ERIC Identifier: ED378267 Publication Date: 1994-12-00
Author: Inger, Morton Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban
Education New York NY.
Year-Round Education: A Strategy for Overcrowded Schools.
ERIC/CUE Digest Number 103.
Confronted by overcrowded schools and tight budgets, school districts in
about 30 states are keeping schools open year round. This is not the same as
extending the school year; on a year-round schedule, students attend school the
same number of days--180--as students on the traditional nine-month calendar.
However, year-round education (YRE) students have several short vacations rather
than one three-month summer break. By switching to the year-round calendar,
districts can fit more students into existing school buildings, saving millions
of dollars in construction costs.
School districts that respond to temporary increases in enrollment by
constructing new buildings run a serious risk of costly over-building, since
"[l]ong after the increase in enrollment has passed, the community probably will
still be paying off the bonds for the new school construction" (Alvarez, Fraser,
& Durante, 1994). Because of a growing awareness of this risk and the
significant cost savings of YRE, the number of year-round schools has jumped
from 287 in 1980 to more than 1,900 in 1994.
Most year-round schools operate on a
multi-track calendar, and group students in three or four tracks with different
vacation times. While one group is on vacation, another track is using the
building, thereby increasing its capacity. Thus, with a four-track calendar, a
school in a building built for 750 students can serve as many as 1,000 students
School districts can choose from a wide selection of plans or develop their
own. The most popular is 45-15, where students attend school for 45 days (nine
weeks) and then take fifteen days off (three weeks).
COST-EFFECTIVENESS OF YEAR-ROUND SCHOOLS
CONSTRUCTION COSTS. No matter which year-round plan is adopted, the chief reason
for converting to YRE is to avoid the cost of building a new school. Expenses
would be incurred for building design, engineering, construction, and
furnishing, as well as for infrastructure reconstruction (streets, sewers,
water, utilities, furniture). In 1987, a study done for the California State
Board of Education indicated that it would cost nearly $4 million to build a
24-classroom elementary school (720 students), and more than $6 million to build
a secondary school addition to accommodate 720 students (Quinlan et al., 1987,
cited in Denton & Walenta, 1993).
The Oxnard (CA) Unified School District converted to year-round education in
1976. In the 1984-85 school year, its elementary enrollment increased by 644
students. If the district had been on the traditional nine-month calendar, it
would have needed an additional school, at a cost of $5 million. It is believed
that by converting to year-round education the district saved $16 million in new
building costs over a 13-year period (Brekke, 1989, cited in Denton &
TRANSITION COSTS. Costs for transition to the new schedule include those for
feasibility studies, administrative planning time, and teacher in-service
training. But these are modest compared to the avoided construction costs.
OPERATING COSTS. A school on a year-round calendar has students in attendance
for approximately 242 days each year (Brekke, 1992). Clearly, keeping a YRE
school open incurs a greater overall cost than maintaining the same school for
only 180 days. Maintenance, repair, and utility expenses increase; and
secretaries, custodians, cafeteria personnel, nurses, counselors, bus drivers,
and other staff must be available for the full 12 months, with a proportionate
increase in salary. Principals' workloads increase, sometimes requiring
districts to hire vice-principals to handle the increased administrative load.
However, since YRE schools are educating more students, the key financial
issue is the per-pupil cost. On this standard, YRE schools have proven to be
cost-effective. For example, the Pajaro Valley (CA) School District converted
five schools to YRE in 1971 because it had 15 percent more students than its
schools could serve on the traditional nine-month schedule. Five years later,
the year-round schedule had achieved a 4.1 percent reduction in per-pupil costs
(Glass, 1992). The aforementioned Oxnard District found that the operating costs
of its year-round schools averaged 5.5 percent less per student than in the
traditional program (Brekke, 1992).
Year-round scheduling is not the only, or the least expensive, cost-cutting
option for financially strapped school districts with growing student
populations. Other measures, such as double sessions or the use of temporary
structures, may prove to be cheaper. These approaches, however, have educational
drawbacks, while the advantages of year-round education can, in theory at least,
extend beyond economics.
EDUCATIONAL BENEFITS OF YEAR-ROUND SCHOOLING
Aside from the
cost savings, the primary benefit of year-round education is that it facilitates
continuous learning. Students forget much of what they learned in school while
on long summer vacations (Weaver, 1992). This is particularly true of
disadvantaged students and those for whom English is a second language. Because
students retain more when the learning process is interrupted for only short
periods of time, teachers in year-round schools need to spend less time
reviewing pre-vacation material.
In addition, the shorter terms and more frequent vacations associated with
year-round schooling appear to reduce dropout rates. The Jefferson County (CO)
schools, for example, found that the dropout rate went from five percent to only
two percent in the same schools after a year-round program was implemented.
Students can miss one term and, after their personal lives are better arranged,
come back to join a new class the next term.
The San Diego (CA) Unified School District compared test scores--on the
Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (TCBS) and the California Assessment Program
(CAP)--from 1982 through 1990, and found significant differences in the
percentage of year-round schools that maintained or improved student scores
compared to the results for traditional schools (Mutchler, 1993). For example,
in fifth grade, a much larger proportion of year-round schools maintained or
improved TCBS reading scores than did the traditional schools, and the average
improvement was significantly greater. In third grade, a much larger percent of
year-round schools maintained or improved CAP reading scores than did the
traditional schools, and, again, the average improvement was significantly
Not all results are this positive, however. Merino (1983, cited in Weaver,
1992) found no significant achievement differences between nine-month schools
and those on the year-round schedule. In a study done for the California State
Department of Education in 1987, year-round schools consistently scored below
traditional schools with similar student populations (Quinlan et al., 1987,
cited in Weaver, 1992). These results are puzzling since there appears to be
nothing inherent in year-round education that could harm student achievement,
and since teachers, students, and parents all feel that YRE enhances learning.
RESPONSES TO YEAR-ROUND EDUCATION
year-round education differs so radically from tradition, community opposition
is strong at the outset. Yet parental attitudes become progressively more
positive as the programs continue. For example, Cherry Creek (CO) District 5,
which instituted year-round schooling in 1974, surveyed parents after the first
year and found that two-thirds preferred the year-round schedule (Glass, 1992).
Nationwide, other school districts have found similarly high levels of parental
acceptance after the programs began.
The year-round schedule does, however, inconvenience families with children
in both traditional and year-round schools. But parental responses are mixed: In
Cherry Creek, one-third of the parents felt that year-round schooling
complicated vacation planning, while one-half reported that it made vacations
easier to plan (Glass, 1992).
The Riverside (CA) Unified School District surveyed parents at its seven
year-round schools and found that 78 percent were satisfied with the program
(Barrett, Ferrett, & Beaty, 1992). Parents felt that the shorter, more
frequent vacations allowed students to remain focused and enthusiastic. Their
chief concern was about the availability of child care.
TEACHERS. Like parents, teachers in year-round schools have generally
positive attitudes, and their acceptance of the new schedule increases over
time. Teachers experience few problems with the vacation times. In fact, they
feel that the more frequent breaks reduce burnout and help students retain more
of what they have learned. Moreover, the frequent breaks during the school year
enable teachers to visit and learn from other programs and other teachers.
One concern that teachers have about YRE is that they may not be able to
continue their own education and earn pay increases by taking university classes
in the summer. But teachers have solved this problem by covering for one another
at work. That is, one teacher will work during a particular break to allow
another to attend summer classes.
Educators who were concerned that the year-round schedule would make
accelerated learning difficult have found that the flexibility of a year-round
schedule makes it relatively easy to provide accelerated classes. Many YRE
schools offer between-session programs for students to participate in advanced,
remedial, and enriched classes.
STUDENTS. In the Riverside survey, 82 percent of the students were satisfied
with year-round schooling. They felt that the shorter, more frequent vacations
reduced boredom and fatigue and helped them retain more of what they learned.
Alvarez, A., Fraser, A., & Durante, R.
(1994, March 21). Year-round education's impact on school districts. Standard
& Poor's Creditweek Municipal.
Barrett, T., Ferrett, R. T., & Beaty, C. L. (1992, June). Results of the
year-round education parent, staff, and student surveys. Riverside, CA:
Riverside Unified School District. (ED 358 562)
Bradford, J. C., Jr. (1993, March). Making year-round education (YRE) work in
your district: A nationally recognized single track high school model. Paper
prepared for the Annual Meeting of the National School Boards Association,
Anaheim, CA. (ED 358 559)
Brekke, N. R. (1992, May). Year-round schools: An efficient and effective use
of resources. School Business Affairs.
Denton, J. J., & Walenta, B. (1993, April). Cost analysis of year round
schools: Variables and algorithms. College Station: Texas A&M University,
College of Education. (ED 358 515)
Glass, G. V. (1992, January). Policy considerations in conversion to
year-round schools. Tempe: Arizona State University, Tempe College of Education,
Education Policy Studies Laboratory. (ED 357 476)
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