There’s a long-standing joke that the three best reasons to be a teachers are June, July and August, meaning the three (or so) months of the year that most teachers don’t work (thought it should be mentioned that many teachers teach summer school, attend continuing education classes, or hold a second job during the summer months). However, with the rise year-round schools, this joke may not be so prevalent in a few decades. Plenty of arguments have been in favor of and against year-round schools, and while it may be difficult to decide which school year is truly the best, it’s worth considering the arguments for and against.
One of the strongest arguments for year-round school is that not having students be out of class for a full (or nearly full) three months will increase retention and cut down on the amount of review teachers will need to do at the beginning of the year. This is probably especially useful for math teachers, who don’t necessarily want to begin a year of teachingAP Calculus by reviewing what students learned the previously year in pre-calculus.
Not every subject builds directly upon previously mastered skills as much as math does, however. While a book like To Kill a Mockingbird may be considered ninth grade level (for the sake of argument; it can be taught at a variety of grade levels), and A Separate Peace might be generally assigned during the tenth grade, it’s not impossible for a student to read, process and benefit from A Separate Peace if he doesn’t remember the key characters and themes of To Kill a Mockingbird. Additionally, reading comprehension skills are easier for a student to keep up during the summer months, especially if a teacher assigns a summer reading list, as many choose to do.
Of course, the education doesn’t just happen in the classroom. Many students attend a variety of camps throughout the summer, focusing on leadership, religion, journalism, drama, athletics and more. These camps can teach students valuable social skills that they may not gain in a traditional classroom setting. Additionally, students who need to work to help support their families may relish in the opportunity to work more hours during in the summer when they don’t have classes and homework to focus on. The traditional school year was determined by the harvest season, giving students the time off school that they needed to help their parents on the farm.
Many European schools function on a year-round schedule, giving students a week or two weeks off every six weeks or so, with the standard vacation time around the Christmas and Easter holidays, and six to eight weeks off for “summer vacation.”
Currently, standardized tests like the SAT and the AP exams are scheduled based upon a traditional school year’s schedule, operating under the assumption that students will still be in school in late April and early May. Obviously, students who were on break could still take those exams, but it looks like that, at least according to the powers that be over at the Educational Testing Service, the September-to-June (or August-to-May) school year isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.