Year-round school calendars have no academic benefit

Experts warn districts: “Don’t do it”

Cambridge, Massachusetts, UNITED STATES


Cambridge, Massachusetts, Oct. 25, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Year-round school calendars do not increase academic performance and pose a host of logistical problems that are hard for schools and parents to solve, Paul T. von Hippel (University of Texas at Austin) and Jennifer Graves (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) report in a new article for Education Next.

As some states are looking at year-round school calendars to recoup lost learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic, rigorous research on nearly one thousand public schools in the United States reveals that “balanced” calendars fail to raise academic achievement, and significantly complicate life for working parents and teachers.

“To school leaders who hope that changing calendars can undo pandemic learning loss, we offer this advice: Don’t do it. The case for year-round school calendars rests on several myths or misunderstandings,” von Hippel and Graves write.

Von Hippel and Graves present evidence on the impact of following a year-round calendar on student reading and math scores, as well as the impact that switching between a nine-month and year-round calendar have on student test scores.

Read the article on educationnext.org.

Among the key findings:

  • “Balanced” school calendars don’t equal more learning time. Compared to traditional nine-month school calendars, year-round calendars feature shorter summer vacations and longer breaks throughout the year. The most common, the “45/15” balanced calendar, divides 180 school days into four 45-day quarters, separated by and three 15-day breaks and a monthlong summer vacation.
  • Fewer schools are following year-round calendars. Nationwide, the percentage of U.S. public schools that follow a year-round calendar has steadily declined. It fell by half between 1999-2000 and 2017-18, from 6 percent of all schools to 3 percent.
  • Summer academic “boost” at year-round schools fades during the school year. Kindergarten and first grade students attending year-round schools learn more during the summer compared to their peers at schools following the traditional nine-month calendar. However, the gap shrinks over the next nine-months, when students at schools with traditional calendars spend more time in class.
  • Year-round calendars pose logistical difficulties for parents and teachers. Parents often have difficulties planning work schedules and vacations if they have some kids in year-round schools and others in schools that follow a nine-month calendar. Women of school-age children are also less likely to enter the workforce in counties where many schools have adopted a year-round calendar.

“Instead of adopting disruptive, distracting, and ineffective school calendars, school leaders can leave calendars alone and focus on interventions that research suggests can work: improving curriculum, bolstering instruction, making effective use of technology, and offering targeted supports, like high-dosage tutoring for the children furthest behind,” von Hippel and Graves write.  

About the Authors: Paul T. von Hippel is professor and associate dean for research in the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a longtime researcher on summer learning who last summarized the evidence on year-round calendars in a 2015 book chapter. Jennifer Graves is associate professor of economics at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. She has published eight studies about the effects of year-round calendars.

About Education Next: Education Next is a scholarly journal committed to careful examination of evidence relating to school reform, published by the Education Next Institute and the Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School. For more information, please visit educationnext.org.

 

Contact Data