As kids and their parents gear up for the new school year, some families are ahead of the game, quite literally. What’s their secret? Year-round school!
Also called a ‘balanced’ or ‘modified’ year school, the subject serves up plenty of opportunity for discussion and debate. Those that are part of the system love it. Some have even moved house to avail of the opportunity. Others like the idea of stemming the summer loss of learning but aren’t quite sure of what it would do to their scheduling. It’s a valid concern, especially if you have children in elementary and high school. After all it is not easy maintaining different schedules, plus we are also used to winding down in the summer.
From an educational point of view, there is little debate that it has its advantages. Research shows that most children experience some amount of summer learning loss (especially in reading and mathematics) which results in teachers spending more time in reviews and recaps than learning new things when school resumes in the fall. My son’s art teacher already intimated me about getting him to do some drawing exercises so that he is not rusty when classes resume!
Certain studies also point out that students who are struggling with literacy as well as those with little access to books or any other type of stimulating material during vacation time may suffer a significant setback. Some may never recover from it. Researchers believe that the cumulative effect of summer learning loss on these disadvantaged students over the years could lead to a two-third achievement gap by Grade 9 when compared to their peers who are engaged in continuous learning.
No doubt family resources played a large role in the degree of summer learning loss. Those that can afford camps, summer courses or educational trips are less likely to be impacted. For other kids that are left to their own devices, school provides the only opportunity to learn.
Summer learning loss aside, advocates of the balanced-year system also prefer the smaller breaks during the year. Both children and their parents say that it gives them a chance to recoup and re-energize.
Why don’t we have more year-round schools? Some educational experts say results of studies on the pros and cons of year-around schools is not conclusive enough to expand the program.
As a parent, I am quite familiar with summer learning loss and made sure my sons engaged in learning activities for at least an hour or two everyday (except the weekend) during the summer time when they were in elementary school. When they progressed to grade 9, I was thankful for the summer school programs they could take advantage of and encouraged them to earn extra credits. I’m not sure they were happy about it, but they did it anyway. My older son benefited when he decided to switch programs in university. The alternative would have been to go back to high school.
In the absence of year-around programs, it might be worthwhile to offer elementary students similar opportunities through their respective school boards. The current program, at least in the Dufferin Peel Catholic School Board, is restricted to kids who need the extra help. Considering camps and other programs offered in the community or school district are more affordable, many kids and their families might be able to use it and thereby reduce the learning gap.