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Balanced School Year: Reduces Summer Learning Loss

2387 words - 10 pages

The BC Ministry of Education recently allowed for flexibility in how school districts choose to organize their school calendars. BC School Districts currently follow a traditional school year calendar with students attending school approximately 190 days, most with a two week break in winter and spring and two months off during the summer months. “This model was very practical when the school calendar was designed to accommodate children with the needs of an agricultural economy” (qtd in Webb 5), and can be “described by some as outdated and irrelevant in today’s society” (Winter 401). A balanced school year calendar, also referred to as a modified school year and year round school, would maintain the same number of instructional days, but would evenly distribute breaks throughout the year. The literature and research available on the balanced school year is mostly American, with a few Canadian sources. This research indicates that those in support of this type of calendar see many benefits, but the most strongly supported with evidence is the reduction of summer learning loss experienced by students, especially for English as a second language (ESL) and low income students. For those who oppose the balanced school year, some believe summer learning loss does not exist and some strongly argue that changing the school calendar is only warranted with proof of increased academic achievement for students.
The Vancouver School Board is considering implementing a calendar change; in a June 2010 memorandum sent for review, “Balanced School Calendars: Pros and Cons” by Superintendent of Schools Steve Cardwell, the report summary states “the ever changing composition and needs of the students in this district make it reasonable to question whether a traditional school calendar remains the most beneficial option for our students” (1). The report summary provides the rationale for the calendar change of three Ontario schools and five BC schools (including two neighbouring Richmond schools) that have moved away from the traditional school year calendar. Although the literature and research on the balanced school year offers little proof of increased academic achievement for students, it does provide ample evidence that summer learning loss exists for students following a traditional school year; the Vancouver School Board should view the evidence as sufficient grounds to implement a balanced school year calendar in some of their schools before deciding if it is the right decision for all the schools in the Vancouver school district.
A balanced school year would help alleviate summer learning loss by providing a more continuous flow of instruction, reducing the amount of forgetting that occurs and reducing the time needed to review material upon beginning a new school year. After a two month summer break most children are excited to return to school to see their friends; however, many teachers find those first four to six weeks in...

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