The first day back to school for SD46 was full of excitement, anticipation, and promise.
This time of year also seems to inevitably spark conversations about the length of summer vacations in our school system. There are a growing number of advocates for a “balanced” school year: one that minimizes the length of breaks while maintaining the number of instructional days in the school year, in an attempt to reduce the “learning loss” that seems to occur over long school breaks.
In recent times many districts have been implementing changes in school calendars, but have been doing so in an effort to save money rather than to improve academic performance. Changes from this angle generally mean having less actual days in school, while having each day a bit longer to make up the required minutes of instruction over the school year. Personally I wouldn’t want to consider going this route: it’s educationally unsound and the actual monetary savings are unclear.
If, however, there is an alternative school calendar that is educationally advantageous, and will be a direct benefit to children, than it seems irresponsible to not take a closer look at it. I’m not advocating for such a change, but I think we should consider options.
As a parent I’m not particularly concerned about the “Lasting Consequences of the Summer Learning Gap”. Being aware of the necessity to continue practicing the things we learn I don’t find it that hard to continue to do some reading, writing, and arithmeticking with my kids over the summer. But as a Trustee and someone who has worked for many years with vulnerable, at-risk children, many of whom have learning disabilities and other challenges, it seems like an issue worthy of discussion.
Most would agree that the longer we go without practicing or reviewing new material, the less we will retain. It’s not clear, though, about how long is too long or what the impact of reduced gaps in the school calendar will be.
The graphics above show a simple comparison of the difference between the “Traditional” calendar and a “Balanced” model taken from the website of the National Association For Year-Round Education.
For a different (opposite) perspective on the matter see the website Summer Matters.
While the actual benefits of a balanced calendar are not crystal clear, it does seem logical that minimizing the gaps between formal learning will benefit students. And, while it would initially be a huge change for most of us, I don’t (so far) see any clear drawbacks to a more balanced school year.
But I’m happy to be enlightened! I look forward to hearing from all those involved in the public education system on this concept.