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The impact of school breaks on student academics

By Tammy Newman

Apr. 7, 2022


Tianshu Yang Art

In recent years, an increasing number of public schools in the U.S. have changed from the traditional school year schedule to a year-round schedule, in hopes that the new calendar would provide benefits for students’ academic progress. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, from 2007 to 2012, the number of year-round schools increased by 26%. Currently over 3,700 schools operate year-round nationwide, making up approximately 4% of all public schools.


Several differences separate traditional year schooling from year-round scheduling, despite both systems having exactly 180 days of instruction.Most common nationwide, the traditional calendar is broken into roughly nine months of teaching and three months of summer vacation. Meanwhile, year-round schools have a series of shorter breaks and follow one of two systems: the 45/15 (45 days of instruction followed by 15 days of break) or 60/20 (60 days of instruction and 20 days of break). The latter is more common because students are given longer vacations while still receiving consistent teaching.


A common reason why some schools are choosing to switch to year-round scheduling is to relieve overcrowding. For example, as stated by the Los Angeles (LA) School Report, between 1980 and 2000, the LA Unified School District’s enrollment skyrocketed to almost 700,000 students. To alleviate overcrowding, nearly 80% of their district’s schools switched to a year-round schedule.


However, many schools are still choosing to remain traditional as summer breaks are generally considered beneficial for student learning.

The break provides both students and educators time to relax and reboot, which—as stated by the Washington Post—is essential for improving productivity and focus when learning resumes.

According to a 2011 study by the University of Illinois, learning too much material at once causes individuals to forget information faster, making school breaks necessary for knowledge retention. Additionally, summer breaks give students the chance to engage in academically-oriented as well as extracurricular programs over the two-month period, which would be less feasible in a year-round schedule.


“When I lived in the U.K., our vacations were a bit shorter, but my academic retention was about the same as it is now. I definitely prefer the longer breaks that we have here because I have more time to rest,” Junior Anuveer Chadha said.


On the other hand, there are many advocates for year-round schools as well.

The American College of Education noted that teachers typically spend the first month of school re-teaching old material, resulting in less time spent on new content.

Thus, switching to a year-round schedule would lead to students accelerating at a faster pace. Additionally, some experts believe students actually lose knowledge over break. A study in the American Educational Research Journal found that the average student loses 17% to 34% of the previous year’s knowledge during summer break.


Another school scheduling proposal that has gained traction is the four-day school week. It was first implemented in rural Europe to attract teachers who wanted to work less, but allowed students to get more sleep too. A study in October 2021 funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that students following the four-day schedule reported feeling less tired overall. The shortened week has grown in popularity beyond Europe: in July 2021, California Congressman Mark Takano introduced bill SB-236 to create a four-day public school week.


“With a four-day school week to maintain my mental health, I would have increased motivation to do well in school,” Junior Eric Lien said.


While some prefer having a long, restful summer break, others favor a consistent system with several breaks in between learning. Nonetheless, scheduled breaks—long or short—may have positive impacts on high school education.

 

About the Contributors

Tammy Newman

Staff Writer


Tammy Newman is a junior at Leland High School and a Staff Writer for Journalism. Outside of school, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family as well as reading and writing.











Tianshu Yang

Artist


Kenneth Yang is a junior at Leland High School and an artist for The Charger Account. During his free time, he enjoys tae kwon do, dancing, and sleeping.



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