Should Virginia secondary schools move to a year-round schedule or not?
Earlier on, majority of American families relied on farming as the main source of income. Everyone in the family therefore had an implicit obligation to help in the farms and it was from this mentality that the school calendars were formulated. The three summer months of June, July and August were scheduled for vacation from formal education to meet the agricultural needs. However, there has been a very significant decline in the farming community in America and therefore continuing to rely on the calendar inspired by the agrarian lifestyle is outdated.
The other reason why the agrarian calendar is still in use today is because of the extreme humidity and heat during summer, which with the absence of sufficient air conditioning schools may not be able to deliver the education scheduled for the summer season. Air conditioning is no longer an issue with many secondary schools in Virginia given the current state of technology and the affordability of equipment used for the purpose thereof. With the adoption of the year-round program, schools will be required to equip for the schedule, something that is not going to make a very major difference given that air conditioning is already a regular routine in many places.
Research has shown that the school schedule with a summer vacation encourages forgetting among students due to the long break (Woodward 4). The system also encourages underperformance and absenteeism from school by teachers and students due to burnout occasioned by fatigue. With more frequent vacations as provided for in the year-round schedule, this would be reduced significantly. Considering a social perspective to this argument, most parents are allowed no more than a two weeks vacation in a year and therefore summer schooling will not necessarily intrude into family vacations as others may have argued. Students should be given mini-vacations in different seasons to allow them refresh their minds and continue with studies before they can forget what they had already learnt just before the vacation.
According to Woodward (8) the first month of the traditional school year is spent on reviewing previously learnt materials as students acclimatize back to the school schedule after the long summer vacation. This time will be reduced significantly if the year-round schedule is adopted as students will be resuming studies with the previously learnt content still fresh in their mind which would give more time to educators to teach new content. In fact, in 1987, positive results were reported at a secondary school in Virginia which had been on a year-round program for ten years: results in the Science Research Associates reached or even surpasses the national average since the time the program had been implemented in the school.
In the previous years, the year-round schedule has been used successfully to solve the problem of overcrowding in schools. The schedule is not the solution to improvement in performance, actually researchers have shown that schools only realize improvement if they make improvement their primary concern (Woodward 10). However, given the same effort in both schedules, the year-round schedule has a tendency to produce significant improvement in performance among teachers and students. It is the easier schedule to implement because teachers and students have sufficient time to rest and are therefore free from fatigue. I would therefore recommend the year-round schedule for adoption by the secondary schools in Virginia due to the many benefits it holds.
Woodward, Allison C. Effects of School Calendars on Student Achievement and Retention. Valdosta State University, December, 1995.