means that no parent can decide that anything is more important than school on a given day - a doctors' appointment, a visit to an ailing relative, whatever - without fear of consequences. It also reduces parents' leeway to remedy the perceived deficiencies of state schools by supplementing them with other choices. So religious parents lose summer or vacation church camps that mitigate state secularism, parents who want to add specialised activities or who feel that there isn't enough sports in school, etc. lose the chance to add that, parents who want a connection to grandma before she passes on lose that chance. In general, the default assumption becomes that all kids have the same needs, families should have very little leeway to deviate from the expectations of experts, and children belong in standardised confined locations, out of sight of all but a few specially-qualified adults, all the time.

Or, to put it another way, every adult on the street gets the chance to ask, of any kid they see outdoors for any reason, "Who are these kids running around?" and punish unsatisfactory answers. That strikes me as an unacceptable situation.
posted by Wylla at 2:26 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


And to be honest, as an outsider, the US public school system seems fascistoid and shitty enough already that I wouldn't want to subject children to more of it.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:32 PM on July 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


On the other hand, adults who have to go to sleep so they can get up to go to work in the morning as they listen to kids outside shouting at 10:30pm would probably be happier if they could think, "it's only three weeks of vacation" instead of "oh no, an entire summer of this?"
posted by asperity at 2:33 PM on July 25, 2013


Forget the kids - can you imagine the burn out rate for teachers without a solid break? It's hard enough to attract people into the profession as it. Not to mention that many teachers use the time to work on classes or professional development...
posted by lesbiassparrow at 2:36 PM on July 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think a break is a useful thing. But a break doesn't mean the same thing to everybody. I think there should be more state-funded summer education resources for kids of all income levels--fun things, things they can go to and see their friends, things that can save parents on those summer day care costs, also things where kids go and keep up their math and reading skills over the summer. Those parents whose kids are suffering are not failing to send them to camp or whatever just because they have some spiteful dislike of anything educational--yes, I know such people exist, but let's be honest, I grew up pretty poor and all my friends' moms and mine were quite happy to get us out of the house as often as possible. They just don't have the resources.

The resources they're given don't have to be traditional school. The middle-class kids aren't maintaining skills because they go to school all summer, so I don't know why the solution to this is more traditional school.
posted by Sequence at 2:37 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Surely if the state schools went year round, private schools would too.)

Except that students routinely go to private schools outside their state and even their country.
posted by Jahaza at 2:42 PM on July 25, 2013


If you were designing an education system from scratch today it would seem unreasonable to have a blank 3-month stretch.
If you were designing an education system from scratch today, how often would it involve dozens of kids going to the same room to listen to the exact same lecture and work the exact same practice problems? I could maybe see "five times a month", but "five times a week" is probably pushing it.

The fastest educational progress I ever made was with a computer program that slowed down and went into more reiteration and detail on every concept a student had trouble with while speeding through and building upon every concept that a student clearly grasped. Of course, because this was the 1980s we had to do this in a special small expensive shared lab in a centralized school building, and it only worked with the limited subjects for which the software had been written and tested, but surely 3 decades and 8 orders of magnitude more GFLOPS/$ later we'll be giving the same capability to every child in every household learning every subject, right? Then questions of summer vacation should boil down to "have your kids made enough progress in their individualized education by May", not "seriously have we just pissed away the last 3 decades what the hell!?!"
posted by roystgnr at 2:43 PM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


"And to be honest, as an outsider, the US public school system seems fascistoid and shitty enough already that I wouldn't want to subject children to more of it."
posted by MartinWisse at 5:32 PM on July 25

Yeah, I really hated being required to read Mark Twain, Willa Cather, Sinclair Lewis, William Faulkner, Jonathan Swift, Voltaire, Marcus Aurelius, Homer, Virgil, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Robert Frost, and dozens of others, in the heat of summer, until, well, they each and all caught my attention, and suddenly, for a few minutes or hours, I was far away from my then-present Kansas, and whatever concerns of the minute that were otherwise before my young self. Of course, this was in a school district, and in a time long ago, when being caught with a comic book could still get you a week's detention.

Having seen plenty of the results of self-paced education in young people I've later worked with in business programs, I can't say I think much of lots of early academic freedom, for most children.
posted by paulsc at 2:49 PM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Doesn't it make more sense to eliminate poverty?
posted by kyrademon at 2:55 PM on July 25, 2013 [26 favorites]


Rich kids: Archery, rocketry, canoeing, general mayhem.
Poor kids: More Common Core proficiency training and standardized testing!

It just seems inhumane to me.
posted by fraxil at 2:56 PM on July 25, 2013 [28 favorites]


Yeah, work study at a bakery for the poor kinds in the summer: Let them make cake.
posted by sammyo at 2:59 PM on July 25, 2013


Except that students routinely go to private schools outside their state and even their country.

Not many in the grand scheme of things. But, again, if you go to school somewhere far from where you live, there's already a good chance your school schedule is out of sync with the local schools, so you already have the potential problem of being incorrectly assumed truant under the current system.
posted by hoyland at 3:06 PM on July 25, 2013


that the average student “loses” about one month’s worth of schooling during a typical summer vacation,

... cool. Finally a solid excuse to dump everything I was taught in so-called Math since about Grade Nine (whenever I figured out how to calculate a percentage).

Also, get rid of all the "busy-work" and I bet we could give the kids three months vacation every summer and they'd still be where they are now (or better) by the time they hit college age.
posted by philip-random at 3:10 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do we like forcing kids to suffer? Why are we seriously considering this?

They should probably learn what adulthood is like for reals because otherwise it comes as a horrible surprise.
posted by elizardbits at 3:13 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


When I was in elementary and middle school a major motivator for marginal students was the threat of having to attend summer school. My stepbrother never did so much homework in his life as the year after he had to attend summer school.
posted by bukvich at 3:17 PM on July 25, 2013


Bart : Aw, I'm going to miss the whole summer!
Homer : Don't worry, boy. When you get a job like me, you'll miss every summer.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:18 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I dunno, I'd be glad to see year-round school as part of a larger program of educational renovation -- for instance, longer school years with a bit shorter and more varied school days, mixing and collaboration of age and ability levels, more hands-on and active learning, more physical activity (like structured recess, not extra gym class), more interdisciplinary or cross-curriculum learning, hands-on food prep and nutrition education combined with mealtimes instead of idle cafeteria hell, etc.
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:21 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, it should be extended to adults.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 3:21 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mars Saxman: School is miserable enough already. Do we like forcing kids to suffer? Why are we seriously considering this?

Well, I don't think kids ought to be suffering or miserable during the regular school year, either. I'd say many Canadian and American schools are in need of educational reform. BUT for some kids, school is a safe haven for some children, where they are given safe places to play, nutritious food, and positive adult attention. Obviously, all children should have those things year-round, not only 10 months of the year. How do we make sure of this? Keeping kids in the school environment year-round might be one solution, but it's fraught with difficulty because of infrastructure/staffing issues and underfunding.

Of course, the real solution is what kyrademon said: eliminating poverty.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:32 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


school is a safe haven for some children, where they are given safe places to play, nutritious food, and positive adult attention.

This is true, but that is not what school is *for*. Mandating summer school because disadvantaged kids are better off in school than wherever else they might be does no benefit to the other kids who were really looking forward to spending their summers at the beach or on the family's annual lake trip or whatever.

I know that sounds classist or whatever but plenty of people are actually not so horrible for their children that it's better off the kids spend as little time with them as possible.

If you want a summertime public assistance program for disadvantaged kids, that's fine, but I would much rather send my kid to Junior Lifeguards and take an out-of state trip for a week or two.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 3:41 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Or, to put it another way, every adult on the street gets the chance to ask, of any kid they see outdoors for any reason, "Who are these kids running around?" and punish unsatisfactory answers. That strikes me as an unacceptable situation.

Well, if every group is off some part of the year, you could always claim that this is your break time.

But otherwise I agree with you.
posted by jeather at 3:45 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


My school district tried implementing year-round schooling at some campuses in the '90s. It was eventually discontinued, in part because it lowered property values -- there were people who wouldn't even consider buying a house zoned for a year-round school. There's not much that makes rich [sorry, "comfortably affluent"] people madder than lowering their property values.
posted by katemonster at 4:05 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


BUT for some kids, school is a safe haven for some children, where they are given safe places to play, nutritious food, and positive adult attention.

For others, school might be that place where they are bullied mercilessly and summer vacation is a welcome respite.

Frankly it'd be nice if there were some publicly funded daycares/summer programs that could address the needs you mention
posted by Hoopo at 4:08 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


During the school year, school is all-consuming for kids. Between classes, homework and school-sponsored after-school activities, it dominates their life in a way that almost no job can dominate an adult's life. Without summer vacation, when are they going to get a chance to pause and think about what else is out there? At least adults have some amount of choice about their jobs; if we're going to plunge kids into a mandatory all-day system from the age of five, the least we owe them is a quarter of every year to step back and get a little perspective on it.
posted by ostro at 4:08 PM on July 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


As a life-long learner and reader (with lots of years in multiple colleges), I would greatly mourn the loss of the unstructured time I had to educate myself during the summer, about nature, about people, and from books about subjects I cared about.

To the extent that schooling is leaves out a whole lot that we NEED to know (FAILS), more schooling is not a gain but a loss (MORE FAIL). In retrospect, at least half of the time that I spent in school was utterly WASTED. Meanwhile, arriving at college from a small town, I found myself -far- behind my city-educated contemporaries. In retrospect, with more time in the same system, I'd have arrived even farther behind. ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL.

Society got its shot at what it thought I needed to know (taught only half-the-time by people who were enthusiastic about it). Until schools adopt -rational- curricula (and learn to study educational journals and adopt their findings) and adopt educational strategies that individualize study and maximalize learning for -motivated- students, NO THANKS.

I wouldn't give back my days watching the bugs and trees and water and reading about astronomy because you hope that more of the same is better. It isn't.

P.S. Wanna -really- do something to improve education everywhere with one stroke??? Get rid of ALL of the school boards. That is all.
posted by Twang at 4:15 PM on July 25, 2013


Summer is just a label for a climatic condition that is eventually going to be perpetual, the way things are going. So why not have school all year round? I would dedicate June through September for survival skills, hunting, and scavenging, be cause that's the stuff that is going to pay off big thirty years or so from now.

Also, show them photos of glaciers, icebergs, and other assorted wintry shit because that won't last 100 years, I'm betting.
posted by Renoroc at 4:16 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Summer Vacation Is Evil": the ultimate #slatepitch.
posted by gerryblog at 4:21 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Okay, first of all, there's not MORE school, it's the same 180 days spread out differently, with longer and shorter breaks throughout the year. The all-three-months-at-once break is a problem. A four-week break and several two-week breaks is much less of a problem, in terms of low-income students losing ground. This also does not require paying teachers more. (See below for more.)

psoas: "I know this is pedestrian, but how are maintenance projects carried out when the school's never out of session?"

Quickly, during the short breaks. Or by closing part of the school building and reducing census at that school for a year or two. Or by moving kids to another school building for a couple of semesters. I mean, basically the way any year-round occupied building is done, but it does involve particular inconveniences and require school maintenance managers to learn new scheduling skills.

jeather: "So, assuming that many children have siblings in the same school system, how does a year round schedule work? Do parents just need to find help for their kids at different times of the year and never go on family vacations (except perhaps during Christmas, which becomes even more expensive), or are siblings guaranteed same vacations?"

Right now in many school systems year-round school is optional; you may choose to put your child in it or keep your child in a "traditional-calendered" school. My district currently pays transportation for kids who "opt out" of the small number of year-round schools if that school happens to be their neighborhood school. Siblings are usually tracked together, but parents can make that decision based on what they prefer. In my district, year-round is popular in the elementary grades but in junior high it's less so, and plenty of families have some kids in year-round school and others in traditional school.

Year-round programs are choice programs for the teachers, too. They can't be placed there by administration but must choose the programs. So far, we always have more teachers who want a year-round schedule than there are spots available in the programs (which serve a small, small minority of our students right now), but there are definitely teachers who prefer the three-month summer and have structured their lives around that rhythm, and that's fine. (Or at least, that's fine right now. If year-round becomes dominant, it'll take a long time and expectations in the profession will shift.)

paulsc: "On the topic of summer learning, whatever happened to summer reading lists, and projects? My freshman year public school summer reading list (from a small town Kansas Unified School District) called for 44 books from a list of about 150, all available from the local public lending library, which was 4 books a week, over 11 weeks of summer vacation. "

If the 5-year-olds in my district who would benefit the most from year-round school could safely and reliably get to a library branch, they probably would not be in the category of "5-year-olds who would benefit the most from year-round school."

Gungho: "Are they frikkin kidding? bad enough that some schools start before Labor Day. Kids need Summers like fish need water. Here's an idea. Get the parents involved and responsible. Assign reading lists. Don't promote kids at the end of the school year, promote them at the beginning AFTER a test on the Summer reading. You flunk, you stay back. That'll motivate their little heinies."

Please share the strategies for this that schools have not already tried. Please also share how to handle 16-year-olds who are still in 8th grade.

roystgnr: "The fastest educational progress I ever made was with a computer program that slowed down and went into more reiteration and detail on every concept a student had trouble with while speeding through and building upon every concept that a student clearly grasped. Of course, because this was the 1980s we had to do this in a special small expensive shared lab in a centralized school building, and it only worked with the limited subjects for which the software had been written and tested, but surely 3 decades and 8 orders of magnitude more GFLOPS/$ later we'll be giving the same capability to every child in every household learning every subject, right?"

We have these fairly widely implemented and some high school students do very well with them, in some subjects. But they're not very effective in the elementary grades, computer learning is more appropriate to some subjects than others (math drills, yes, vocabulary drills, yes; science, no, which should be project-based learning. literature, no). It turns out that, in the end, the most effective manner for smaller children, especially, is learning in a human-to-human environment, and removing the group interactions from a classroom setting and adult facilitator/teacher is really hard on elementary school students. (Other things can make it less Lord-of-the-Flies-y, if you like; mixed-age classrooms can be spectacularly successful.)

Twang: "P.S. Wanna -really- do something to improve education everywhere with one stroke??? Get rid of ALL of the school boards. That is all."

How will this improve education?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:24 PM on July 25, 2013 [17 favorites]


"... If the 5-year-olds in my district who would benefit the most from year-round school could safely and reliably get to a library branch, they probably would not be in the category of "5-year-olds who would benefit the most from year-round school." ..."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:24 PM on July 25

So, am I correct in thinking you agree that public education failures in the U.S. public schools are primarily ones of transportation and resource availability, rather than instruction? While I think 5 is a little young to be expected to follow a reading list alone, with the right resources, professionals and parent involvement, I could see it working pretty well, otherwise.
posted by paulsc at 4:57 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Clearly I do not write shitty magical realism but trenchant and prescient science reporting.
posted by Scattercat at 4:58 PM on July 25, 2013


the average student “loses” about one month’s worth of schooling during a typical summer vacation

I think this misses the gigantic elephant in the room -- eventually students graduate, and they'l be losing schooling for the rest of their lives at the rate of one month in three! Approx. 7 months of schooling (9, minus 1 for miscellaneous holidays like Christmas, minus 1 for the one lost in Summer) for 12 years is 84 months, times 3, divided by 12... means that at the age of 39 everyone loses everything they ever learned in primary school, becoming unable to read or do basic arithmetic. Why isn't the RAND corporation worried about that?
posted by JHarris at 5:02 PM on July 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


I wonder if it would be possible to strike some kind of compromise, to have a one-or-two month term in the summer that would be focused on self-directed projects, with the teachers acting less like teachers and more like mentors. That is, have a summer term that would be less like school and more like Odyssey of the Mind or Destination Imagination.

I wish I could favorite this ten times.
posted by weston at 5:14 PM on July 25, 2013


The strong anti-schooling sentiment you get from certain segments on this site is a pretty naked form of privilege; I'm glad your summers were full of intellectually enriching lifetime learning experiences, but guess what, you're not everyone. Plenty of people come from chaotic home lives, where school is a respite from negative influences, where learning even during school time is difficult, and where they don't have the resources to do much of anything in the summer. Plenty of students also rely of school for food which they might not get if weren't for the fact that they were required to attend.

Half of the commentators here also seem confused as to what year round schooling is, since it is not more schooling it is more regular schooling; the number of days of instruction stays the same, but the gaps are smaller, so the time for that chaos and hunger to deprive students of the progress they've made is reduced into more manageable chunks. There are places where this is not an issue, and for those place traditional calendars are probably right, but for places where these are problems, I'd rather try to address the issue than assume that all students are spending their summers as bug chasing autodidacts; they aren't.

Honestly, I enjoyed being in a year school, but I care less about than I do about the fact that this pie-in-the-sky notion that what we need to do is put kids in school less so they can learn is something that (as a rule with tiny, meaningless exceptions) only works for people who have some kind privileged background, be it money or parents with education, or parents who are invested or whatever. We have to educate the kids whose parents don't and won't care and we do that through the fucking schools.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:33 PM on July 25, 2013 [21 favorites]


The fucking schools have to educate all the kids, not just the underpriviliged ones...
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:53 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think many people are arguing that the solution to this problem is not year-round schooling -- which might be a good idea in theory but in practice is hard to switch over to for many reason -- but better support for poor students during the summer.

The "you have to work to get your kids on the same track especially if there's a disability in the mix" issue is likely to be an even bigger issue for those families with chaotic home lives, who can't spend days fighting bureaucracy.
posted by jeather at 5:59 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The strong anti-schooling sentiment you get from certain segments on this site is a pretty naked form of privilege

I am another survivor of year-round schooling and I'm going to have to agree with this statement. Year-round school, as currently put into place in the US, does not involve lengthening the school year or destroying children's unstructured free time. It involves spreading out the school year and giving children free time in manageable chunks that are still longer than the average working American's vacation. It for damn sure doesn't involve some proto-Fascist state where the adults tattle on the children for being outside of school grounds.

To give context, my school set-up was slightly different that others have described: we went two months on, one month off and there were three tracks (there were always two on and one off). Every single student in grades K-8 was on this schedule, which made sibling scheduling relatively easy (summer vacation did have to be taken during the shared one month off for siblings in high school, which meant our family always took vacation in August for those few years). It was a cost-cutting measure at a time when California was broke and our district was in trouble. The benefits to poorer students were merely incidental.

Other novel things tried included grouping grades together (so I was in a first grade class with second graders, a third grade class with fourth graders, and so on) and block scheduling (two days a week, half the classes met intensively on one day and half met intensively on the other day). Later, I believe they went to a lengthier school day and increased after-school activities. Why try all these methods? One clue comes from the fact that after NCLB, both my elementary school and my middle school were shut down due to 'failing' status. The number of English language learners, Title-I eligible students, military families, and generally poor families in the district as a whole was quite high.

A poor district with poor outcomes will try a lot of things to improve student success if the state money is there. Year-round schooling is just another thing to try--not the apocalypse or the end of fostering children's imagination through aimless summer play or whatever overly-romantic reason that folks are filtering this issue through. The high school I attended ten years ago had 3500 students even then and a huge number of those were poorer children of color. Year-round made sense in that district; maybe it makes sense in others?
posted by librarylis at 6:02 PM on July 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


My parents weren't hugely well off and didn't seem to know about/believe in extra-curricular activities in summer, but we did belong to a library, so while summer wasn't about camps or organised intellectual activities, it was about reading a hell of a lot, which I agree that not all kids get the opportunity for.

On the other hand, summers were the one time of year where I could go for more than a week in a row without being bullied. Even if I had spent the whole time lying on the couch watching mindless TV, that break was essential to my mental health.
posted by lollusc at 6:14 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The fucking schools have to educate all the kids, not just the underpriviliged ones...

This is frankly a pretty privileged and upsetting statement; honestly, based on my experience in teaching, there are some kids who are going to get a decent education pretty much no matter what. These are the kids who are spending the summers going to museums and reading, who have books in their homes and families with the time and money and interest in taking them to educational places. If you feel like schools are focusing too much on underprivileged children, maybe that's because they NEED more focus to be on them; they don't get support at home so they need support from school more than other kids. I'm not saying that kids with privilege don't deserve good educations; obviously they do, I'm just saying it's also pretty ridiculous to claim that all of our middle-class and higher students are going to fall behind because we think about structuring the school year in a way that benefits the students who need it most.

I should also take this time to point out that during summer break, some kids in difficult situations BARELY EAT. I think education is hugely, HUGELY important; I used to be a teacher. I also think that when it comes right down to it, I'm going to direct my attention to the kids who don't get enough to eat rather than the kids who don't go to enough museums; someone else is already making sure they have enough to eat.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:18 PM on July 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


Spreading out both the school year and vacation periods in this way -- rather than concentrating school into 9 months and vacation into 3 months -- is a great way to provide kids with more free-time or unstructured time throughout the year. Kids having some unstructured or self-determined time should be happening constantly, not just in July.

People in general in the US are often way, way overscheduled much of the time, so many Americans alternate between frenetic, stressed-out workworkworkworkwork and comatose-zoned-out-recharge periods (and/or frenetic, stressed-out funfunfunfunfun). Working less each day and week, building more frequent downtime into the routine, those would be good things for everyone.

Certainly, it'd be nice if everyone's schedules could ease up some during the most pleasant seasons (a la Sweden), but the argument that kids need three solid consecutive months of "free time" because the workplace of adulthood sucks is more of a reason to fix the latter than to enshrine the former.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:21 PM on July 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


We're in Texas. Texas has insane required standardized testing. Pretty much all my son did in 4th grade was prep for taking the tests near the end of the school year. In 4th grade, they eliminated science classes, because science wasn't on the test. (Some fight about creationism or something, but no science tests = no science classes.) Not only were the kids drilling all day every day just to pass a test, they had pages and pages of worksheets to do after school. Sometimes my son would start his homework when he got home at 300 and would still be working on it by dinnertime, and he wasn't slacking.

By the time the tests rolled around, these kids were nervous wrecks. These 8 and 9 year olds were crying about tests they had to take. Kids weren't sleeping, weren't eating, were showing really clear signs of depression and stress. Not just my kid...all the kids in the neighborhood were freaked out because of the pressure of these tests.

After the tests were done, there was another 6 weeks of school. Where they did fuck-all. Seriously. They watched movies, they had pizza parties, they had pajama day, they had field days, they took field trips, they saw concerts...all things I can get behind, mind you; but all things that should have been interspersed through the year.

So, I don't believe kids are losing a month every summer. I think kids aren't retaining shit that's drilled in to them to pass some sadistic test designer's idea of what's important for them to know. (Seriously, those tests were so badly written, either it was evil intent, to try and make sure x% autofailed, or complete incompetence, and someone should be horsewhipped either way.)

(And yes, if there was a private school within a rational drive time of my house that wasn't a young-earth, flintstones as documentary, bugfuck insane theocratic school, I would have him in private school. I tell a lie, it would also have to cost less than $25k per school year, which is the going rate for a good private school if I drove in to Dallas, which would be a 4 hour commute daily for me on top of tuition.)
posted by dejah420 at 6:23 PM on July 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


I listen as my school teacher friends relate the horrors of public schools being systematically de-funded and destroyed. And now we're going to keep them open year round? Really? Are we honestly expecting the people who don't want to pay for the system we have now to pay for more?
It's a lovely dream.
posted by evilDoug at 6:39 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Kids need time to process things in long stretches of unstructured time. The summer is a petri dish of experimentation in social skills, science experimentation, practical application of reading skills, occasionally learning how to dissect frogs after you leave them in an orange tackle box in the garage on a 95 degree day...

On top of that losing knowledge is not a bad thing. Reacquiring knowledge strengthens the neurological pathways with something that should be easier to learn (priming), allows for everyone to start the year successful (positive review), and/or allows for rebuilding and re-exploration of them (branching, creativity).

There's a great book on how kids spend their day- too long to switch classes, five minutes of attendance and settling, 15 minutes of homework review, interruption, 20 minutes of actual lecture, additional interruption, and maybe 5 minutes where people aren't paying attention at the end. That excludes how frequently kids leave early at the end of the day. Want to fix something? Restructure the transition so that kids can settle faster, or that the transitions are minimized. Restructure the homework so that it takes up less time out of the school day and more focus can be made on new learning - in other words - make the homework a pre-read for tomorrow and reinforcement for yesterdays task. Then the lecture can focus on reviewing what was read last night and actually prepping kids for the new homework. Lastly, minimize allowable distractions - yeah easier said then done - but does Bobby immediately need to know that he has a message in the office, or can we conceptually batch processing messages like that, and report emergency exceptions up immediately (sorry, picking Bobby up late is not a priority - but father in hospital get your bag and wait in the office for pickup is). All I'm saying is - we fail our students by the administration we inflict upon them. This is exemplified by the insistence by said administration that summer vacation is what fails kids.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:41 PM on July 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


A lot of people still seem to be missing how this would/should work; there are 180 days in a school year. There would still be 180 days in a school year, just chunked differently so, like, six weeks on, two weeks off or something. It doesn't mean you just keep going to school forever. You'd still get your time to go to museums and take trips and lie on the couch away from bullies and stuff, in fact you'd get it more frequently, you just wouldn't get a three month chunk of it all at once.

There are definitely advantages to having a big long chunk like camps and summer jobs and trips and stuff, and I'm sure there would be serious economic issues, but redistributing our school days doesn't seem that crazy to me.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:45 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I had the year-round schedule for one year (8th Grade) as a child.

It was immeasurably better, and that was a pretty universal opinion among the students, far as I can recall. I'm surprised it hasn't been adopted more places.

Just my 2¢.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:53 PM on July 25, 2013


Kids need time to process things in long stretches of unstructured time. The summer is a petri dish of experimentation in social skills, science experimentation, practical application of reading skills, occasionally learning how to dissect frogs after you leave them in an orange tackle box in the garage on a 95 degree day...

On top of that losing knowledge is not a bad thing. Reacquiring knowledge strengthens the neurological pathways with something that should be easier to learn (priming), allows for everyone to start the year successful (positive review), and/or allows for rebuilding and re-exploration of them (branching, creativity).


I don't think any of this is contrary to year round schooling. Students in year round schools typically get time off in chunks of 3 or 4 weeks, which is a fair bit of unstructured time, as well as plenty of breaks to stop and then review and relearn afterwards.

The data on year round schools specifically (I think) shows that they result in slight gains for underprivileged districts, but not for districts which are better off. I think that makes sense, since they're the students least likely to be able to get enriching experiences outside of school time. That's also purely measuring test results and not less tangible educational outcomes.

Summer break is an artifact of agrarian societies and calendars; it's not divine edict. It may be (especially for more affluent districts) that people prefer it and it doesn't do anyharm, but for other Districts, I think it makes sense to look at changing the calendar. This is especially true where Districts have a lot of children with disabilities (who tend to feel the negative effects of summer vacation more).
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:59 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Speaking as a system administrator at a pretty large school district in California, I have often hung my head and laughed when people congratulate me when school lets out. "So, you've got nothin' t'do for th' next month or so. Good job!" they say.

Are they insane?! The summer break is my most intense period of work! Administrative year-end for our schools, huge data submissions for the state, preparation for next year, the fiscal rollover from year-to-year! And all of the people you really need, the worker bees and their lazy administrators, are away on break, la-di-da!, leaving me with 40,000 children to deal with!

And then there are the software upgrades. The hardware upgrades! There is work that can only be done during this short interval (in my school district, from the start of June and the end of July, year-round!) to get it all done!

And, to top it off, they bitch and moan that I haven't used up all of my vacation!

Sigh.

Summer is the cruelest season.
posted by SPrintF at 7:02 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


They were banging on on about this back when they were giving my high school classmates the summer off to fight the War of 1812.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:12 PM on July 25, 2013


I should also take this time to point out that during summer break, some kids in difficult situations BARELY EAT.

So let's make everyone go to school all year? You can't think of a more efficient way to fight childhood hunger in like, 2 seconds?
posted by spaltavian at 7:20 PM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


paulsc: "So, am I correct in thinking you agree that public education failures in the U.S. public schools are primarily ones of transportation and resource availability, rather than instruction? While I think 5 is a little young to be expected to follow a reading list alone, with the right resources, professionals and parent involvement, I could see it working pretty well, otherwise."

No, that is not my belief, and also I don't actually understand the connection you're making? The struggling 5-year-olds in my district do not magically develop resources and parental involvement when they're freshmen, and while many of them can theoretically walk far enough to get to a library branch by themselves by then, that involves crossing multiple gang territories. I mean, my library does a great job with outreach to kids who can't get to a library, but a lot of the issues that make year-round school a good idea are the same ones that make a self-directed summer reading program problematic. These kids live in dangerous neighborhoods with very few public resources, with enormous social pressure to NOT achieve in school (pressure that is far worse in high school), with uninvolved parents, degraded transportation networks, lack of access to food, and so on. I think summer reading programs are great. But a self-directed summer reading program will just not replace regular school contact for these very high-risk students.

dejah420: "So, I don't believe kids are losing a month every summer."

High-stakes testing is mostly bad, but this data predates universal high-stakes testing and occurs in all high-poverty settings, high-stakes tests or no.

evilDoug: "Are we honestly expecting the people who don't want to pay for the system we have now to pay for more?"

RTF thread, year-round school is frequently a cost-cutting measure.

Nanukthedog: "Kids need time to process things in long stretches of unstructured time. The summer is a petri dish of experimentation in social skills, science experimentation, practical application of reading skills, occasionally learning how to dissect frogs after you leave them in an orange tackle box in the garage on a 95 degree day...

Summer for many of my children (I have 14,000 children) consists of sitting indoors watching television because it is too dangerous to be outside and there are no adults home all day, even with the very small children. We have five-year-olds babysitting younger children so their parent(s) can work minimum-wage jobs. The ones sitting inside watching TV are the GOOD kids whose parents are involved enough to keep them out of gangs. They do not have access to any of those things you're talking about.

On top of that losing knowledge is not a bad thing. Reacquiring knowledge strengthens the neurological pathways with something that should be easier to learn (priming), allows for everyone to start the year successful (positive review), and/or allows for rebuilding and re-exploration of them (branching, creativity)

You have literally no idea what you're talking about.

spaltavian: "So let's make everyone go to school all year? You can't think of a more efficient way to fight childhood hunger in like, 2 seconds?"

A) It's not "all year" it's "year-round" with the SAME NUMBER OF DAYS ON AND DAYS OFF AS NOW. B) What is your more efficient way to fight childhood hunger that is implementable in a high-poverty community? I will literally implement it in my community THIS YEAR if you come up with one. I'm not kidding. We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on childhood hunger in my district every year and we are involved in various federal and state pilot programs to deliver food to children more efficiently. If you have a good idea, I will see it implemented. We have more than 10,000 students with insufficient food access, you will be doing a lot of good.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:32 PM on July 25, 2013 [23 favorites]


There's a lot of excitement for this idea online, just like there was for charter schools once upon a time. People are always looking for the thing that's going to solve the education crisis. I found this analysis, which makes the situation look a little less promising. That article predicts that students, especially minority students, will actually have negative outcomes from year round schooling. If my district was talking about switching I would want to read a whole lot more about it.
posted by Biblio at 7:38 PM on July 25, 2013


So let's make everyone go to school all year? You can't think of a more efficient way to fight childhood hunger in like, 2 seconds?

One that I think would actually work in terms of finance and logistics? Honestly, no, not really. Kids are legally required to go to school. If there's a place that all kids have to go, it makes sense to feed them there. Maybe I'm being dense but I can't immediately come up with something else that would work and for which there would be support. Send food to kids' houses? Who's going to do that? Who's going to pay for it? Get all the kids to go somewhere that isn't school every day when school is out? Wouldn't it be better to break up the no-school-food times for families with few resources? Also, yeah, no one is making anyone attend more days of school.

Honestly, though, that's sort of beside the point. This is one of those times where, admittedly, I am a bit cranky but this is an area in which I have a fair amount of experience. I've taught in inner-city schools, worked in and student taught at schools with very different populations, and I have a Master's in Teaching. There are definitely a lot of worthwhile perspectives and God knows I don't know everything but it's very, VERY frustrating to see a situation in which a study has been conducted, people with backgrounds in the area are coming in to make comments, and these are being ignored in favor of people talking about their own experiences instead of actually paying attention to what a carefully constructed academic survey says. It's very frustrating to have an understanding of a lot of the nuance and difficulty of many of these issues and see so many people coming in and saying "well, when I was a kid..." or "I read a book that says..." or "I have the solution! Teachers/schools just need to...". It's worth considering that, in fact, the people who actually work in education have access to the same books and experiences you do in addition to a broad range of other resources and an understanding of the different situations affecting their student populations and maybe in some cases it's worth listening or reading or thinking instead of sharing your opinion on how easy it is to fix things. If it were actually easy, we would have done it already.

Obviously I'm super crabby, so now I'm going to bed.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:44 PM on July 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


And I don't mean the comparison to charter schools to come across as dismissive. I know charter schools now have a less than stellar reputation, at least around here, but when they first got started a lot of very bright, committed people were really excited about them. I just wanted to compare the general level of enthusiasm I found when trying to read more about year round schooling online. That's what it reminded me of.
posted by Biblio at 7:46 PM on July 25, 2013


I'm glad all of you people had all of these wonderful enriching experiences during the magical summers of your youth. It's been a very long time, but I remember being bored to tears after about 4 weeks. I never went hungry, but we were lower-lower-middle class. I never went to summer camp. I never went to a museum outside of a field trip. I loved to read but not enough to spend three months doing nothing but. My bullies lived in the same neighborhood as I did. At least in school they couldn't beat me up during class.

My kids all have special needs. Before we moved to a balanced calendar of 8 week summer vacations and three two week breaks, they lost a lot of ground over the summer.

Three months of summer vacation made sense for my father to help my share-cropper grandfather in the cotton fields of Tennessee. It makes no sense now, especially for those who don't have the means to make every summer into a magical time of wonder and adventure.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:47 PM on July 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee:spaltavian: "So let's make everyone go to school all year? You can't think of a more efficient way to fight childhood hunger in like, 2 seconds?"

A) It's not "all year" it's "year-round" with the SAME NUMBER OF DAYS ON AND DAYS OFF AS NOW. B) What is your more efficient way to fight childhood hunger


If it's the same number of days, how the hell does year-round school help with nutrition? Kids will go hungry in smaller blocks now?

I didn't bring up nutrition, it was offered as a reason to support year-round school. If it can help, it still doesn't make much sense to force an entire district to completely change their schedule, encroach upon time set aside for families, reduce children's economic, social and enrichment chances and do a whole bunch of scrantons so needy kids can get some food. Develop a plan that targets and actually helps needy kids, not just rearrange their boredom.

Or it can't help at all, as you're saying.

RTF thread, year-round school is frequently a cost-cutting measure.

I look forward to hearing how running the a/c in massive school buildings a whole lot more saves money. Probably we'll save more have to retro-fit the thousands and thousands of schools that have no a/c.

You have literally no idea what you're talking about.

Well, I'm convinced!
posted by spaltavian at 7:54 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Things 3 month summers are good for:
Change of scenery/location.
Opportunity for summer jobs- can't do that for a 3 week stint every 3 months.
Summer camps or other educational programs that can't happen on a 3 week stint off.
Summer school makeup.
Just plain not being chained indoors all fucking day in summer. I really wish I could go out and enjoy a day, but I have to work to eat.
I liked having that long chunk of break off. Adults can't really do it, why take it away from those who can?
Plus, how do you get daycare on such an off and on schedule?
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:00 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


spaltavian: "I didn't bring up nutrition, it was offered as a reason to support year-round school. If it can help, it still doesn't make much sense to force an entire district to completely change their schedule, encroach upon time set aside for families, reduce children's economic, social and enrichment chances and do a whole bunch of scrantons so needy kids can get some food. Develop a plan that targets and actually helps needy kids, not just rearrange their boredom."

You're conflating my comments with other people's. Generally in my state, year-round school is an OPTION in districts (including mine, as mentioned above); it's not put in mandatorily across the board. I also said it was most popular in elementary school when, I don't know about your state, but in my state children in elementary school are not legally allowed to work, so it doesn't reduce their economic chances. They do not have much family time because of their parents' work schedules, and their social and enrichment chances in the summer are basically nil. The "whole bunch of scantron" things is just offensive to the teachers who work extremely hard in high-poverty schools.

spaltavian: "I look forward to hearing how running the a/c in massive school buildings a whole lot more saves money. Probably we'll save more have to retro-fit the thousands and thousands of schools that have no a/c."

This is costing us $34 million to retrofit approximately half of our 28 buildings but our operating costs do actually drop, partly because the school buildings are in use all summer anyway by camps and daycares and whatnot.

But when you said you could come up with a more efficient system to feed hungry children in 2 seconds, you meant that you couldn't come up with one? I'm seriously not being snarky. If you have an idea, I want to hear it. Ten thousand hungry children. Please. Any idea you have. I give 20-40 hours a week, unpaid, to helping to manage my district (which is in dire economic straits) because these children need help. I devote virtually all my free time to these issues. These children are being failed on every possible front, AND THEY ARE HUNGRY, in one of the wealthiest countries on earth. Please, it sounds like you have ideas, share them. I have the opportunity to make them reality and to get food to children who are routinely hungry. If you have ideas, it's cruel not to share them. If they're remotely reasonable, I will make them happen.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:11 PM on July 25, 2013 [23 favorites]


Three weeks of hunger spaced at regular intervals seems pretty likely to be better than nine all at once. You'd need data to know for sure, but it's far from crazy.

Also, since no one is talking about more schooling, I don't see the reduced enrichment chances; you can do camp in three weeks, you can go to museums for three weeks. None of that changes much. You don't get the giant seven week summer camp experience, but a lot of people aren't rich enough to get that anyway.

Finally, the amount of vitriol this idea is getting is way out of proportion to anything that makes sense. No one has suggested that this is the right choice for all schools everywhere, just an option to consider for a legitimate problem. It's not a problem for all students equally, but I find it disheartening that something that is a real perform for disadvantaged students is discounted because it might threaten the upper middle class's memorIes of camp.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:14 PM on July 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Except that students routinely go to private schools outside their state and even their country.

Routinely? Where the hell do you live where this is the case, wizard Britain?

I spent my summers reading a lot. My family could only afford to send me to camp a few times, and those were generally day camps when I was relatively little. My mom stayed at home and was able to take me to the library a lot. But seriously: being able to get to the library, having a parent who was at home and could take care of me, having libraries near enough to get to and having transportation to those libraries in the form of my mom driving me-- that's a shitload of privilege right there.

Also, guys, year-round school has short breaks interspersed throughout the year. The only funding problem I can think of there is that teachers may not be able to get summer jobs because they don't have a big chunk of time; other than that the issues are all logistical, so can we please stop beating the "this will take more funding" horse?

We either need something that will help lower-income kids by giving them something to do in summer-- preferably something that is free, provides transportation and doesn't take hours of bureaucracy to sign up for, because those are resources lower-income people often don't have. Or we need to switch to a year-round schedule.
posted by NoraReed at 8:24 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


So my son is 1.5 right now, but when he gets to school age what do I do with the summers? His dad and I both work, we don't have non-working family in the area and right now daycare (which goes to age 4) is year round. I have researched this at all, so I'm genuinely curious, what do we do? I grew up with a stay at home mom so I'm clueless.
posted by HMSSM at 8:31 PM on July 25, 2013


*havent
posted by HMSSM at 8:46 PM on July 25, 2013


HMSSM, we did daycare when he was 5 in the summer, and summer day camp the last two years. My mom hired a babysitter during the summer until I was 11 or so.
posted by emjaybee at 9:25 PM on July 25, 2013


I kept thinking about the kids from this FPP a few weeks back as I was looking at this study. The two young teen girls profiled in that article, bored out of their skull in a tiny trailer, watching the same movie over and over again. No libraries for miles around, mom's got the car to work all day, no money for camp. I was a smart, bullied kid who hated most school too, but school sounds better than watching the same damn movie every day.

Also, as a child of a ton of privilege who spent most of my summers in camps of one stripe or another--what kind of programs and camps are some of you envisioning that need three uninterrupted months? The life-changing sleepaway gifted-kid camp I went to in high school had three week sessions. The mediocre township-run day camp I went to for years as a child had several two-week sessions, with the option of going for the whole summer or picking a few two-week chunks. The old-school, boys-in-the-woods-doing-sports sleepaway camp my brother went to had six-week sessions, tops, with most people doing shorter stints. Why couldn't you fit any of that in with a year-round session with breaks of a few weeks?
posted by ActionPopulated at 9:32 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


What is your more efficient way to fight childhood hunger that is implementable in a high-poverty community?

Yeah, I'd like to hear this magical solution as well.

I work in public nutrition assistance and we're doing the best we can with what we've got.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:04 PM on July 25, 2013


Eyebrows McGee, here's an idea. When I was in elementary school, the district introduced school breakfast where there had previously only been a lunch program. That doubled my number of in-school meals and increased the number of calories available to me each day. If you added supper on top of that, the number of calories consumed might be in nearly the 3x range. I have no idea what adding that breakfast meal cost my school district, but it was evidently feasible for a community with a significant level of poverty.

That's my idea. Increase the number of calories available to consume in a given time period. Either by adding meals during the time children are currently attending school, or by increasing the caloric content of the existing meal(s). Basically, stockpile fuel against the lean times. That satisfies the "efficient" part of your criteria even if turning the children into camels isn't particularly compassionate. The bigger problem is that tripling the number of calories is a non-zero cost unless you start cutting corners with quality.

The "high-poverty" part of the equation suggests that efficiency isn't your primary bottleneck. And if the funding isn't there for increasing the total number of calories, then none of the scheduling ideas make a huge difference. You can't fight hunger without food.
posted by Jeff Howard at 10:36 PM on July 25, 2013


A lot of people still seem to be missing how this would/should work; there are 180 days in a school year.

By 180, you mean 165, right? Because that's what we're down to up here.

Every "innovative" schedule reform we've had seems to result in fewer days* in school. I'm entirely convinced changing to year-round school would just give them the opportunity to whittle off a few more days.
Just make the summer break three and half weeks instead of three, make the winter break two weeks rather than one and a half and before you know it, we're down to 155 days.

Maybe I'm just too jaded, but I've seen just about every school reform trend come past in one way or another:
Block scheduling, mixed grades, 3x5 schedules, 4x4 schedules, trimesters, semesters, year-round, directed learning, computer learning, team learning, right-sized classrooms, independent classrooms, the campus system, the list goes on and on.

And every single one of them seems to be code for 'How to spend less on education and more on consultants while not producing consistent improvement'.

*Technically hours, since that's how they measure attendance requirements in these parts
posted by madajb at 1:05 AM on July 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


NoraReed: "We either need something that will help lower-income kids by giving them something to do in summer-- preferably something that is free, provides transportation and doesn't take hours of bureaucracy to sign up for, because those are resources lower-income people often don't have. Or we need to switch to a year-round schedule."

I think all of us who are opposing year-round schooling in this thread are saying exactly that. I would add that it would be much easier to create summer activities for kids who need them than it would be to set up year-round school. The real problems that this thread highlights are all about very disadvantaged kids, those already in dire need of nutritional support and some form or organised activity over the summer. Solving those problems by making year-round school mandatory for everyone is hitting a mosquito with an anvil. (...and yes, while some people in this thread are discussing optional set-ups, the original article the OP linked is an argument for mandatory year-round school).

If we expand the definition of "unreasonable privilege" to include baseline needs like adequate food or at least one attentive parent, and then argue that the needs and rights of everyone with "privilege" of any kind should be disregarded, we are essentially saying that state schools should be high-touch crisis-intervention facilities where experts take over for families regardless of family wishes or needs. I'm all for making services available where there's need, both for activities and for educational and nutritional support, and for affordable, subsidised childcare in a larger sense...but I am not for making those services mandatory for all, regardless of need or desire.
posted by Wylla at 2:45 AM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


The person above who said that working parents are driving the year round school proposals hit the nail on the head.

I would love to see this solution for our family and we are in no way underpriviledged. But as working parents of an elementary schooler, we end out sending him to a patchwork of one week camps in the narrow areas that interest him with gaps filled in by going to the "school age" division of his childhood daycare, which is adequate, but not great.

If summer breaks were broken into chunks, it would be much easier to find interesting enriching camps (that don't start at 10 and end at 4, I mean, who goes to those?) and the camps themselves would be more appealing and less like marking time simply because they're not layered one onto another.

But we don't have that option.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 5:07 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons, that's a great argument for high-quality childcare and optional summer activities, subsidised in cases of need. It's not an argument for mandatory, year-round school for everyone.

At least one of your assumptions is wrong, btw - a quick google for "half-term break" (what the UK calls the scattered longer vacations during the year, outside of the 6-week summer) or even a quick search of the comment page of a UK newspaper will disabuse you of the notion that a more year-round schedule remedies peoples' childcare problems: it doesn't. Activities scheduled for all those shorter breaks are just as hard to access for many families as US summer camps and enrichment programs often are.
posted by Wylla at 5:25 AM on July 26, 2013


I understand that there is camp infrastructure for a system that is large school district nearly fully committed to full time year round in Wake County, Rock_Steady.

My discussion was of the difficulties of small group transitioning in a huge school district, such as my own, where they can't even keep the buildings from flooding after a little rain and shutting down for a week (though to be fair that's more the local PUDs not wanting to spend money for proper drainage controls).

Agreed about fighting hunger with food. It's not widespread, but all of the schools my kids have attended have food drives. Some are for food banks, some are simply for other families within the school, and the parents make the time to swing by for a sack of groceries weekly as well. During the summer, many groups also do summer meals on and books wheels for kids. I've read articles about outreaches in rural areas, can't find them right now. A few of these weeks we are spending at YMCA for some camp coverage, and they run a scholarship program that includes lunches for the kids as well.

I think school and funding and feeding will always be a problem, and there won't be one solution that works. I want a system with more flexibility that could cover more, but that requires funding that Congress and the Senate don't want to give.

If we are going to nuke the system and start over, lets start with teacher raises, better supplies and buildings, and never speaking of high stakes testing tied to teacher pay again. And round in assistive services to boot.
posted by tilde at 5:32 AM on July 26, 2013


If we expand the definition of "unreasonable privilege" to include baseline needs like adequate food or at least one attentive parent, and then argue that the needs and rights of everyone with "privilege" of any kind should be disregarded, we are essentially saying that state schools should be high-touch crisis-intervention facilities where experts take over for families regardless of family wishes or needs.

You're making some assumptions here that aren't warranted. The negative effects of summer vacation are felt primarily by lower SES students, but that doesn't necessarily include only students who can't get food or have an attentive parents. Further, the primary goal in getting rid of the one long summer break is to reduce educational declines associated with the long break; feeding kids is really just a side benefit. Educational declines over the summer are a real and well documented thing; whether or not year round schooling address that problem effectively looks like an open question with research being contradictory, but there are good reasons to think it might for populations.

In some school districts lower SES describes basically the entire population, which is why some people have been suggesting that those districts might want to consider year round schools. Where I live 77% of students are on free/reduced lunch, so even if we're just considering breaking up chunks hunger time, it would be potentially beneficial to the vast majority of the students. I haven't seen anyone here suggest that all schools everywhere should be year round for everyone, but there are districts where the prevailing assumption that summer is a time of magical educational discovery and enrichment is wrong for basically everyone. It's not a matter of forcing everyone to do what serves the needs of the less privileged, it's a matter of serving your population.

Finally, you make this blanket assumption that if you don't need the food or break from chaotic home life that a long summer vacation is your "need and right" that totally isn't justified. There are plenty of parents and students who prefer year-round schooling for reasons unrelated to the reasons a low SES parent might. I hated summer vacation, it's so long and there's only so much you can fill the days with. My family could afford camp, but only shorter camps. We could take family trips, but that fills a couple weeks at most, so I was still left with a month or so of time to just fill, which is boring. When I moved to year round schooling, I got to spread that time out. We could take vacations in times of year other than the summer which was great! Unless the only thing you ever want to do is go to the beach, there's no reason to only travel in the summer. Hell, we even went to the beach, in Florida, in December, when I was on year round and that was way better than another generic beach trip in July. The assumption here that year-round schooling is somehow about disregarding the needs of the privileged, but plenty of people with privilege also love year round schooling. It's about looking at different options to see what works and what meets the needs of the community. Most of us don't need our kids in the fields anymore, so the automatic assumption that what the community needs is the calendar based off keeping kids in the fields is unjustified.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:42 AM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Perhaps an optional summer semester? With a curriculum aimed at more enrichment, minimal homework, with a few hours dedicated a week to review for retention of last year's material, or preview for familiarization with next year's. Maybe shorter than the average school day, or else the afternoons being set up like an extended structured recess?

Or maybe go to a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday schedule during the Summer?
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:59 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


If nothing else... reading this thread has taught me that adults have lost a lot of their reading comprehension and cognitive thinking abilities as well.
posted by Blue_Villain at 6:00 AM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seriously, Jeff Howard? We should calorie-load children during the school year so they can live off their fat stores in the summer?
posted by elsietheeel at 6:32 AM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Federal funding exists for summer food programs, supper programs, school breakfast programs, etc., you just have to find local schools/sites willing to implement them.
posted by elsietheeel at 6:33 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen anyone here suggest that all schools everywhere should be year round for everyone,

That's the suggestion made in the article in the OP - the concluding sentence is "School is important. It should happen all year ’round."

but there are districts where the prevailing assumption that summer is a time of magical educational discovery and enrichment is wrong for basically everyone. It's not a matter of forcing everyone to do what serves the needs of the less privileged, it's a matter of serving your population.

No one is suggesting that summer vacation is a magic wand for every kid, as far as I can see. Several of us have made the argument that universal year-round school, and the attendant loss of family contact time and the other benefits of the long summer holiday, are not what every family needs. They also don't solve the underlying problem here, which seems to actually be childcare costs for all but the most well off.

The assumption here that year-round schooling is somehow about disregarding the needs of the privileged, but plenty of people with privilege also love year round schooling. It's about looking at different options to see what works and what meets the needs of the community.

I am fine with year-round schools as a choice or with optional summer sessions, mandatory in cases of failed classes or academic need. My point about "privilege" is that we've defined it down to the point where many posters advocating year-round mandatory school (whether just for everyone in poor districts or for everyone in US public schools) seem tothink that meeting the needs of some children for crisis intervention or academic support during the summer entails assuming that all families are by definition in crisis, and should be treated accordingly.
posted by Wylla at 6:42 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jeff Howard: "The "high-poverty" part of the equation suggests that efficiency isn't your primary bottleneck. And if the funding isn't there for increasing the total number of calories, then none of the scheduling ideas make a huge difference. You can't fight hunger without food."

We already provide two meals and a snack, and take-home food for weekends. Children, who are growing and need food for brain growth, don't really weather "lean times" the same way adults do.

Wylla: "
I am fine with year-round schools as a choice or with optional summer sessions, mandatory in cases of failed classes or academic need. My point about "privilege" is that we've defined it down to the point where many posters advocating year-round mandatory school (whether just for everyone in poor districts or for everyone in US public schools) seem to be assuming that meeting the needs of some children for crisis intervention or academic support during the summer entails assuming that all families are by definition in crisis, and should be treated accordingly.
"

I think you're reading that into posters' comments, since most posters have either said, "My middle-class family loves year round school" or "In my district where year-round school is an option ..." One poster explained how year-round multitracking worked in Wake County, but didn't advocate for it being universal.

I feel like what you're doing is something I actually run into a lot: reacting strongly against an idea that goes against what YOU did as a child, so strongly that you're refusing to allow the conversation about possible benefits of year-round schooling to go forward, or the practicalities of how such a thing is implemented, because until you're assured that YOUR child is exempt from any changes at all to your narrow preferences, you will present a parade of horribles and insist the districts are failing to serve middle-class children, with little knowledge of what sorts of educational programs serve middle-class students best either.

So here you go. YOUR CHILD will not be forced into year-round school. Even in districts attempting to implement it for all students, it won't be fully implemented in all schools within the next 20 years, barring extremely catastrophic budget situations in very large districts where four-tracking is a reasonable solution (it's not a reasonable solution in districts smaller than, say, 100,000 students). Your snowflake with attentive parents can maintain their three months of family time. Your snowflake's friends will gradually move to year-round school because while middle-class parents tend to initially resist it, once they try it, they get hooked, because the spread-out chunks of family time are nice and the kids like school better with the more routine breaks that make it less of a slog and the teachers are more engaged and you get to go to Paris in October instead of August and run around outdoors in pleasant spring weather instead of the heat of summer. But nobody will force you into it unless your district is on the verge of being declared bankrupt; you get to keep your summers and nobody will arrest your kid as a truant.

Now can we discuss year-round schooling, please?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:04 AM on July 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


Mars Saxman: "The fucking schools have to educate all the kids, not just the underpriviliged ones..."

Because fucking's for everyone!
posted by chavenet at 7:13 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am fine with year-round schools as a choice or with optional summer sessions

I think once it's an option, it becomes the norm. Summer off has to be a cultural way of life to be sustained. Part of what makes summer off work is coming back in the fall and having a fresh start together. Part is self-motivated learning and self-discovery during those boring days when "there's nothing to do." If you could just be in school, and other people are, that will become expected, and the value of summer vacation will be forgotten.

To me this is like the idea of Detroit selling its art collection: I can see the sense in it, and perhaps it's the best we can do, but it sure does feel like a failure.
posted by mdn at 7:38 AM on July 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee: What is your more efficient way to fight childhood hunger that is implementable in a high-poverty community?

No, the burden doesn't get shifted like that. It was claimed year-round school helps childhood hunger. As you've pointed out in ALL CAPS, year-round school doesn't help with this because it doesn't add any days to school, and hence doesn't add a single meal. So literally anything, down to giving one kid a sandwich, would be better than year round school in helping hungry kids, because as you've so ably pointed out, it does nothing on hunger the current schedule doesn't.

I have not conflated your argument with anyone else's. You are trying to have it both ways, insisting on something that invalidates the helping-hunger point while demanding I come up with an alternative.
posted by spaltavian at 7:40 AM on July 26, 2013


Nthing all those who say school can't be held year round until infrastructure is improved before curriculum is even touched.

dr.enormous grew up in Baltimore county. He had "heat days" in the later months of the school year until middle school. If it was over something like 95, elementary school students didn't go to school because there was no air conditioning and the risk of heat stroke way too high.
posted by zizzle at 7:50 AM on July 26, 2013


I think there are plenty of good arguments for year round school, but the lack of air conditioning is a huge problem. I've lived in the northeast all my life, and it can get seriously hot by June. A few hundred or thousand kids packed into school on a day it gets past 80 degrees? Not a good idea.
posted by freakazoid at 8:20 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


As you've pointed out in ALL CAPS, year-round school doesn't help with this because it doesn't add any days to school, and hence doesn't add a single meal.

The total number of meals isn't really a good way to judge this, is it? When you get to eat is as important as how much you eat. Giving someone ten meals in ten days and then not giving them any food for a month is worse than giving them ten meals spread out over a month and ten days. That's obviously a simplification of the issue, but the principle holds, I think.

To me this is like the idea of Detroit selling its art collection: I can see the sense in it, and perhaps it's the best we can do, but it sure does feel like a failure.

But that's based on an assumption that long summer vacation is something that has value. I don't see that assumption as based on anything other than self-interpreted anecdotes. The actual data shows that when students take long summers off, they lose educational progress they've made. I'd rather base policy on that data than people's subject sense that they personally liked having long summers off.

A/C, too, is an issue for some school districts, but not others, which is why it makes sense to leave this up to the school district. Hell, there are probably agricultural school districts where it makes sense to let kids out to work in the fields. I've lived in communities where it would have made sense to let kids out for certain fishery related reasons (although they didn't do it, kids just skipped) There's a reason for this to be a local decision and not mandatory.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:26 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like what you're doing is something I actually run into a lot: reacting strongly against an idea that goes against what YOU did as a child, so strongly that you're refusing to allow the conversation about possible benefits of year-round schooling to go forward, or the practicalities of how such a thing is implemented, because until you're assured that YOUR child is exempt from any changes at all to your narrow preferences, you will present a parade of horribles and insist the districts are failing to serve middle-class children, with little knowledge of what sorts of educational programs serve middle-class students best either.
So here you go. YOUR CHILD will not be forced into year-round school.



For the record, this issue is completely irrelevant to MY CHILD (look! I can use shouty all-caps too!) I also support summer school where it's optional. It's a good option to have, and one that many parents want. The article which forms the bulk of the OP makes an argument for the value of mandatory year-round school for all - it seemed worth discussing the drawbacks to that idea, especially since several people in this thread have endorsed it, either in its pure form or only for majority high-need districts (which would mean every public-school student in those districts.)

I've said nothing about middle-class children, wealthy children, or children who are poor and doing fine: I'm reacting to several comments that seemed to justify mandatory year-round as the theoretical best option for all kids, based on the needs (some educational, some not) of the children who are absolutely worst off and may need school year-round as a service delivery system for things like nutrition. I don't think that argument holds water, and it's more helpful to target crisis services at people who are in need of them, while providing year-round school as an option for others.

Mdn:"I think once it's an option, it becomes the norm. Summer off has to be a cultural way of life to be sustained."

I'm not sure that that's true. After all, many districts already have summer sessions that are free and even mandatory for those who are falling behind. That doesn't seem to have much of an impact. Neither does, say, church camp, in areas where most kids do that. I don't think that an optional, supportive summer program for kids who need it would in any way interfere with the baseline idea of summer as personal or family time, or whatever. It would be an expansion of families' choices, and a drastic expansion for those with few or no other options. I am all for that: I am against the drastic decrease in family choices that would go with universal year-round school.
posted by Wylla at 8:32 AM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


long thread and I haven't read every comment, so apologies in advance if you've heard this already ....

My childhood was punctuated by strong and yes, happy, memories of long summer vacations. In their way, I'd say they really were some of the best times of my life. So include me among those who want to see things continued as they are ... just cuz.

But other notions have come up as I've thought about all of this. Summer camp has been mentioned, church camps, all manner of other summer activities. I can't help but feel that there's significant value in children having these kinds of experiences for a couple of months every year ... for disconnecting from that school community which defines the other ten months of their year, and trying something different, with different goals, managed and conducted by different people, comprised of different kids.

And so on. It feels to me that there's an awful lot of baby in this bathwater ...
posted by philip-random at 9:12 AM on July 26, 2013


But that's based on an assumption that long summer vacation is something that has value. I don't see that assumption as based on anything other than self-interpreted anecdotes. The actual data shows that when students take long summers off, they lose educational progress they've made.

There is value in just being a kid.
There are numerous studies that tout the value of unstructured time and even in this thread, we hear stories about the stressful testing life of a modern student.

I'd ask how can there _not_ be value in 2 months of possibility?

You are right though, it would be interesting to see a study or report on the relative "relaxation values" of a long break vs. many short ones.
Anecdotally, from my time as a child and now as an adult, 2 weeks seems like about 1 week of adjusting to being on vacation and then 1 week of dreading going back.
You don't even get a chance to be lazy before it's over.
posted by madajb at 9:26 AM on July 26, 2013


The actual data shows that when students take long summers off, they lose educational progress they've made.

The be-all and end-all of childhood does not distill down to educational progress. All sacrifices are not implicitly worthwhile simply because they improve childhood educational progress. We are a society filled largely with adults who somehow managed adequate educational progress while having summers off school as children.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:05 AM on July 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm a bit surprised by the people reacting so strongly against this because they don't want their children (real or hypothetical, I'm guessing more of the latter) to not have the same magical summers they remember from their youth.

Uh, guys, if you're in the Northern hemisphere, it is now summer. If summer is this magical time to be spent with kids, why aren't you off taking that great road trip to the Grand Canyon or planning your vacation to London instead of arguing on the internet?

I'm guessing it's because you're working. Just like you'll be doing if you have kids. And your kids will either pass the time goofing around or getting shuffled between babysitters/daycamps/relatives etc. Cutting into some of that goofing around/shuffling time with school won't hurt them.
posted by bgal81 at 10:39 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing it's because you're working. Just like you'll be doing if you have kids. And your kids will either pass the time goofing around or getting shuffled between babysitters/daycamps/relatives etc. Cutting into some of that goofing around/shuffling time with school won't hurt them.

I'm not sure how you remember school. I was not personally a huge fan of most of it. For me, there was lots and lots of boring repetition and downtime waiting around for other people. On the other hand, I built this airplane as a summer project. So yes, if my options are building working airplanes or doing hundreds more identical long division problems than I already spent the last 10 months doing, I think that skipping the former because the latter is now mandatory hurts.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:23 AM on July 26, 2013


Did anyone have a chance to look at the analysis I posted up thread? I was just wondering if, emotions aside, we could look at how beneficial this movement actually is to students.
posted by Biblio at 2:04 PM on July 26, 2013


Summer is an opportunity for kids to have OTHER educational opportunities as well as participate in much needed social development and play. The last thing we need is kids inside all day, all year, with no summers, and no chances to do summer camps, etc.

Just because some kids don't get to partake in those activities due to financial constraints or bad parenting doesn't mean the rest of them need to be punished by taking away their summers. Instead, we should subsidize and publicize programs for those who might not have the opportunities otherwise.

Also, we didn't have air conditioning in my schools, and May and September were miserable enough. I can't imagine trying to do anything productive in July.
posted by autobahn at 2:09 PM on July 26, 2013


Why have public school at all? Specifically, why require parents to send their kids to school? (Yes, I know, there's homeschooling and private school and other options, but public school is the default option, and upwards of 90% of US children attend public school.)

It seems pretty clear that children of wealthy and upper-middle class parents would get educated just fine if public school were simply abolished. In fact, if everyone got to keep all the money they currently pay in property taxes and such, I'd bet that the majority of kids could get the same or better education as they're getting in public schools now. At the very least, they'd be better off if there were a lot fewer school days, and they spent more time with private tutors and in enriching lessons and reading cool books with their well-educated parents who have time and energy to take them to the library.

But we have free, taxpayer-funded public education that is, more or less universal. And the reason we have it is because we've decided that we're willing to spend our money and resources and whatnot creating an educational safety net for everyone, even if it might be sub-optimal for kids who already have every possible advantage in life.

Is this different from that? If so, why?
posted by decathecting at 6:40 PM on July 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


many districts already have summer sessions ... church camp... optional, supportive summer program for kids who need it

Those kinds of programs are part of the point of having summers off, though - I'm all for summer-specific opportunities. I meant that if you start having year-round school as the norm in some districts - year round at the same place with the same people the whole way through for everyone, with a few mid-size breaks inserted at regular intervals - that could impact the expectation of summer off.

Year round is a simpler routine and in many ways it's just easier to organize the shorter breaks, but the whole point of having summers off is that you switch things up. It's a chance for kids to either go try out a totally different environment, or to figure out what to do on their own - make up games, build things, meet new people, explore their neighborhoods. Ending it means putting kids into a stricter regimen with less chance for unstructured, creative development. Basically, less risk but less reward...

But that's based on an assumption that long summer vacation is something that has value... The actual data shows... they lose educational progress they've made.

You know "are you smarter than a fifth grader"? People are going to lose that "educational progress" anyway unless they are personally very invested in it and follow through on it because it's their own area of specialty. It's more important to let people find what that area of interest really is than to try to force them to maintain an artificial level of educational progress. Summer is a great time to explore actual curiosity.

If summer is this magical time to be spent with kids,

It's a magical time for kids. It doesn't have to be with kids... I'm thinking Moonrise Kingdom, or Stand By Me, rather than a chevy chase Vacation... Self-directed learning and adventure. What's magical for kids isn't necessarily going somewhere new. It's just a chance to be free, to play, to explore, to dream, to wonder. I mean, it's to be a kid. And sure, it's different in some neighborhoods, but

your kids will either pass the time goofing around

Yeah, that's the idea.
posted by mdn at 1:09 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


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