Extended School Year Research Paper Starter

Extended School Year

(Research Starters)

The article presents an overview of efforts to extend the traditional school year in order to better utilize a community's school building resources, to provide additional instructional services to some students, and to minimize students' learning loss over a long summer vacation period. There are many variations for how a school district implements a "year-round education" schedule, but all options provide an instructional schedule that is alternative to the traditional calendar of 180 six-hour days. Traditionally, instruction takes place for large blocks of calendar time, is interspersed with week-long breaks and ends in a long summer break. In modified school calendars, instructional periods typically last forty-five or sixty days and are divided by breaks lasting three to four weeks. During breaks, called "intersessions," students in need of remediation or those who can benefit from enrichment receive additional services.

Keywords Balanced/Single-Track; Extended Contract; Extended School Year (ESY); Intersession; Learning Loss; Multi-Track; Rainbow Teachers/Students; Traditional Calendar Schools (TCS); Year-Round Education (YRE)


Historical Perspective

Initially motivated by the need to educate more children than existing school buildings could accommodate, the idea to extend the school year can be traced to 1904 in Bluffton, Indiana. At that time, explains Ballinger (1995), the traditional school calendar (commonly 180 six-hour days) had been established to serve the needs of a primarily agricultural society — a family's children were needed before and after the school day to help with livestock and in farm fields, especially during the planting, growing and harvest seasons. While maximizing the use of costly capital structures remained a focus for modifying the school calendar through the 1970s, additional benefits for learning and teaching became factors for educational leaders to consider as years progressed. The National Association of Year-Round Education (NAYRE, 2007) reports that through 2006, more than 2 million U.S. students were enrolled in year-round education (YRE) programs in 3,000 public, charter and private schools in 46 states including Washington, D.C. California had the largest number of YRE programs (1,300 schools in 134 districts). Only Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Wyoming had no districts implementing extended school year (ESY) programs.

Since the mid-twentieth century, many suggestions for extending the school year have been tried as the United States has moved from an agrarian society to one of assembly-line production and, more recently, into the space and technology ages. In order to prepare a workforce competitive with that of other countries, educators have examined a number of school-reform measures including whether providing more instructional time would result in higher student achievement, fewer drop outs, more college admissions and an increase in the number of employed graduates who contribute skills and income-tax dollars to an evolving society.

Although originally adopted as a method for schooling the most children in the least number of school structures, YRE has become a reform option that extends the traditional nine-month school schedule in order to provide constant education, a faster summer vacation and more frequent breaks (called intersessions) throughout the twelve-month calendar year (NAYRE, 2007).

Types of School Calendars

As defined at the National Association for Year-Round Education website (http://www.nayre.org/cal.htm), there are two basic forms of year-round calendars that have been implemented and modified over the past several decades:

• Single-Track YRE offers a balanced calendar for a constant period of instruction throughout the calendar year; students and school staff follow the same instruction and vacation schedule; the summer vacation is shortened and alternative vacation days, called intersessions, offer time for rest and for some students; the most common types of single-track calendars are 45-15, 60-20 and 90-30 in which the numbers indicate instructional days followed by intersession days;

• Multi-Track YRE schedules are still used primarily to alleviate overcrowding, including avoiding double sessions, building new schools and establishing temporary structures; it also has the goals of single-track YRE, including intersessions. “Multi-track YRE divides students and school staff into groups — or tracks — of approximately the same size; each track has its own schedule of instruction and vacation days. A four-track calendar, for example, extends the capacity of a school by 33 percent — a school with a capacity of 750 students can accommodate 1,000 students, because one track of 250 students is on intersession throughout the year” (NAYRE, 2007, "Calendars").

The traditional school calendar provides for large blocks of instruction interspersed with week-long breaks and ends in a long summer break. In modified school calendars, instructional periods typically last forty-five or sixty days and are divided by breaks lasting three to four weeks (NAYRE, 2007).

As professed by Charles Ballinger of NAYRE ("Making the Case," 1995) and Jones (2005), the most positive result from an ESY has been a decrease in learning loss over the long summer recess, especially in the basic skills areas of reading and mathematics for elementary students. As a consequence, more primary than secondary schools have implemented YRE schedules. Another student benefit from YRE schedules is the availability of remedial and enrichment activities during intersessions.

Benefits of YRE Schedules

Teaching staff also are reported to benefit from YRE schedules because of additional salaried and preparation days. For example, one school district provided an extended contract option, exchanging a 20-percent increase in salary for 20 percent more time. Teachers also reported greater professional fulfillment from serving the needs of both remedial and enriched students during intersessions. Having time to prepare and provide curriculum-enhancement activities of their own research and design was reported to be especially rewarding.

Alternatively, many school administrators, while finding YRE to be potentially beneficial for their students and classroom teachers, have been challenged by the additional expense of year-round operations. Student transportation, building utilities, maintenance, secretarial support, and other costs to keep the buildings open are necessary expenses of YRE programs.

Davis (2006) and Jones (2005), keynote speakers at Annual National Association of Year-Round Education Conferences, contend that expenses for YRE programs need not exceed those of Traditional Calendar School (TCS) programs if administrators are innovative in constructing annual budgets. Funds already committed from district, state and federal sources can be shifted to pay for programs and personnel that run during intersessions instead of during the regular school day. For example, one grant can cover the cost of a staff person, but he/she may coordinate a number of special programs. Effective and efficiently-run special programs often attract additional grant dollars such that YRE programs can provide increased service at little or no extra cost to the school community.

Many school districts have first considered an YRE schedule to resolve overcrowding issues, a not-uncommon burden for local taxpayers. But a change to the school calendar causes other changes for the community to think about, including changes to pre-scheduled events, family vacations, medical and dental appointments, summer camp schedules, and child-labor needs.

Educational leaders who consider changing to YRE are challenged to present a cost-benefit analysis that will secure local support. Community stakeholders need to understand benefits and be willing to embrace many changes in order for YRE to result in enhanced schooling for their community.


There are many ways of implementing Single-Track and Multi-Track YRE programs. All of the following plans have two things in common: (1) they give every student the same amount of classroom time as do traditional calendars, and (2) they allow each school to accommodate more students (because the school is in constant use). The following variations for implementing YRE programs have been described on the National Association of Year-Round Education website.

45-15 Single-Track Plan

The most popular of YRE plans divides the calendar year into four 9-week instructional terms, separated by four 3-week intersessions, where students and teachers go to school for nine weeks (45 days) followed by a three-week vacation (15 days). This arrangement continues for four repetitions every year, allowing for the usual 36 weeks, or 180 days, of steady instruction. “The four additional weeks each calendar year are for winter holidays, spring vacation, and national, state, or local holidays” (Burke & Joyce, 2008, p. 61).

45-15 Multi-Track Plan

In this plan, students are normally divided into four groups. While groups A, B, and C are in school, group D is on vacation. When D returns, A goes on vacation, etc. This rotation provides for 33 percent additional space in the school. If a school's capacity is 750 students, it can accommodate 1,000 students because one track of 250 will be on intersession at any given time. “Each track has its own 45-15 schedule of nine weeks in school and three weeks on vacation. Teachers usually follow the track schedule of their students, but can be assigned to another track (during their track's intersession) that would lengthen their contract year and provide a larger salary. These teachers are called rainbow teachers and their students who attend from several tracks, including those on intersession, are called rainbow students” (Burke & Joyce, 2008, p. 61).

60-20 Plan

This arrangement allows for 60 instructional days and 20 intersession days. Students continue the repetitions throughout the year until they complete three 60-day terms and three 20-day vacations. The plan can be altered to “take into account holidays and state attendance regulations. It is conducted in either a single-track or multi-track format” (Burke & Joyce, 2008, p. 61).

60-15 Plan

This plan is reminiscent of both the 45-15 and 60-20 plans: the school is in session for 60 days and the vacation lasts for 15 days. “By rearranging the instructional days, a common summer vacation of...

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