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Ask Dr. Lynch: Pros and Cons of Year-Round Schools

EducationWorld Q&A columnist Dr. Matthew Lynch is an associate professor of education at Langston University. Dr. Lynch provides expert advice on everything from classroom management to differentiated instruction. Read all of his columns here, and be sure to submit your own question.

Dr. Matthew Lynch

This week, reader Virginia S. asks:

I am considering taking an accounting job with a district that has year-round schools. Since I am unfamiliar with the concept, I would like to know what the benefits and drawbacks are. My husband and I have three school-aged children, and we want to do what's best for them.

ANSWER:

Virginia,first of all, congratulations on the job offer. I know it must be difficult for you and your husband to consider exposing your children to something that is unfamiliar. In this column, I will explain the benefits and drawbacks of year-round schools, which will help you make a more informed decision concerning your job offer.

Many school districts around the country are in fact working toward extending the school year. As far as the benefits of year-round schools, the shift in the time designated for teaching and learning helps students achieve more by minimizing summer learning loss, allowing for innovation and implementation of creative programs, and providing the time needed to assist children who require extra help.

Research seems to back up these claims, showing that time may be the most essential resource of the education system. It is important to recognize, however, that extending the school year is not a panacea for improving student performance. It is necessary to utilize the available time in the best possible manner. If educators fail to convert the available time to quality teaching and learning time, the increased school year will not improve student performance.

While I have pointed out the many benefits of a longer school year, there are also some drawbacks. The major drawback is the assumed detriment to family structure. American families have become accustomed to the traditional long summer vacation. Parents may find it difficult to schedule vacations and family reunions. This concern is not to be dismissed, as it is important to children’s development to spend quality time with their families.

Childcare could also become a concern, particularly if multiple, shorter school vacations are scheduled throughout the year, at times when parents are working. Extracurricular activities are another dimension of schooling that can be negatively influenced by year-round schooling. Teachers managing extracurricular activities have sometimes experienced difficulties adapting these activities to a year-round schedule.

Another area of concern is a year-round schedule’s effect on school administration. School leaders have sometimes found it difficult to deal with teacher licensure and contractual issues when working out schedules. It also can be difficult to plan the optimal use of school buildings. In addition, year-round schools mean administrators must keep working throughout the year, if they don’t already.

At the end of the day, you have to compare and contrast the benefits and drawbacks of year-round schools in the context of your family’s situation. Do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks or vice versa? I hope my column will assist you and your husband in making an informed decision. Good luck, and let me know how it goes.

 

About Dr. Lynch

Dr. Matthew Lynch is a Chair and Associate Professor of Education at Langston University and a blogger for the Huffington Post. Dr. Lynch also is the author of the newly released book It’s Time for a Change: School Reform for the Next Decade and A Guide to Effective School Leadership Theories. Please visit his Web site for more information.

If you have a question for “Ask Dr. Lynch,” submit it here. Topics can be anything education-related, from classroom management to differentiated instruction.


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