For an instructive read on what is driving ill-conceived
and disruptive school reforms such as school calendar change read:
absurd to suggest that children aren’t learning
BULLETIN: A comprehensive research paper by the editor of SummerMatters is now posted on this website. The Politics & Marketing of Year-Round School was presented to the Florida Political Science Association in 2003.
Think HARDabout the consequences of year-round school because . . .summer matters to
(I hope the 40,000-plus people who read this website each week will similarly write you about their concerns.)
worked my heart out to get you elected!!
Please reverse your support
for this idea, as you did recently on having veterans get health care from
private insurance. Our veterans deserve better and so do children
and families. Please save our summers.
A Big FAN of yours
who is losing confidence over your
school reform proposal
Year-Round School Calendar Has Failed To Pass The Test For 100 Years
As a Florida Democratic Party activist, as one who contributed much
time and as much money as I could afford to the Obama campaign, and as an
expert on school calendar issues (I have been studying this since 1992 and
am about to finish a book on the subject), I IMPLORE President
Obama to re-examine his support for a year-round school calendar.
Parents and teachers go to war over this issue like nothing else I have
observed in my 25-plus years as a journalist (I am now retired and devote
my spare time to doing communications for the Duval County, FL, Democratic
Party--the county that helped clinch Florida's electoral votes).
Certainly, the President's embrace of the year-round school calendar has
caused me to wonder about the other advisors who surround him and shaken
my confidence in his administration. None of his advisors could
possibly have spent as much time as I have examining this issue. I
doubt any have a 40-foot wall of research to back their support FOR
calendar change as I have to back my argument AGAINST a year-round school
Please restore my confidence by at least requesting in a reply to this
note that I e-mail you a copy of my research paper and by spending some
time looking at some of my research posted at www.SummerMatters.com.
I would also be happy to e-mail some of the chapters from my forthcoming
Note: This Web site was launched in June
2001. It is updated with new information as time allows. If you need immediate assistance on school
calendar issues, you can reach Billee Bussard, editor of
SummerMatters.com, at (904)
249-2468, or send a detailed e-mail about your needs to:
|Continuous Learning Calendar|
|Early school start|
|Extended school year|
Over the last three decades, calendar changes have been slipped into many communities with little or no discussion, often through incremental changes each year that push school start dates into mid-summer.
But mounting evidence against year-round school and its education detriments is forcing policy-makers to back away from school calendar change. This may explain the aggressive tone by a school calendar change agent in a speech at the annual convention (Feb. 5-9, 2005) of the National Association of Year-Round Education, a year-round school advocacy group. The NAYRE board member advises end-justifies-the-means approaches to force communities on a year-round calendar, including bait-and-switch tactics and pounding opponents hard.
See the speech and commentary at:
The speaker, Dr. John Hodge Jones, recommends little
children attend school on shifts, like factory workers, in an interview
with a Tennessee newspaper. He is the same man who chaired a national
study committee on time and learning which produced the federally funded Prisoner's of Time studies in 1994. Curiously,
Tennessee has been slow to adopt a calendar Jones has pushed, as has
another prominent politician from that state, former Gov. Lamar Alexander,
who as U.S. Secretary of Education for President Bush 41 promoted school
calendar change. But Tennessee residents have fiercely resisted, the
latest opposition (December 2005) coming from the Nashville area.
Williamson County parents opposed to the "balanced calendar" have launched an excellent website that is a good guide for other opposition groups.
They also produced a button (see below) for parents to wear to go along with a campaign that emphasizes the traditional school calendar is a pro-family calendar. The button can be purchased at: www.Affordablebuttons.com or by calling (888) 603-0308.
California, which has been a
barometer state for education trends and has led the nation in year-round
school experiments, is returning to the traditional school calendar as
quickly as possible. See:
Trend turns toward traditional schedule
by Joe Tone, The Record
There also has been a voter rebellion against
year-round school calendars in Texas, which became the second
largest year-round school state in the nation while George W. Bush
was governor. Year-round school experiments were part of school reforms
recommended by his father, President Bush 41, resulting in a wave
of calendar experiments in the 1990s, which were also supported by Lamar
Alexander, his education secretary. Multitrack calendars were recommended
by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003 to address a voter mandate for
Year-round school was conspicuously absent from the 2004 Democratic Party Platform. The 2000 platform encouraged more experiments with schools of choice, charter schools and year-round schools. While charter schools and school choice remained in the 2004 platform, year-round school was dropped.
A recent study by the Nevada Department of Education found children at year-round schools scored lower on high-stakes tests. The stop-and-start year-round calendar not only breaks learning continuity, it actually robs children of instructional days, according to a Nevada Department of Education study. See:
Year-round schools had
fewer days for studying before tests
by Emily Richmond, LAS VEGAS SUN http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/lv-ed/2004/jul/23/517223063.html
In the early 1990s, year-round school was touted as a way to break the “psychological barrier” of the long summer break and “pave the way for more days to be added on an incremental basis in the future,” according to authors of Year-Round Education: Restructuring Schools to complement a Changing Economy. See: Southern Growth Policies Board (January 1992) “Year-Round Education: Restructuring Schools to complement a changing economy.” Research Triangle Park, N.C. p. 7.)
A Winter 1999 issue of a newsletter by
NAYRE, the year-round
school advocacy group, notes that incremental moves of many school
districts to earlier school start dates that shrink summer vacation to as
few as 9 weeks are precursors of schools headed toward a year-round
Whether or not you have
school-age children or grandchildren, you need to become informed about
school calendar reforms that shrink summer because they come with
serious social and economic consequences that impact everyone,
and especially those households where both parents work. And in this day
and age of unstable oil prices, the extra costs of cooling classrooms in
the dog days of summer significantly impacts school budgets. For example,
an energy study released in January 2003 by the Oklahoma City School
District found a later start date of just two weeks, from Aug. 18 to Sept.
2, could save the district $150,000 in utility costs. (See:
The Oklahoman, July 7, 2003, It's back to school for nearly 1,000 city
students, by Michael Bratcher.)
BE SURE TO READ:
The Top 10 Reasons
A Traditional School Calendar
Works Best for America
found at the end of this page
Education Turmoil & Inequities: For a good idea of the education turmoil year-round school creates, and the education inequities it fosters read the expert witness testimony and the depositions in the Williams v. State of California case before the Superior Court of San Francisco
The state has agreed to phase out the multitrack calendar as part of its settlement in the lawsuit, which named the year-round calendar among the education detriments disproportionately imposed on minority children. For a summary of the settlement see:
Editorial Sacramento Bee 2004-08-23
Detriments: For a report on the detrimental economic impact of calendar change in one
state see: http://www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/ssd/
For data on the economic importance of the tourism industry to the U.S. economy see: http://www.TourismandMore.com/). Also see a new report from the University of South Carolina. (see: Noteworthy)
For a good article on the importance of summer family activities on school achievement and performance see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A51889-2002Jan15.html
For a glimpse of some of the allies of year-round education, many of them enemies of public education, see: http://www.educationindustry.org/links/
The National Association for Year-Round Education, the prime promoter of year-round school, is one of the preferential "links" on the Education Industry Association's page of "links"--on a list of "Related Education/Political Organizations" that include private school, charter school and other groups that want public schools privatized. (Link was on the list as of Feb. 14, 2004.) Ask yourself why, of the multitude of education groups, NAYRE is singled out by the Education Industry Association. Is it because damage year-round school does to public education results in parents placing children in private schools or charter schools? Board members of the Education Industry Association are heavy with those who hope to profit by dismantling public education and privatizing it.
There are serious education
consequences of school calendar change. A California grand jury noted in a
report issued in late July 2001 a huge gap in test scores between
year-round schools and traditional calendar schools. It recommended the
Los Angeles Unified School District investigate to see if the year-round
calendar is to blame for low scores, as many principals suggested.
(Click on What's New for details.)
If you are new to this issue, commentaries on several of our pages will bring you up to speed quickly. See:
Calendar Accountability: Put to the test, school calendar change fails a remedy for improving education. (See Article Below).
School calendar reforms are bad medicine
Keep education reform focus on quality instruction time. (Click on Extended Year).
A MUST-READ on this website is the page labeled The Reject List (click on the page in the upper left corner). Evidence of the widespread failure and dissatisfaction with calendar reforms that shrink the school summer vacation is documented in an ever-expanding, state-by-state list of school districts that opted for a traditional calendar after trying or considering the year-round calendar.
thing year-round school promoters fear the most is people getting the
facts about its track record. They even recommend holding small informational meetings
that will limit exposure to the detriments and dangers.
A calendar change proposal is often suddenly thrust upon a community during the most hectic times of the year for parents, such as around Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter holidays, which makes it difficult to find time to react or to do research.
The following excerpt from a paper presented to the Florida Political Science Association March 2003 documents the strategy recommended by year-round school promoters to covert the school calendar.
FEAR PARENTS LEARNING FACTS
By Billee Bussard
The Politics and Marketing of Year-Round School
In their list of strategies for implementing year-round school, the National Association For Year-Round Education warns school district policymakers to limit informational meetings to small groups, which limits exposure to the negatives on the year-round calendar.
"We advise districts not to start out with a large meeting at the onset. All it does is give a few people a large forum in which to voice their complaints," said the coordinator of the Florida's year-round school pilot program in Marion County, Florida. "If we had to do it over, we would not have held a large general meeting in the beginning and instead have held smaller group meetings. It was the worst thing we ever did." (Nelson, A., Morell, D., Howard, G.N. (1993). Project LEAD: Year-Round Education: An organizational system which supports total quality Education. Office of Organizational Development and Educational Leadership, Florida Department of Education.)
Valley View Superintendent Ken Hermansen attributes his series of small "kaffee klatches" and person-to-person contacts with the acceptance of the year-round school proposal in the 1970s. "It is noteworthy that the superintendent of schools accepted 60 invitations to talk with small neighborhood groups (in addition to service clubs and churches) over a period of 18 months to explain the year-round school program." (Hermansen, K.L., Gove, J. (1971). The year-round school: The 45-15 breakthrough. Hamden, CN: Linnet Books. )
Political strategies to gain public support for and to implement the year-round school concept were discussed at length by the year-round school "renaissance" writers of the 1970s as well as year-round school leaders in the 1990s.
In fact, a 6-page article in the 16-page fall 1993 quarterly newsletter of the National Association For Year-round Education, focused on the political strategy. The article, "Making it Happen: How to Handle the Politics of Year-Round Education," was written by Patrick McDaniel, who was in the embarrassing position of seeing his own Albuquerque, New Mexico, school district cut a large segment of its year-round schools as he served as NAYRE president in 1993. (McDaniel, P. (1993, fall). Making it happen; How to handle the politics of year-round education. The Year-Rounder, San Diego, CA.)
McDaniel, as year-round school leaders before him, attempts to dismiss opposition to school calendar change as a simple matter of resistance to change. "The change in the school calendar that we are proposing…threatens the very structure of life for many people." To counter that resistance, he suggests focusing on and marketing to the 50 percent of the people who typically are either ambivalent and/or neutral when change is proposed. McDaniel outlines an 11-point strategy for the smooth implementation of year-round school that might be interpreted this way:
---Select strong leaders to sell the idea. [Weed out the weak links.]
---Put early focus on district policymakers. [Sell the power structure before you sell the people.]
---Clarifying the rationale for community buy-in. [Identify and focus on the need/problem that calendar change will answer.]
---Borrow strategies used in political campaigns to win people over. "Be aware of various groups and their influence and gain their active cooperation."
---Develop a public relations strategy immediately.
---"Develop an implementation strategy…voluntary vs. mandatory, gradual vs. immediate implementation, total district or partial district, elementary, secondary or K-12" and then stick with it.
---"Be aware of the dynamics of change…questions of pacing."
---Make sure your staff has bought in. "One thing is clear: year-round education cannot be successful of the school and district staffs are undermining or sabotaging implementation efforts."
---Avoid making the claims that the year-round "calendar is the be-all and end-all of education" even though we know it is. Emphasize, instead that "it is an instructional schedule that provides opportunities for continuous learning that can benefit students."
---Emphasize the potential of year-round education, and its compatibility with contemporary life. "After all, if the nine-month calendar is so effective, why is it not used in business and industry or virtually anywhere else in the industrialized world," McDaniel says. [Or another way he might have said it: Why shouldn't raising kids and educating them be approached more like a business?]
---"Take the time to plan." [Or make sure you have everything in place---take 1 to 2 years doing it-so you won't get shot down.]
SECTOR PUTS ON PRESSURE
FOR SCHOOL CALENDAR CHANGE
It is important to understand that the business community and the nation's powerbrokers, which are powerful influences over and fund BOTH political parties, are applying pressure for school calendar change to school boards, school superintendent, school administrators, principals and teachers across the nation--and especially the politicians who make policies for public schools. They provide funding for organizations that produce reports in favor of school calendar tinkering. Curiously, the most recent reports ignore the disastrous impact of the year-round calendar as provided in testimony in 2003 and 2004 from the Williams v. California lawsuit.
The Business Round Table, an organization of CEOs from the nation's largest corporations, has made a longer school year and school day part of its school reform agenda.
For an instructive read on the role of the Business Round Table in school reforms damaging to families and children read: Why is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools? by Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian. The book can be ordered at:
Some see such a move as a means to provide a babysitting infrastructure in schools, which will make it easier for corporations to demand longer workdays and workweeks. Corporations increase profits by working employees longer and harder because they avoid paying benefit packages of new hires.
American corporations already demand a longer work year and workweek than any of its industrial competitors. Did you know. . . ?
parents worked a longer workweek than counterparts in European
mean of 80.1 hours for America’s parents in the early 1990s,
compared to just 72.1 hours in Germany and 71.3 hours in the United
Kingdom. (Jacobs, J.A., Gornick, J.C. (March 2001). Hours
of Paid Work in Dual-Earner Couples: The U.S. in Cross-National
Perspective. Earlier draft of this paper was the keynote address
at the North Central Sociological Meeting, March 2000)
|By 1997, nearly 40 percent of Americans worked a 50-hour workweek? The workweek of the average salaried American (working 20 hours or more) jumped from 43 to 47 hours between 1977 and 1997. The numbers of those who put in 50 hours jumped from 24 to 37 percent between 1977 and 1997. (Lardner, J. (Dec. 20, 1999). World-class Workaholics, U.S. News & World Report.)|
It just so happens that both The Business Round Table and the National Council on Year-Round Education, forerunner group of the National Association for Year-Round Education, were established in 1972. Could it be that year-round school is an incremental move toward longer workweeks for all Americans?
For insight on how the business sector uses political leaders to move the school calendar change agenda read "The Year-Round Mess" at: http://www.substancenews.com/Mambo/content/view/294/83/ The story illustrates the callous disregard of damning evidence against school calendar change by Chicago Mayor Daley, a Democrat, who has been given ultimate authority over the operation of schools. Daley is pushing for some 140 Chicago schools that largely serve children of color to a multitrack calendar under the guise of improving school performance and as necessary for Americans to be able to compete in a global economy. His proposal ignores the preponderance of evidence presented in the Williams v. California lawsuit against the multitrack calendar in the Los Angeles, which is returning to a traditional school calendar as new schools are built.
After examining the facts and information on the following pages, which have been compiled from a decade of research by a veteran journalist, we urge you to contact your community, education and business leaders and tell them:
Don't mess with the school calendar
Put to the test, school calendar change
fails as a remedy for improving education
Remarkably, at a time when reformers were clamoring for performance accountability in U.S. schools, the claims of pitchmen for year-round calendars and a longer school year went largely unchallenged in the 30 years prior to the new millennium.
That slowly began to change as word of unfilled promises of school calendar experiments spread via the Internet on dozens of Web sites produced between 1995 and 2001 by grassroots opposition groups and others.
Held to the same proof of performance required of schools,
students and educators today, these calendar reforms clearly flunk
three parts of a school calendar accountability test. (Also see Flawed
Accountability Test: Part I
The year-round school research record
There is a conspicuous absence of credible studies and data to show reconfiguring the school year makes any significant difference in education outcomes. After 100 years of calendar experiments in this nation, there should be reams of good data to show year-round school is academically beneficial. It doesn't exist. Scholarly research reviews find that, at best, year-round school is an inert intervention.
Gene Glass, education researcher at Arizona State University, has this
to say about the research in a January 2002 report on education reform
"Not all studies have failed to find achievement advantages for the year-round calendar. Those that do claim advantages, however, stem disproportionately from an advocacy organization that has grown up around this issue: the National Association for Year-Round Education (www.nayre.org/). (Institutional memberships range from $350 to $750 per year depending on the number of students that a school or school district has enrolled in year-round education.) NAYRE publishes its own research reports, and avoids established peer-reviewed scholarly journals; copies of research reports outlining the benefits of the year-round calendar sell for about $30. 'Negative' studies have tended to come from researchers working in universities."
Accountability Test: Part II
Test scores and test score comparisons
While test scores are only one measure of performance and learning, and often not a reliable one, nevertheless test scores do provide a telling pattern of low performance in those states that were early to embrace the year-round calendar.
States with the largest and longest-running year-round school
programs are found at the bottom of the performance rankings on national tests.
In fact, three of the five states with the largest enrollments of
year-round students dominate the list of poorest performers in the 1998 NAEP Reading Exam (National Assessment for Education Progress)
A list of 1998 NAEP test scores in the same Education Week special report (2001) shows California, the state with the largest number of children in year-round schools (some 1.3 million or 62 percent of the nation's total in the 2000-2001 school year), ranks fifth from the bottom in eighth-grade reading.
Strong evidence that changing the school calendar and adding more days to the school year is a futile approach is also found in a recent North Carolina Department of Education comparison of test scores.
When the North Carolina Department of Education, Division of Accountability Services, did a comprehensive analysis of 345,000 test scores of traditional calendar and year-round students, it found year-round calendar students, even though they had more classroom instructional time because of intersessions, had no academic advantage.
Accountability Test: Part III
Returns on investment in year-round schools
Year-round schools cost taxpayers considerably more in:
1) higher utility bills to cool classrooms in summer
2) added administrative costs and for wear and tear on buildings
3) added costs for additional instructional days from remediation sessions that occur during frequent vacation breaks throughout the year.
4) added costs for administration salaries and support staff.
The findings in the North Carolina study, the largest and most credible comparison of the effects of calendar change to date, cast doubt on the value of spending money for year-round school "intersessions." North Carolina made additional instructional days mandatory in a majority of its year-round schools. But the test scores show that spending more money for more classroom seat time with more of the same kind of instruction clearly is not the way to improve education.
Diminishing Returns of Calendar
Interventions are too little, too late
There is also growing evidence of diminishing returns for reconfigured school years that force children to attend school more days either in summer sessions or the year-round school remediation intersessions.
According to evidence presented in a recent California lawsuit over education inequities (the year-round calendar is cited among them): "Experts have noted that significant reductions in reading speed and comprehension and mathematical skills occur when students are exposed to temperatures above 74 degrees."
Dismal statistics on the success rate of summer school programs in Chicago also show that more seat time does not equate with learning. Studies show there was a high rate of failure for those Chicago children forced to go to summer school again after repeating the same grade a second time. Such discouraging figures prompted a re-examination of policies on both early school start dates and retention policies. In winter 2001, Chicago school officials announced a post-Labor Day school opening date for fall 2001, responding also to polling data and a public backlash the previous year against shorter summer vacations and a school opening date of Aug. 22.
The evidence is clear that remediation attempts through year-round school intersessions or in summer school programs, weeks or months after children fall behind, are too little too late. When children fall behind they need immediate assistance. Better intervention investments are after-school programs, special pullout sessions during the school day or week or even Saturday classes.
So what is the answer to better schools?
More and more schools are finding the way to improve school is to focus on the quality of time students spend in the classroom.
That 's what worked in the Hutto, Texas, Independent School District, where the traditional school year has been trimmed from 180 days to as few as 165.
Hutto test scores have improved or remained stable since 1992, when the Texas school district shifted funds and focus to teacher training, new instructional methods and efficiency of classroom operations. Today, the district is a model for the state, said Ben Carson, assistant superintendent of schools who oversees instruction.
Hutto's experience confirms the findings in
"Is It Just a Matter of Time?" a report produced in 1998 for the U.S. Department of Education.
"Simply adding time to the school year or day would not likely produce large scale gains in student achievement. What research studies repeatedly find is that in education, quality is the key to making time matter.
"Of particular importance is providing curriculum and instruction geared to the needs and abilities of students, engaging them so they will return day after day, continuing to build on what they have learned.
In other words, educators must-to the greatest extent possible-make every hour count."
Calendar Health and Safety Issues
Of equal concern to communities looking at switching to a year-round calendar are health and safety issues for their children.
In the fall of 2000, Fresno, Calif., parents presented the school board research-based information to show sending kids to school in summer may have long-term health consequences on young, still-developing lungs.
The swelling numbers of latchkey kids created by a year-round calendar also pose additional health and safety hazards for children. The year-round calendar with its frequent breaks creates serious child care problems for working parents. It swells the numbers of children left at home alone. Unsupervised time is the breeding ground for juvenile crime, drug experimentation and teenage pregnancy.
Officials who monitor gang activity in Los Angeles, which has some
of the nation's worst gang problems, have told us you can draw
a parallel line between the growth of year-round schools and the growth of
Proponents of year-round school and other school calendar reforms ignore the important role a long summer vacation plays in a child's life. Summer matters to a child's growth and development, to strengthening family relationships, to opportunity for learning and enrichment experiences available outside the classroom walls. There are even lessons to be learned from coping with boredom.
Gerald Bracey, a columnist who reviews education research for Kappan
Magazine, provides perspective on the important role family life and
summer activities play in school performance. In a Jan. 16, 2002 op-ed column in
The Washington Post he writes:
The researchers, Karl Alexander, Doris Entwisle and Linda Olson of the Johns Hopkins University, are quick to point out that what poor kids need is not necessarily more school: "We found that better off children in the [study] more often went to city and state parks, fairs, or carnivals and took day or overnight trips. They also took swimming, dance, and music lessons; visited local parks, museums, science centers and zoos; and more often went to the library in summer." They also were more likely to participate in organized sports and in more types of sports.
Dr. Leo Wisenbender of the Los Angeles Unified Program and Evaluation Branch sums it well:
"It is absurd to suggest that children aren’t learning during the summer. It’s a different type of learning, which simply is not tested."
(Copy the Top 10 Reasons A Traditional Calendar Works Best, and turn it into a pamphlet to distribute in your district.)
Top 10 Reasons
A Traditional Calendar
Works Best for America
By Billee Bussard,
Yes, the traditional school calendar is flawed and imperfect.
So is the year-round school calendar.
All things considered, the traditional school calendar works best for America because:
1. The traditional calendar delivers the "best educational bang for the buck."
When economic push comes to shove, school districts have concluded the traditional school calendar is still the best educational bang for the buck.
Proof is found in 100 years of school board decisions to abandon the year-round school movement. One list of school districts that have rejected year-round school now stretches 40 feet (Click on the "Reject List" found at www.SummerMatters.com).
The years leading up to the Great Depression marked the end of an earlier year-round school heyday, when school districts were forced to closely examine the costs and benefits of all school programs and year-round schools were cut.
Similarly, it was another economic downturn in the 1970s that led school boards across the nation to scrutinize year-round school results and ultimately the decisions to discontinue them. The year-round school movement nearly died in the 1970s. By 1980, the California-based year-round school advocacy group that had been promoting the idea for a decade "was . . .a faltering, broken organization," the executive director acknowledged in a 1998 annual report. By 1980, the much-touted, decade-long year-round school experiment in the Valley View, Ill., school district, which helped revive the year-round school movement, had also fallen out of favor and was subsequently dropped, costs and lackluster academic outcomes cited.
2. The traditional calendar is the most practical instructional approach.
The typical 180-day traditional school year maximizes learning continuity--blocks of uninterrupted instructional time--that are vital to real learning.
The year-round calendar with its frequent breaks dispersed throughout the year is disruptive to this learning process. Researchers on human memory, like Randall Engle, a Georgia Tech psychologist, found most learning loss occurs within the first three weeks of a lesson. So the more frequent breaks of a year-round calendar maximizes forgetting and requires more review time, which robs instruction days from the school year.
The year-round calendar's 2- to 3-week remediation sessions held during school vacation time are too little too late for the children who fell behind 9 weeks earlier.
3. The traditional calendar enables children to perform best on tests.
The largest test score comparison to date by Bradley McMillen of the North Carolina Department of Education found no advantage for year-round school students in the 340,000 North Carolina student scores analyzed. While credible studies like McMillen's are few and far between, an admission even year-round school proponents make, a lot of data is available on the declining or lackluster performances in year-round schools.
Consider the following:
· Alabama Scores: An analysis of three years of Stanford 9 tests scores (1999-2001) in 6 Alabama districts that implemented year-round in ALL schools, found across the board declines or stagnant scores in nearly every grade. The scores of these single-track year-round schools were significantly lower than traditional calendar school districts of like size with like socio-economic demographics.
· Grand Jury Report: A Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury report issued July 2001 recommended an investigation to determine if the year-round calendar is responsible for the dramatic test score gaps between traditional and year-round schools.
· California Lawsuit: A California lawsuit cites the year-round calendar among the education detriments and inequities disproportionately imposed on minority and low income children in schools whose test scores are significantly lower than traditional calendar schools. A study of multi-track year-round school test scores by Ross Mitchell, presented as evidence in that case, shows the best test scores come from the track most like the traditional school year and the worst scores from the track most like the so-called "educational" single track calendar, that forces children to attend school in the heat of the summer.
· SAT Score Declines: Many school districts note testing complications and deficits for college-bound students using a year-round calendar. A recent example is found in Georgia, where the average SAT scores in Trion City High School plunged after two full years on a year-round calendar, from 1008 to 951 and then 930-a drop of 78 points in two years.
Research psychologist Chris Newland of Auburn University, who did a review of the year-round school research as a parent concerned about the educational impact on his own children, aptly summed year-round school is an "inert" intervention.
4. The traditional calendar best serves the health and safety interests of America's children.
Among the many reasons:
· Childcare: The long break of a traditional school year makes it easier for working parents to find affordable and reliable childcare, many communities report. The ranks of latchkey kids rise with a year-round calendar, providing a breeding ground for juvenile crime, drug problems, gang activity and teenage pregnancy.
· Summer Heat: Children forced to go to school during the harshest days of summer, when the air quality becomes unbearable, are put at serious risk for long term health problems, according to data presented to the Fresno, California, school district by a concerned parent group. The parents provided research from the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District, Environmental Protection Agency, the National Weather Service and the American Lung Association showing the long-term health risks of sending children to school when ozone levels are dangerously high during summer heat.
· Learning Environment: Hot classrooms make for poor learning environments, especially for those children with asthma and allergies. Though many of the nation's schools are air-conditioned, equipment failures and repairs or power company brownouts or blackouts leave many classrooms uncomfortably hot.
5. The traditional calendar accommodates longstanding cultural and community experiences.
Summertime cultural programs have become part of the fabric of our society. Vacation Bible schools, sports and other recreational programs, specialty camps for the arts and music are summer experiences that help children establish roots that strengthen the community. Many of these summer experiences are life-changing, opening career paths or providing direction for young lives.
6. The traditional calendar provides a wide window of opportunity for family time together.
The traditional calendar's 11- to 12-week vacation break makes it easier to reconnect with family members close to home or in other states. The longer break gives parents, especially those in families where both parents must work, a wider range of possibilities to schedule family time and learning experiences. In small communities with just a few major employers, arranging a summer vacation becomes more difficult when school vacation time is cut in half.
7. The traditional calendar offers time for life-changing employment and learning opportunities for our youth.
Summer jobs and summer internships expose a good segment of the nation's youth to the world of work and provides them with life-shaping skills, such as managing time and money. Summer work experiences established a career path for many of the successful business entrepreneurs interviewed in the New York Times Best-seller, The Millionaire Mind. The long summer break opens the door to opportunity, while a year-round calendar slams it shut.
8. Traditional school calendars serve a significant sector of our economy.
Summer-related industries geared to family vacation time are a significant segment of the nation's economy, providing both full-time and part time jobs for many Americans. The wide range of industries impacted by shrinking school vacations include manufacturers of boats and boating equipment, suppliers of food and equipment for hotdog stands and hotels, gasoline stations, auto repair shops and clothing manufacturers.
A Texas comptroller's office released a study in 2000 showing early school start dates which shorten the summer tourist season cost the state's tourist-related industries an estimated $332 million a year.
When an outside force impacts a vital segment of our economy, as terrorism had done to the travel and tourism industry, we call it treason.
9. The traditional calendar best serves the educational needs of teachers.
The long summer break affords has enabled teachers to attend classes required for teacher certification or expand other skills that enrich classrooms.
10. The traditional calendar addresses student and teacher burnout.
Long summer breaks provide the downtime children and teachers need to start a new school year reinvigorated and ready to learn. A frequent complaint cited in school districts where year-round school was tried and abandoned was the burnout factor caused by the year-round calendar.
Billee Bussard, a veteran Florida journalist, is co-author of Year-Round Education: Lessons Learned the Hard Way, and is editor of a website, www.SummerMatters.com, that posts information on the detriments of school calendar change. Her decade of research on year-round school began in 1992 as an editorial writer for The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. The mother of two is finishing a second book on the year-round school movement, detailing the politics and money motives behind the movement. One of the chapters in the book is about ordinary people who stood up against the powerful interests intent on shrinking summer breaks for schoolchildren. An excerpt from that book, about the late Debbie Smith, follows.
About Debbie Smith
Debbie Smith got involved with the year-round school issue
as Education Committee Chairman of the Orange County Homeowners
Association, a politically active group representing some 20,000 Orlando
area property owners. She agreed to chair the committee in 1989, the year
her husband Jeff became association president and her daughter Amanda,
their only child, was a first-grader at Dr. Phillips Elementary, which was
slated to go on a year-round calendar. Her research and subsequent reports
led the homeowners group to pass a resolution Nov. 19, 1991 calling for
the school board to return three pilot year-round schools to a traditional
calendar as soon as possible and to not expand the calendar in other
Orange County schools. Orange County school officials were pushing to make
all 85 elementary schools year-round by 1995.
Opposing Year-Round School” was a direct slap against 56-year-old Dee
Parsons, who sat in 1992 as chairman of the Orange County School Board. It
was none other than Parsons who in 1985 initiated efforts to switch the
district’s calendar. Parsons, a Republican, was first elected to the
school board in 1984, just a year after Republican President Ronald
National Association FOR Year-Round Education had, in fact, staked out
Florida to begin an east coast expansion, with central Florida as a major
focal point. Florida, in
fact, had received federal money during the Bush (41) administration for
educational leadership that set up a statewide network of school reform
change agents poised to work for calendar reform.
“Project Lead” money also paid for a 134-page monograph
published in 1993 singing praises of Florida’s year-round calendar
efforts that was written and distributed nationwide precisely as the
Florida pilot program was imploding because of high costs, poor testing
outcomes and parent dissatisfaction. That fact was left out of the
the 1992-93 school year, 32 of Florida’s 50 year-round schools were in
six central Florida counties--Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola,
Seminole and Volusia. In
1990, Orange County placed three schools on a multitrack year-round
calendar. Beginning in school year 1993-94, half of Orange County’s 85
elementary schools and a third of Seminole elementary and middle schools
were scheduled to be on a year-round calendar, with the goal to place all
elementaries and some middle schools in both districts on it by 1995.
process had been underway for years.
NAYRE first sent its operatives to lobby influential, business and
political leaders and state officials.
In 1987, NAYRE kingpins addressed the Florida Committee of 100, and
shortly thereafter Florida TaxWatch, a conservative watchdog group, signed
onto year-round school.
The first conference of the Florida Association for Year-round
Education (FAYRE, Inc.),
supported by a grant from the Florida Department of Education, was held
Oct. 28-29 1990, in Orlando.
the early1990s, two Florida year-round school change agents would reign as
president of NAYRE: One was
R.J. “Skip” Archibald, who as an elected (1984) school superintendent
in Marion County made his school district Florida’s pilot for year-round
education in 1987, a year after the National Governors embraced calendar
Marion County School District is 60 miles northwest of Orange County. He
presided as President of the Florida Association of Year-Round Schools at
its first convention in 1990. In
NAYRE’s annual directory of year-round schools for the 1992-93,
Archibald, then president, is identified as Chief Executive Officer,
Cooperative Education Extension System of Florida, University of North
Florida. Florida Education Secretary Betty Castor created the job for him
after Archibald decided to NOT seek re-election for school superintendent
in 1992, and after he was turned down in April 1992 for the appointed post
of Seminole County school superintendent.
cost Marion County about $750,000 more a year to operate a multitrack
school instead of a traditional calendar,” said John Smith, who
other NAYRE president from Florida was L. Diane Locker, Orange County
year-round school coordinator, who presided over the group in school year
convention-goers from all over the country got instructions from her on
the “The Politics and
Planning” for a year-round school calendar.
about year-round school on the Prodigy bulletin board, a relatively new
computer information exchange service launched in 1987, did not come to
Debbie’s attention until after she had written reports for the
homeowners group. Prodigy was
to become a popular and effective source of information on school calendar
developments, providing a nationwide hookup to parents and educators
engaged in calendar fights. A
Christmas gift from her husband in 1992 was, in fact, the Prodigy service,
which Debbie used to continue following year-round school developments.
when Debbie showed up at her first school board meeting in 1989 to do
research for the homeowners group, she was inclined to believe an all-year
school year might be a good idea. She had a background in education,
having graduated from Louisiana State University with a degree in home
economics education. But her perspective quickly changed to doubt after
listening to presentations by groups of parents at that meeting who, after
doing their homework on year-round school organized in opposition to the
pilot programs at three Orlando schools: Aloma, Palm Lake and Tangelo
Park. Research by these parents provided a stark contrast to the mostly
positive picture of the multitrack calendar painted in reports generated
by school officials.
spent thousands of hours in libraries looking at professional journals and
other publications. She also spent countless hours attending informational
and school board meetings on year-round school and double-checking
information supplied by the Orange County school administration. Her spare
bedroom was soon overflowing with piles of news clips, research reports
and other documents. Pulling facts and figures from the mounds of
research, she wrote with great clarity on the dangers and detriments of
calendar change to unnerve the Orange County calendar change forces
Facts on ‘Phantom’
Smith determined from her research that one of the biggest
misrepresentations on calendar change benefits was the promised savings
from “phantom” schools.
These are the bricks and mortar schools that the district
wouldn’t have to build by using a multitrack calendar to expand capacity
in existing school buildings. Orange County school officials estimated
savings of nearly $64 million over three years every time a year-round
calendar was used to avoid construction of 9
“phantom” schools at construction costs of about
$7 million a piece plus miscellaneous expenses. It’s false
economics, she concluded.
large projected savings—$64 million—have the effect of dazzling the
mind and preventing closer evaluation,” Debbie would write later in the OCHA
News, the homeowners association newsletter.
YRS cost so much more to operate yearly, if you multiply the costs out
over a five- or six-year period you could afford to build and operate the
so-called ‘phantom school.’ At the end of this period you would have
purchased the land and building for the same money, rather than just
having money paid out in increased operating costs with nothing tangible
to show for it.”
detailed explanation of the problems with the year-round calendar concept
appeared in a special 9-page February 1992 edition of OCHA News. The
special issue was published in response to a letter Dee Parson’s sent to
the homeowners group charging Debbie’s
research and presentations as biased and a misrepresentation of fact.
[Parson’s letter and excerpts from Debbie’s rebuttal are
provided in the book] Debbie’s article in the OCHA News begins:
“Mr. Parsons’ letter . . . suggests that I have only presented
‘biased’ information to [OCHA] membership. I find this a particularly
ironic accusation as I have attended many YRS presentations…by Orange
Counting Public School staff and other supporters of YRS and have never
attended one where there was a true pro/con discussion of the issues.
These have only been what they choose to call ‘information sessions’
where administration staff have tied to ‘sell’ this program to the
public. . .
“As to who is biased in presenting information…I quote from The
Year-Round Education Task Force Report, dated 11/12/91:
“The concept of year-round education was brought to the attention
of the Orange County school system staff as early as 1985 when School
Board member Dee Parsons suggested that the district consider it as an
alternative which might address the growing student population in Orange
County. A district objective was developed to review the results of
legislative efforts. . . relative to year-round schools and report on
implications for Orange County by June 30, 1987.
Parsons was one of the first and remains one of the strongest proponents
of the YRS program, but that does not necessarily mean he is right. Especially in light of more recent information that I have
reviewed from school districts which have operated these programs for a
number of years. I prefer to think of our resolution as a list of serious
concerns rather than biased information.”
rebuttal concludes with the following points:
Money that should be going to educating
children in the classroom and into teachers’ salaries is going instead
into an expensive new scheduling system.
If you have read this entire special YRS
newsletter then you should be questioning the statement by Mr. Parsons
that YRS is the only significant alternative to solving space problems.
San Diego City Schools, the home base of the NAYRE, now has strict
guidelines for putting schools on multitrack.
They have found portables to be much cheaper. They are also putting
restrictions on schools going single track because they do their student
counts daily and so many children are absent during the summer, it is
costing them too much money. Diane
Fardig’s report [for Orange County] states that parents and students
were very happy with intercessions at the Tangelo Park (YRS pilot).
But I found it interesting that enrollment
went down with each succeeding intercession, the lowest enrollment being
during the summer. There was
a difference of almost 100 children.
YRS does not decrease class size.
You have five third grades on traditional and you’ll have five
third-grades on YRS. They
just won’t be in school at the same time.
The only way to reduce class size is to hire more teachers.
There is great debate over the issue of
whether YRS actually improves academics.
It is my hope that the next time you
attend a YRS “information session,” that you will now be able to
listen with a whole new level of knowledge.
you agree that there is merit to our concerns, then perhaps you will
consider taking the next step in the process and let your school board
members know that you are concerned. When they see empty auditorium seats,
and don’t receive phone calls on an issue, they assume everything is
fine and you are happy with their decisions.
A copy of Dee Parsons’ letter also was submitted and printed as
Letter to the Editor in the Feb. 6, 1992 issue of The West Orange Times.
The paper printed Smith’s rebuttal letter Feb. 27, 1992.
Parsons’ attempt to discredit Debbie Smith followed her effective
presentations on the detriments of calendar change in surrounding
mid-November 1991, she was asked by a parent to speak to the Osceola
County School Board. Debbie’s Osceola presentation fell a week before
she was scheduled to give the same talk at a hearing of the Orange County
school board on whether to expand the year-round calendar to ALL schools
by 1995. Debbie believes the Orange County hearing was deliberately
scheduled the week of Thanksgiving when many families that otherwise might
have attended the meeting were busy with company or headed out of town.
And so turnout was low at the school calendar change hearing.
Her willingness to help other districts
may have undermined efforts in her own. The
Orange County school board voted to expand YRS to 60 schools after
her abbreviated presentation at the hearing.
explained the situation in the OCHA News:
a long series of events, I was contacted by a parent in Osceola County who
was upset because the school board was voting to expand [the year-round
calendar] after only a couple of months into their pilot year (sound
familiar?). She wanted to
know if I had any information I could share with her.
I explained that I happened to have these packets [of information]
made up [for the Nov.
26 presentation to the Orange County School Board]
and I would be glad to bring them down and present this information to the
Osceola County School Board.
Osceola School Board allowed me time to present my information, asking
numerous questions. After listening to me and concerned parents from their
county, they voted that night four to one to not expand its
to form a committee to do further research on the issue,
and to put YRS on the ballot in March (later changed to November) for a
non-binding vote. “This was
a major accomplishment as it is the first time I know of that parents and
property owners in any county of Florida have ever had a chance to vote on
“The only problem with doing this presentation in Osceola was
that I was sure that much of the information that I discussed that evening
would prejudice my ability to do the same presentation the next week in
“Sadly, I was right. On
the evening before the public hearing in Orange County, I received a call
from the school board secretary informing me that Mr. Parsons (newly
elected as school board chairperson) had decided to limit individual
presentations from the public to five-minute intervals.
I was told that this was going to be strictly enforced.
“You should know that under Mr. Bill Barnes, the immediate past
chair for the school board, discussion was allowed to continue as long as
new information was being presented or as long as it took to thoroughly
cover an issue. This is the
premise I used in putting these [information]
packets together. I had
assumed that my complete packet of information opposing YRS would be heard
and, since so much of my information was current, here was a good chance
that the school board members would not have had this kind of input from
“At the beginning of my presentation, I explained that I wanted
to read my resolution into the record and hopefully what they heard in the
resolution would be of such a nature as to have them waive the five-minute
rule and let me present the back-up [information in the] packet.
“Mr. Drew Thomas, school board attorney, was keeping time and as
I finished the first page of the resolution, he announced that 51/2
minutes had elapsed. I
attempted to get my time extended but was curtly informed that I had to
“I then informed Mr. Parsons that he should be aware of the fact
that this same packet of information had been presented in Osceola County
the week before and based on the information therein along with citizen
concerns had caused them to agree to put the issue on the ballot for a
vote. I was extremely
disappointed that our school board was unwilling to consider my
information, but under their rules I had to retire the podium.
the literally thousands of people who could and should, have been
this hearing, there were only five people who spoke to the resolution and
a handful more in attendance. It
is for this reason that I have gone into such detail in giving you this
summary of events surrounding the hearing to consider input before voting
to expand YRS into every elementary school in Orange County by 1995.”
account in the OCHA News, along with the resolution and Debbie’s
lengthy rebuttal to the school board’s arguments for year-round
calendar, was later circulated nationwide and proved to be
Orange County operatives won the short-term battle, but it was a costly
victory because it provided the resolve for Debbie and other Orange County
parents to assist parents across the nation with information that stopped
similar efforts dead in their tracks.
closing words in the OCHA Newsletter proved to be prophetic:
we don’t do something, in less than a few years we will be in the same
position as Marion County, Fla. The
YRS programs will ultimately fail after the public has had to actually
live with the YRS calendar multitracking for 3-4 years.
School board and administration staff responsible for bringing YRS
to the district will loose their jobs and most importantly, in this time
of tight budgets, public funds will have been wasted and additional funds
will be required to dismantle the program and return to a traditional
County returned to a traditional calendar in school year
To my knowledge, there is no final
analysis of what this experiment cost.
Orange County Superintendent James Schott, in charge when the
mechanisms for converting to a year-round calendar were put in place,
would leave to become director of an Orlando arts group.
would move to another state and take an administrative job in education.
County School Superintendent Archibald
would become an unsuccessful candidate for Superintendent of Seminole
County but land a cushy job that paid $100,000--a job created for him by
Florida Education Secretary Betty Castor, a year-round school proponent.
[Details in a later chapter.]
Archibald and Locker would continue as year-round consultants, commanding
as much as $2,000 a day, and would continue to be participants and
presenters at NAYRE conventions.
Smith was paid exactly NOTHING for the research she did for the homeowners
summer 1992, just a few months after the Orange County School Board voted
to put some 60 schools on a year-round calendar, Debbie would be diagnosed
with Hodgkin’s disease AND breast cancer. Now needing all the energy she
could must for the fight of her life, Debbie bowed out of the Orange
County fray for the time being, but between chemo therapy and doctor
appointments, she continued to research the issue and help people from all
over the state and the country who called needing calendar research. She
was confident the eventual undoing of year-round school would be its
expansion efforts because
experiences in other communities had shown the more parents, children and
educators who experience the calendar, the louder the noise becomes
against it and the greater pressure to end it.
recovering from her illnesses in the early 1990s, she became something of
a stealth force in Florida’s calendar wars. She quietly assisted Florida
groups around the state who found the year-round school pitchmen on their
doorsteps. She alerted a group of activists to a
state-level school facilities advisory committee meeting held in
Orlando the day before Thanksgiving in which critical decisions on the
year-round calendar were up for a vote. To
the surprise of the committee members, which included lawyers from
high-profile law firms and construction companies, more than a dozen
activist showed up armed with facts and figures that swayed a final
recommendation by the committee to back away from using a year-round
calendar in the state’s master plan for Florida school facilities. [More
on this in a later chapter.]
also alerted a network of activists to a little-known
Legislative hearing on year-round school in Orlando, which filled
an auditorium with some 400 people, most of them opponents of year-round
school. The turnout was all the more remarkable because so many who had
come from all corners of the state had to drive through high winds and
torrential rains of a tropical storm that
swept the state that day. The high turnout of angry parents and educators
forced lawmakers to keep a hearing expected to last from 7 to 9 p.m. going
until nearly midnight and proved to be a setback for more legislation to
encourage a move to a year-round calendar.
the way, Debbie made many new friends from all over the state and the
country. They were liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans,
agnostics as well as Christian-right activists. Debbie
also became part of the NOYRE network, a by-invitation-only advisory and
information group founded by Wes Walker, an Arizona father of
7. NOYRE moderator is Rodger Holtin, who got involved with the
year-round school issue as a father of school-age children when he lived
in Arkansas. Holtin's interest in this issue, as with Debbie and
countless others, continued even after his children
graduated. What triggers this on-going interest is
losing the freedom to have time to learn outside school walls, which is
very much dependent upon the time provided by a traditional school