Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Should Schools be Open 12 Months a Year?

During a visit to a school in Denver, Colorado, United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told his audience, "You're competing for jobs with kids from India and China. I think schools should be open six, seven days a week; 11, 12 months a year" (see the related article on Denver's local news at As I read his comment, it sparked my curiosity enough to do some investigating on the topic of calendar modification as it relates to student achievement. Based on my quick review, substantial evidence does not directly support a modified school schedule. An AERA published article says it this way: "Thus it would be inappropriate to suggest that the current evidence indicates that modified calendars have a significantly positive impact on achievement, in the practical sense" (Cooper, Valentine, Charlton, & Melson, 2003).  The authors further mention that a longitudinal study on the topic of calendar modification is needed to more closely examine the cumulative effects of such a change (pg. 43).  Likewise, Cooper and his colleagues further identified the reality that calendar modification tends to benefit student from economically disadvantaged backgrounds more than others.  In large part this is due to the realities that students in such environments are less likely to participate in extra-curricular activities (e.g., going to the zoo, park, museum, or vacation) as compared to those with a more affluent home life.

To my knowledge, Secretary Duncan has not expanded on his comment in order to shed more light on the types of reform such a reality could bring.  Will all students be attending this schedule if it is implemented?  Will teachers receive more pay for their continued dedication and hard work?

I seriously doubt many students will be in favor of such a change, especially if they are already working hard to meet the demands of an accountability-driven, standards based system. Educational quality is improving because of such accountability-based reforms, but does that mean our system should also modify the quantity of education for all students.  Until Secretary Duncan shares more insight about his suggested reforms, what do you think about modifying the current educational calendar?  

Cooper, H., Valentine, J. C., Charlton, K., & Melson, A. (2003).  The effects of modified school calendars on student achievement and on school and community attitudes.  Review of Educational Research.  73(1), 1-52.

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