The most serious failing of our K-12 system is rarely addressed because it would cost money to fix it and we can’t have that, can we? It’s that we still break for a three-month summer recess. That made sense for me as a farm boy in the ’50s, and I probably learned more on the back of a tractor than you city kids did watching Captain Kangaroo. But we aren’t a rural society any more — and a nine-month school year doesn’t even adequately cover the baby-sitting role of schools. That’s critical because it’s not the ’50s anymore and single-parent and/or two wage-earner families are now the norm.
We can’t go on with the nine-month school year. It’s time to go to 11 months. Yes, that means paying teachers more and also finding another way to handle their continuing education, since summer school won’t be so easy for them. But as long as we cling to a 19-th century school year model, we will fail to properly educate kids for the 21st century.

  • I agree with you completely, Bob. In fact, it’s less critical that we increase the amount of actual time that kids spend in the classroom (though that would be a good thing to do) than that we spread out their time in the classroom more evenly over the course of the year. The loss of momentum, the amount of last year’s learning that is forgotten over summer break, means that much of the time back in the classroom in the Fall is eaten up re-learning what the kids had learned the Spring before.

    And this exaccerbates the inequities in our education system, because the children of professional parents generally receive more educational maintenance over the summer months than the children of parents of humbler means, a supposition borne out by statistical comparisons of the summer brain-drain across socioeconomic classes.

    Money isn’t the only obstacle: Parents and teachers are obstacles as well. Parents generally oppose a year-round calender because it interferes with their family summer vacation plans, and teachers because it interferes with the recuperation time they have come to consider indispensible (for not entirely difficult to understand reasons, if you consider what it’s like to work with kids day in and day out, expected to successfully educate a roomfull of either short-attention-span tots or raging-hormone teens each and every day).

    In reality, it’s just one more example of “path dependence,” which is the general phenomenon of having invested (materially, psychologically, or social institutionally) in a certain way of doing things, and then facing overwhelming transformation costs when contemplating what is obviously a more effective and efficient way of doing things.

    It’s going to take a lot to get past this particular obstacle, but it’s one we really need to strive mightily to get past. It’s long past time to institute a year-round calender, in every school district.

    (Great to see you here, Bob! Welcome.)

  • Bob Ewegen:

    Maybe we need to go to the French system and basically shut the country down in August so everyone goes on vacation;-)
    Seriously, I understand the parent/teacher objection. But maybe we could space the breaks better, since we’d still have a four-week summer break. Workers , even those lucky enough to get four weeks paid vacation, usually have to put in for them well in advance. Maybe (in larger districts) have group 1 off in June, group two in July, group three in August, or something like that.
    As for teachers, with a year round school, we might reorganize on a quarter system. Then teachers could have three months off, just not necessary the same three months. Then, teacher training programs could adapt to that quarter system as well (DU used to work on a quarter system.)
    In any event, your path dependence comment is quite to the point. BTW, are you taking the Bar? or did you take it and are still waiting for results?

  • Planning on taking it in February. In fact, the window for filling out the Bar application just openned up at the beginning of the month, so that’s one more task I need to attend to.

    The rolling vacations idea is good, but has one drawback that a participant on the parallel conversation on Facebook brought up (unfortunately, when I post links to CC discussions on my Facebook page, the conversation ends up bifurcated between CC and Facebook!): Parents with multiple kids can end up with kids who have vacations at different times (logistically, that would be pretty hard to avoid).

    But bringing up all ideas and examining them is the way to get to the best policies, all things considered. You have to consider all things first!

    (I still owe you a beer).

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