My View: School calendar creep is killing summer - and hurting learning
Julia Duin and her daughter enjoyed spring break -- but summer isn't what it used to be, she writes.
April 12th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

My View: School calendar creep is killing summer - and hurting learning

Wendy KoppBy Julia Duin, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Julia Duin teaches journalism at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. She worked in newspapers for 25 years, including stints at the Houston Chronicle, the Washington Times, and for the past two years, as a contributing writer for the Washington Post Sunday magazine. Her website is juliaduin.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliaduin.

 (CNN) - Remember those late summer days, just before the start of school, when you knew you were free as a bird until Labor Day?

I used to enjoy them, too. And then I moved to West Tennessee.

The Volunteer State is one of 10 states - all in the South except for Utah and Arizona - where a majority of schools begin classes before August 15. I’m willing to bet the school start dates here are the earliest in the country. Nashville public schools will begin their classes next summer on August 1. In Chattanooga, it will be August 8. Memphis will start August 5. Things are a little saner in Knoxville, where schools will begin August 21 this year.

But recently, my local school board in Madison County voted to begin school on August 2.

Yes, August 2. I’m the parent of a first-grader in one of the elementary schools in Jackson, a city of 65,211 an hour east of Memphis. It is best known as the place where legendary railroad engineer Casey Jones grew up. It is a center for cotton, soybeans, a Pringles Potato Chips plant - and early schools.

Before moving here, I lived in Maryland, a state that Education Week recently anointed as having the country’s best schools. We started school around the third week in August and ended in early June. Most of the country cannot comprehend starting school August 2.

I like to spend summers near family in the Pacific Northwest, where summer doesn't even kick in until July and August and September are the best months to be there. All around the country, there are reunions, sporting events, fairs, festivals and zillions of outdoor events in August. All my college friends from Oregon are having our once-every-five-years reunion the second weekend of August. In 2008, I went. This year, I will be stuck in Tennessee.

When I got word that the Madison County school district was thinking of starting classes a month before Labor Day, I wrote an opinion piece for the local paper. After it ran, I only got one phone call - from a parent - in favor of my stance and two, both from teachers, suggesting I leave the state if I was complaining about local customs. I showed up at a school board meeting in mid-February to agitate for turning back the calendar to a more sane start date. Most of the board members just sat there and looked at me. The principal of my school told me it had been this way for years and that parents had just gotten used to it. The inertia was amazing.

Early school starts mean that teachers have to prep in their classrooms in late July, smack in the middle of summer. When school starts - and Tennessee in August is sweltering - students in my district are handed bottles of water to take on the buses, which have no air conditioning. My daughter has a 40-minute ride home on one of those buses. As for taking outdoor physical education classes, forget it. Too hot. Holding classes then pushes up utility bills, too. It takes a lot more energy to cool schools in August than May or June.

The state tourism industry takes a hit, as well. According to a 2007 study by the University of Tennessee Tourism Institute, the state would receive an addition $189 million in its coffers (which would pay for a lot of teachers’ salaries and new schools) if the state’s schools stated after Labor Day. The University of Minnesota Tourism Center did a similar survey, released this past July, showing that if schools start before Labor Day, summer family travel drops by one-third. There have been fights in the state legislature over this for years, yet still, here we are.

To make matters worse, schools in my county take a full week off in October. The plight of working parents - who often have no one to take care of their offspring for that one week - doesn’t concern the Madison County school board a whit. When I asked the board if they’d ever polled the parents of 13,308 students as to what they wanted, the superintendent had to admit they had not. The two teachers who contacted me were most upset at by my suggestion that the school board ditch the fall break so as to start school later. But the teachers feel that by early October, they have already been holding classes for two months and they need a breather. That October break is not so much for the students, but to give teachers a rest.

Early school start dates began here in the mid-1990s. Educators, led by the local superintendents, like ending the semester in December, so they can give required state tests just before Christmas. They like a few weeks more of instructional time for students to bone up for college entrance exams. They also like starting a new term in January and ending around Memorial Day, so that teachers working on advanced degrees can take college courses in June.

Earlier: Will shorter summer break save these schools?

Because these are the months when school districts nationwide set their calendars for the following school year, informal groups with names like Save Tennessee Summers, Save Indiana Summers and Save Kentucky Summers are firing up bills to present to state legislatures this spring seeking saner school calendars. A representative from the Coalition for a Traditional School Year told me she's working with 11 legislatures. They will spout reasons for starting school later in the summer plus data from a University of Texas researcher - presented to the Texas state legislature in 2006 - claiming that early start dates don’t push test scores up at all. A Christmas break actually aids in retention of information and best test scores, the researcher said.

In Mississippi and Alabama, the state legislatures have stepped in to mandate that schools start no sooner than two weeks before Labor Day and end by Memorial Day weekend. (In other states, the start date is whatever the local school board feels like doing.)

The problem is not a new one and some national media, like The Wall Street Journal have been writing about August becoming the new September since 2000. But school boards are still dead-set against later start dates and in Tennessee and Indiana, the state legislatures have passed bills mandating later start times, only to have them die in committee.

The reason? Education officials are still pushing the fiction that the earlier the start date, the better the test scores. And the state school boards association, with its “Local Schools, Local Decisions” motto, resists being told what to do by the legislature, even if the legislature might be right. I know that the No Child Left Behind Act has put pressure on schools to do better. But making kids come to school in the middle of summer isn’t the solution.

For now, I'm searching out summer camps for my daughter that start in late May. I attended a second school board meeting in March to present more of my research and remind them to ask parents what we want. I got glassy-eyed stares in return. This is the South, someone told me later. When people like things the way they are here, don’t expect them to change.

And so, I invited them to come ride my child's school bus on one of those blistering August days. If that’s not enough to make them realize the dog days of summer are a bad time to have school, then nothing will.

The opinions expressed are solely those of Julia Duin.

How has your school calendar changed over the years? Are you happy with it? Share your perspective in the comments, or tweets us @CNNSchools.

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Filed under: Parents • School board • Students • Summer learning • Voices
soundoff (362 Responses)
  1. Frank Lockwood

    It's crazy to start school at the beginning of August unless there's good solid, empirical evidence that the early start will result in better test scores.

    April 23, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  2. SPJ

    I agree with Ms. Duin. There is no compelling evidence that an earlier start in summer impacts student learning. Year round school is the latest fad in education. It is not the schedule that impacts student learning it is what goes on in the class room and at home that makes the difference.

    April 22, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  3. Hub

    To start school before labor day allows Seniors to graduate in December and move on to the college or university or job of their choice in January. To start school after labor day means students come back from Christmas break (anywhere from 11 to 18 days off) and then have to cram for high stakes tests in a few days. Finish the semester in December. Make a clean break and come back to a clean slate in January. And yes, you do start school in August, but for the coming school year I will be through and the Seniors will have graduated in May. Not one day of class in June. The last time I checked June is summertime! Correct?

    April 17, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • Frank Lockwood

      How many students graduate from high school in December or January? That seems like a pretty slim justification for starting school so early.

      April 23, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
  4. Carol

    I live in Middle TN and we will start the next school year on July 23rd. We get out on May 25th, so we have a little less than 2 months.

    My daughter has always been on this schedule and we really like it. She has 2 week off each for fall break, Christmas break, and Spring break. We like to travel off season and have been to Montana, Florida, Costa Rica, and Paris during these two week breaks. I own my own business and it is much easier for me to plan for the breaks + a 2 month summer than for a 3 month summer. I think two months is plenty of time to have off for summer.

    I do agree that it is hard to participate in some summer activities. My daughter and I usually miss my husband's family reunion that is held in August.

    April 16, 2013 at 7:42 am |
  5. Skye

    I think that us kids need a summer break. Making the school year slogger is just going to make us more tired and sick of school

    April 15, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
  6. Bob C.

    Most schools and buses don't have air conditioning, so having school in July and August is crazy. If you think your kids are actually learning anything when it's sweltering out, think again.

    Now some states are so far south that they DO have air conditioning, in which case it doesn't really matter. Except that it's generally nicer to have time off in the summer than in the middle of winter.

    April 15, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Skye

      I agree

      April 15, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
  7. taco bender

    There is no reason for children to have 3 consecutive months off of their education. Summer breaks were intended for children to work on the land, with livestock, and take a break from school. There is no land or livestock anymore. Unless they are old enough to have a summer job and learn about earning a paycheck there is absolutely no need to have 3 months off. If I was 12 I would probably disagree. But I am all growns up now.

    April 15, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  8. Mom

    I think the early start is ridiculous. Every year it gets earlier. Our district does it so they can have 2 weeks off at Christmas and other scheduled time off which makes it difficult for working parents to find something to do with the kids during that time. I protested by not sending my kids to the first week of school, if more parents did this maybe the schools would get the message. No one is missing anything during the first week, and if they are not high school who cares? Finish your summers people, tell the school to take a hike.

    April 15, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  9. California Mom

    It seems to me that my children have more time off than I did when I was in school. The summer break is about the same, 3rd week of June until just after labor day, but their spring and winter breaks are extended, and now we have a week break in November and February, and various other furlow days. As far as I can tell, our test scores do not seem to be affected by the extra time off, especially for my kids! Financially, for those of us who work full time, the extra school holidays do add an extra financial hardship for us, but it also gives my children the opporitunity to do things that we cannot afford to do with them as a family, and they have so much fun with their friends. If our school year was to be extended, I would welcome the additional instruction time as children learn better when they are younder, not to mention childcare would be much cheaper!

    April 15, 2013 at 9:48 am |
  10. Elena

    I know for the county I where I grew up in North Florida school started in early August. This was because the school district wanted students to have a full 90 days (2 report cards) of education before Winter Break and a full 90 days (two report cards) after Winter break.

    April 15, 2013 at 9:34 am |
  11. jdoe

    Are you kidding me? Most Americans are overworked and have relatively very little vacation time. Many don't even take vacations, either because of too much work or for fear of looking "lazy". When they do go on vacation, they take their work with them. They're probably glad to have their kids stay in school longer. Give the parents more time off, then we can talk about the kids.

    April 15, 2013 at 12:54 am |
    • SentTheWave

      Yeah, who cares about the next generation or their education? Pamper their parents instead!

      April 15, 2013 at 9:03 am |
  12. Josie

    Having moved around most of my childhood, some of my schooling on military posts in Germany. Every location starts differently and the summers are different lengths. In some places school starts as early as August 1 or 2nd, in others it wasn't until August 15th or later. We were in school by labor day and out right before or after memorial day. In fact where I live we (including all the colleges here) will be out before memorial day. Personally summers (unless you live on a harm) are too long, I remember being excited to be back at school growing up, and now am excited when the next semester of college starts.

    April 14, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
  13. NY teacher

    No. They do not. Finland, which ranks 1st/2nd on international tests comparing countries but they too have summers off and week-long vacations throughout the year. It is a fallacy that other countries go to school year round or for more days than our American schools. In fact, students in Finland do not start school until age 7, 2 years later than our students, and is compulsory until the age of 15-16. At that age, students then decide if they will continue on a path that leads to university or one that is vocational.

    April 14, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
  14. scb

    Why does the author assume her school is so special? I am declining an invitation to a school reunion because it is the weekend before my kids start school in mid-August. It varies by district, and it always has. When i went to school in the 60's in Illinois we started after Labor Day, but we only had to cross the state line into Indiana to begin school in August. I graduated high school in May, not June. I don't remember a single summer that didn't end up with me bored and ready to begin again, regardless of the start date. The only kids who can hope to enjoy the kind of summer the author treasures are those who have wealthy parents who themselves have extended vacations or who are at home. Most kids do not have this luxury, and those who do will be more popular if they don't moan about being unable to spend enough time at the lake/at the share/ on the Cape etc. to those who were lucky to get to the community pool a few times.

    April 14, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
  15. Superbigjoe007

    The problem is not really test scores. In California, State exams are mandated to be taken once ~80% of the year has passed, but AP and IB exams are usually in May. An earlier start allows these advanced courses to either teach the material at a slower pace or spend more time reviewing for exams. Once exams are over, however, the rest of the school year is a waste of time. Many students lose all motivation to work since all the "important" exams are over with. Ending the school year in May right after or even before exams eliminates this wasted time in schools and allow students to be more productive. Colleges would work in the same way if they ran as long as public school did.

    April 14, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
  16. jessica

    I have worked as a classroom aide for nearly 8 years in AZ and TX. I loved the earlier start to the year. It was a bit of a change for the kids at first but then many parents said it actually gave them more options for taking family vacations a stuff because there are extra weeks off throughout the year. Working in special ed. most of the teachers said that the children did much better without having so much time off at once. Teachers told me that they did not have to spend as much time reviewing previous material at the beginning of the year. As an employee I really liked it because I did not get paychecks in the summer and there was a week or two off every few months throughout the year. It helps when you have a stressful group of kids.... it know it sounds weird at first but it actually works out well.

    April 14, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
  17. Pam

    School here in Chandler, AZ is on a modified year round schedule where they start school around the 3rd week of July. We loved it when we moved here from MA because summer break went from 10 weeks to 6 weeks and the kids never had a chance to get board. Not to mention it was easier to take vacations during the school year because they had three 2 week breaks.

    April 14, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
  18. bibleverse1

    Maybe more time in school is good.

    April 14, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • That other guy

      NO, I am a freshman in the madison county school systems, and honestly, with the amount of breaks we DO have, it makes life so dreary, and depressing. Honestly, I don't think I am learning as much, compared to other school systems (Italian, German).

      April 14, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
  19. Laura

    I have two children in 3rd and Kindergarden, in East Tennesse schools. The early start date used to bother me when we first moved here 4 years ago but now I like it. What is not mentioned is how breaks are given throughtout the year. The students receive a week off at the end of October and almost 3 weeks at Christmas. The next week long break comes 9 weeks later. Then the students have another 11 weeks of school until summer break. My kids love that week off in October. After being in school since mid August they really need the break. One more week in Summer is not as needed.

    April 14, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  20. kdw31

    Why do people keep saying kids are losing their summer break? The length of the break isn't changing just the start and end dates. So the kids may be starting in August but they will be done in May. I currently live in NM and the schools started mid August and end mid May. I grew up in SC and they had a similar schedule. I thought it was so weird to here about schools in other places that weren't done until June. The complaint of the author is mostly that she won't be able to do things out of state in places that have different schedules than her state. So a summer camp in TN will be no problem b/c they would follow the school schedule. I can see why the school board was indifferent to her argument that this interrupted summer plans for families.

    April 14, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • kdw31

      hear not here

      April 14, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • Jody

      My research showed that there is a dramatic increase in high school drop out rates for school districts that start school in the summer. August is summer. Vitamin D from the sun is crucial to our children's health. I co – led a campaign in my area to start school later in August and we were given an extra week. It is so sad to know the children on gorgeous summer days are sitting indoors. It is disappointing and crazy too.

      April 14, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
  21. Lisa

    Too early in the South? Come join us in Chandler, Arizona on July 22nd where the temperature will probably be 110 degrees on the 1st day of school! Yes, I agree schools are starting way too early!

    April 14, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • Deanna

      We moved from Mesa, AZ to the east coast and my daughter loves the schedule here so much better. She goes to school until early June and starts back the week before labor day. In AZ, she went back the last week in July or the first of August. It was so hard to plan family reunions with school start dates that early. Also, it stinks for the kids because recess is horrific, who wants to play in 110 degrees?

      April 15, 2013 at 7:51 am |
  22. Brian

    Humans were meant to be free roaming the wilderness, not stuck behind desks and computers regurgitating information imposed by social laws and order. In the end, we need to remember that we are not just meat machines whose values lie on getting an occupation... we are creatures whose time on this earth is short and brief, whose dreams are to enjoy the many treasures that life, nature and the world has to offer. Sure we can't function without an order such as our education system, but decreasing the amount of time to have summer vacation is limiting an experience that is very important to people who are developing into adulthood. I say we have 2 days of school a week in the summer at most, that way students won't feel as pressured to study and sacrifice precious vacation time, and at the same time would retain knowledge that could be wiped out over a long break of little to no studying... either way, the government should seriously think about reforming education nation wide to a standard that can be used across the nation. This system should satisfy both educational and leisure needs of students so that we produce a smart, healthy and happy student population. Enjoying life is just as important as functioning within a strong society!

    April 14, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • Mia

      Kids don 't need to be stuck behind desks during the best months of the year! It's an illusion to to think they're learning more. Let them be children!

      April 14, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
  23. mike

    Why not just make summer 70 days long, all across the board?

    April 14, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Tim

      I think everyone is missing the point...it is not when school starts that should be addressed. It is the number of days students should attend school to compete in the world economy. We should be lengthiness instruction to be almost year-round, and if teachers really want to be treated as professionals...instruct for a portion of the day and then spend two hours on instruction preparation and professional learning communities like other countries do.

      April 14, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
      • Alice in PA

        Great idea. Teachers in the US spend more time in front of students than teachers in other countries. But who is going to pay for the extra teachers needed to cover the classes while I plan? Right now I teach 7 out of eight periods and do most of my planning after school.

        April 14, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
      • NY teacher

        The US school calendar is similar in number of days to schools in other countries. People here in the US have been lead to believe that we have a shorter year than other countries. We do not. Finland, who ranks 1st/2nd in the world on international exams also has summers off and week-long vacations at different points in the year. The number of days in school is not why are students are less successful. As a teacher of 15 years who as worked with 1600+ students in that time, the problem lies in how our students and families value education.

        April 14, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
  24. increase soundcloud followers

    Amazing! Its genuinely amazing post, I have got much clear idea about from this article.

    April 14, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  25. erin

    It doesn't really matter WHEN they go to school. Our country's obsession with standardized testing is killing our education system. TEACHERS should be the ones making decisions about how to improve schools, NOT politicians or businesspeople.

    April 14, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • bibleverse1

      Real life proves if you learned.

      April 14, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • NY teacher

      Thank you for those words! You could not be more right! It's amazing how much has changed in my school and for our students and us as teachers – and not for the better. I'm not sure why politicians and board of education members (not trained and usually haven't worked in education) think they no how to improve student achievement.

      April 14, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
  26. TypoPolice

    One typo (and one grammatical error) in the paragraph that begins "The state tourism...".

    April 14, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  27. Amy from Atlanta

    I live in a suburb of Atlanta (fulton county schools) and our school year starts early also. I am in total agreement that schools should start later I was told by a retired teacher that the reason schools start early is so that they can finish the semester before Christmas and therefore, grades will be higher. If the semester finished after the Christmas break, test scores would be lower because info retention would be lower. Got to remember we're in the south, lowest school performance in all of America. Doesn't mean I agree with the schedule though.

    April 13, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • Tara

      Is this Lyde?

      April 14, 2013 at 1:19 am |
  28. Robcosystems

    The same handful of countries consistently, year after year, perform better than the US, grades 4-12. While there are many differences between those countries and the US, one uniform difference is that they all have year-round schooling.

    April 13, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
  29. Bob

    Interesting that this writer only talks about how this will affect her. Will be great when parents are more concerned about what their kids learn, instead of when their summer starts. Seems to me that the summer break will be the same length no matter when it starts.

    April 13, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
    • Janet H

      The author spends most of the post talking about how a later start date affects children, including hers. You missed the point almost entirely.

      April 14, 2013 at 12:19 am |
    • Kip

      Seems that the longer summer breaks did not help Bob with his reading comprehension. If week long breaks are added in the Fall and the Spring, then those two weeks come from somewhere. And that somewhere is the Summer Break – meaning the break is two weeks shorter. I felt I needed to super-explain this for those that went to school with Bob. And for those like us, two working parents, finding what to do with children over those two weeks is VERY difficult. But those poor teachers need more breaks to get through life. They could decide to work year-round like me.

      April 14, 2013 at 8:46 am |
      • mp

        Hey Kip–feel free to get a "professional" degree while accruing student loan debt and then spend 80 hours a week working like a maniac while non-educators criticize you for your hours, lack of knowledge, inability to "control" your classroom, poor test scores, poor student behavior, and of course, summers "off". You think you work hard? Teachers make more decisions than any other profession except air traffic controllers. Teachers have the highest rate of UTI and kidney infections (because they can't just go when they need to). Teachers are required to continue their educations throughout their careers, most times at their own expense. Please spend some time volunteering in a public school before you criticize a career that requires a level of dedication that is unknown in most fields.

        April 15, 2013 at 11:57 am |
  30. MiMi

    I was born and raised in TN and still reside in the state. I remember school for my siblings and I starting after Labor Day and we didn't get out till the middle of June. Our late bells rang between 8:45-9:00am and we didn't get out of school until around 3:30-3:45. I spent most of my summers out in the woods with my friends building forts (yeah I know but a tomboy will be a tomboy LOL) and on days that it rained I would curl up in my room with a book to read. My siblings and I attended public schools and I don't think we turned out too bad. One is an attorney, one is a trauma nurse and one is a telecom technician. What I remember the most though is that due to the summer break we had a chance to go and do things that today you can't do if you have kids in the current system. We would spend summers on a horse ranch with our grandfather or take weekend or week long trips to visit family in Florida or go to North Carolina to the Smokies and go camping. We learned quite a bit during the summers that we could use in school like gravity and momentum (drop two item off the top branch of the tree and see which one hit first....what kinds of "critters" live in the area woods and streams and how they effect each other). With the shorter summers kids don't have time to explore their environment and self teach themselves. Nothing drives a lesson home more than being able to figure out how much of a lead you need on the target to hit your friend running across the yard with a water balloon. Just that simple act of play right there is using math and physics but as a kid you don't realize that until the teacher brings it up in the classroom then the light bulb goes off :) Another thing I hate is the early start times. As a teenager in high school I was pretty much still in a coma when the late bell rings today (7:20am). I had a job and band after school. We got out of school around 3:30 or so then band practice then off to the job by 5pm-6pm then home around 10:30 or 11:00 (sometimes later if you had to close) but school didn't start till almost 9am the next morning so it was doable. With that schedule we also didn't have a lot of time to get into trouble either. I have two grandchildren currently in the school system here and because of the shorter summers I have been able to take them camping once in two years. By the time my siblings and I were there ages (8 & 10) we had been summer camping so much we were the ones who set up camp while the adults "supervised". I know that not all children have the same learning styles and some need more help but that is where the traditional summer is so important. Most kids learn more when they are playing as a group than they will in class simply because play is fun...school not so much. The skills I learned all those summers I still use today and try to pass that knowledge down through the generations but just like any skill you have to be able to practice it to get it.

    April 13, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • get back in the classroom

      Honey, kids today don't build forts and look at all the critters in the woods. The woods are gone and replaced by shopping malls and housing developments. Kids today as young as 5 are glued to their smartphones and video games. They aren't having all the educational moments you and I had several decades ago. I am in favor of shorter summers because the majority of kids have two working parents who can't babysit them all summer and learning in the classroom beats playiing video games hour in, hour out and texting every few seconds.

      For the author who thinks her daughter's bus ride is too hot for 40 minutes, get an f-ing reality check and realize THAT experience just might be (1) totally survivable and (2) a good lesson in appreciating the air conditioned house she sleeps in. Get real people. Americans are way too soft.

      April 13, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
      • PC

        I am a teacher and resent the implication that I need to "babysit" children in the summer because their parents won't. First, most of the parents in my school are glad to have their children at home. Second, I'm not paid nearly enough to babysit. If that were true I'd be making six figures, easily (not happening!)

        In order for learning to sink in, children need to be away from formal learning for awhile. Go back and study Piaget. "Play is the work of children."

        April 13, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
      • Mike

        Here, here "get back in the classroom". Very well said.

        April 13, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
      • Mommy Tyler Moore

        Um, speak for our own kids. My kids spent PLENTY of time outdoors in the dirt, exploring worms and bugs and jumping on their trampoline. Yes, they have ipods too. They have a nice balance of technology and unplugged life. My kids are also homeschooled. Therefore, our nice days can be spent however they so desire.

        April 14, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
  31. Judy Howell

    I find it interesting that many of the responders to this blog talk about how they don't want their children to miss their time at the "cottage", beach house or spending their summers traveling. That's very nice for the minority of Americans who can afford such luxuries. Most average Americans don't have cottages or beach houses. Most average Americans are lucky to take one week of summer vacation. That leaves (at least in my part of the country, DC metro area) another 9 weeks of summer to fill for their children. Summer camps are expensive and many teens have no interest in camp. Many teens who want to work can't find jobs. This leaves many children whose parents actually work full time jobs (and there are lots of 2 earner couples in my area) completely unsupervised at home probably playing video games or being completely bored after a few weeks. And when you consider the number of children whose parents can't afford summer childcare or camps, there are significant numbers of children who are literally wasting away for almost 3 months of the year. I'm not opposed to a summer break, but 6 weeks is more than enough time for family travel, camps and down time. I must admit that I live in a fairly affluent community, but even I (I work part-time) have difficulty filling the summers for my children. They attend a few weeks of camp and then we take a week of vacation. We don't have a summer home or lots of time to spend weeks traveling because we actually have jobs. By the time school rolls around in late August, even my youngest child is talking about how he is ready for school to start because he has run out of things to keep him occuppied. The reality is, that except for a minority of people who are affluent enough to spend weeks of blissful time lounging around the lake or taking expensive vacations to Europe, most people find the summer long, burdensom, and unproductive for their children.

    April 13, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • Kim

      You can't speak for the majority of people and you especially can't base your statement on income. Even with two parents working it is possible to "fill" a kids summer and not spend a lot of money. Play dates, parks, lake beaches, scavenger hunts....the list can go on and on. It takes planning and time to keep kids busy but it can be done. I'm tired of hearing people say their kids get bored, etc. Being a parent is a job and evn if you work outside the home you can still find activities to do. You seem bitter. I feel sorry for you that you are burdened by your kids having a summer break. As far as the video games or t.v., its called parenting and it needs to be done to limit screen time. School is not a daycare service and kids deserve to be kids.

      April 13, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
      • time

        Kim, you sound like a stay-at-home parent to me. Scavenger hunts require supervision, which certainly can't be done from the workplace. Play dates also need to be supervised. Also, many of us now live in areas where the neighborhood isn't safe to send your kid around asking for stuff. Not everyone lives in midwestern suburbia. I am afraid of my neighbors and can't move for economic reasons.

        One thing you wrote is correct. School is not daycare at all but it certainly is a supervised activity for kids just like camp or horsebackriding. The reality is that two-income families are here to stay and for some reason, many people still want kids. Not everyone can stay home for their kids and year-round learning can be good for kids and parents. Don't like that? Send them out to the farms to do agricultural work for free while they learn skills there. That is what summer break was originally for anway. Childhood isn't "for fun", it's for learning and hopefully having fun while doing it.

        April 13, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
      • Judy Howell

        I'm not bitter at all. I'm a realistic parent who lives with the current realities of our society. Yes, many parents both work and as Time responded, kids can't be left unsupervised in parks and playgrounds. I'm a firm believe that children, including teenagers, require supervision.That's why it really bothers me to hear about so many children who are left sitting at home for 8 hours a day while their parents work in the summer. I do not expect school to be a place for my children to be babysat, quite the contrary. Perhaps an extended school year can be used for all of the things that are left out of the curriculum these days because all of the time that that is spent preparing for standardized tests. That includes field trips, hands-on learning experiences and more time spent on social studies and science that have been pushed aside to give kids the reading, writing and math instruction that they absolutely need. I live in one of the highest rated school systems in the country and my kids spent minimal time on science and social studies in elementary school because most of the school day was divided between reading/writing and math. By the way, as I mentioned in my post, it was my own child who told me last summer that he looked forward to getting back to school because he actually enjoys the seeing his friends who are all over the place during the summer, the structure of the school day and believe it or not, learning.

        April 14, 2013 at 11:14 am |
  32. AmyB

    I feel strongly that the creeping of the school year is a misguided effort. Although there are children for whom a prolonged, consistent schedule and practice to avoid loss of skills is necessary, I believe firmly that the summer months should be left alone for the majority of children. What I see is the testing atmosphere, promoted heavily by big publishing companies-who also develop curriculums to teach to the tests btw (my little conspiracy theory) is a huge obstacle to real teaching and real learning for most children, and is playing a huge role in undermining public confidence in teachers. Children with the most learning potential are disregarded while ones who struggle receive a great deal of teachers time and attention (I am not for choosing one over the other, but clearly all children have a right, a need to be taught, not just hang out in the limbo that school has become for many). Until we ensure our schools are full of teachers trained and given the control to teach all our children the way they need to be taught we have no business requiring our children to suffer through the experience for an even larger portion of the year.

    April 13, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  33. Templeton

    I cannot verify this, but I am fairly sure that the main reason we have summer vacation for education is because children were needed in the fields, working the family farm. Our educational system was founded in the era of the Enlightenment and in the model of the Industrial Revolution. Teachers were initially allowed to teach with only a two year degree and most, if not all, were married women who were looking to supplement the family income. We have to accept that many things in education are horribly outdated and need to be revamped to reflect the changes in society.

    I am not saying that children and everyone involved in their education don't deserve breaks. We all do. However, it is generally accepted that, just like anything work related in the modern age, spacing out breaks between productivity improves what you accomplish and allows you to appreciate the respite.

    I am a teacher. You could start the school year in October, and it wouldn't affect my summers because I am thinking about, planning for, shopping for, and preparing for the next school year as soon as the last one ends. Most teachers do. Because, well, it's my job; my job of teaching doesn't just stop when the buses pull away. Neither should the student's job of learning. I believe that, since a parent's job and a teacher's job are both full-time occupations, the job of being a student should be also. And, yes, I agree that some of the most important work of learning comes from having idle time, vacation time, time away from school. I also think that, as with any break from the norm, we should practice moderation instead of automatically defending our "right" to have large blocks of time with children academically unaccounted for and, for many less fortunate students whose parents can't afford summer camp or vacations, is spent taking care of younger siblings or stewing in the house because they either aren't allowed to or can't afford to travel.

    Instead of a this longer time, I would much rather have, say, 4 day weeks throughout the year with, perhaps, week or 2 week breaks spread in the warmer months. But this would only work if the days the students were in school were meaningful and there was a continuity to the process; this would require a restructuring of curricula, instructional organization, and enrichment activities. I don't always think about textbook time and tests when I think of longer school years; I think of all the cool field trips and activities that we could enable students to go to, all year round, that they might not ever get to experience unless their school organizes it. I teach in a middle school near DC, where most of the museums, galleries, and traveling exhibits are free, yet few ever take advantage due to cost, chaperoning, safety, or time. Since we all agree that learning, for children especially, should not and does not only take place in the classroom, it would be helpful to put this belief into practice, even if it means a lot of changes for the lives of the adults in their world.

    April 13, 2013 at 10:23 am |
  34. kimbeek

    As a Tennessee teacher, rest assured that it is not the teachers who desire an early start to the school year. Public education in TN (and several other states) is under attack in our state legislatures. This is simply another phase of the plan to destroy public education which is being put into place by several private interest groups. Teachers in public schools are currently portrayed as little more than babysitters. According to these groups, the only way your child can get a good education in TN is if you enroll him/her in a charter or private school. Legislation supported by these groups is introduced yearly to drain taxpayer money away from public schools and fund schools that only a few students will actually be able to attend. Starting schools at this unreasonable time is simply part of the plan to say, "Look, we even started schools a month earlier because that's what the teachers said it would take to make test scores go up, but still no results!" Ask ANY teacher. They will tell you that the most effective way to student achivement is when the parents and the teachers PARTNER TOGETHER to help the student learn. A student who as parents who care, who check to see if their homework is done, who follow up with the child on school projects , who set boundaries for their children and enforce those boundaries, who teach their child to treat all people with respect and courtesy, THOSE students are the ones most likely to achieve. On the other hand, in the urban public schools, such a parent is often a rarity. Yes, research shows that the teacher is the single most important factor in student achievement. I strive daily to be that postive factor. However, I don't think that the researchers conducted their research in a school like mine. If the current political and media climate continues, ten years from now public education will be nothing more than a place for poor and recaltrient children to be parked until they're 18. Teachers will be like McDonald's workers, garnering the same wages and amount of respect. Check your statisics; young teachers are leaving TN school systems in droves. Teachers who are eligible for retirement are leaving in droves. Who does that leave to teach in public education?

    April 13, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  35. Nancy

    My 4 years old daughter is in a half day class at a Montessori school all year long except for 3 weeks in August and Holiday Breaks. She does better when she has a routine and is continuously learning all year long. There are plenty of time to play after school, weekends, in-service days, and holidays.

    April 13, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • Chester

      Nancy.....no disrespect but she is only 4. She hasn't even learned to dislike school yet.

      April 13, 2013 at 9:45 am |
      • Nancy

        You are absolutely right! I hope she never dislikes school though.

        April 14, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
      • Superbigjoe007

        Students learn to dislike school? What kind of mentality is that? I LOVE school! I had some bad days, but I enjoyed going though that experience. That kind of mentality is why our K-12 schools do not perform as well as other schools around the world.

        April 14, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
  36. Matt

    I think mostly popular hates back to school after 4th of July or August. I think some students have very serious migraine, bad stress, more pain and more headache in school in summer season. it is biggest problem for national education region. it is so sadly. our political and education boards making policies can very harmful and hurtful to our kids. it is very bias law.

    April 13, 2013 at 3:44 am |
  37. Andy

    Feed them to the lions!

    April 13, 2013 at 1:10 am |
  38. Jon

    The computer just ate my long post but I feel so strongly about this that I will start all over again. At age 57, I must be falling squarely into the "old fogey" category. I went to elementary and middle school in the 1960's at private American schools in Germany and France, and attended public schools in upscale suburban Stamford, Connecticut in the early 1970's. School always started after Labor Day (around Sept. 5) and ended around June 20 or so. I was slack-jawed when I read fairly recently (I never had kids) about schools starting in August; but now that I read that some misguided districts (in the steaming South or Arizona desert, yet!!!) start in JULY, well, that to me is like waving a red cape in front of a bull. While the agrarian origin of September, post-harvest season school starts might well be an anachronism, I absolutely cannot agree with today's early start dates. Traditional long summer vacations allow students time to explore the physical world out there, to just be KIDS, to hang with/bond with their families, and even travel to Yosemite or Yellowstone or Everglades or Canyonlands National Parks, or even Disneyland or Disney World. All represent potentially educational experiences, not to mention opportunities for the kid to just simply MATURE. To deprive kids of traditional summers, not only hurts the tourism business, yes...........it hurts the kids themselves. Shame on you, misguided school boards..........you are actually CONTRIBUTING to the Dumbing Down of America. School should start after Labor Day. Period. These school boards are short sighted in the extreme.....probably the same districts with zero tolerance for kids who commit the crime of carrying a pen knife to school......resulting in their expulsion. This is just another example of the decadence, the decline, evident in our society.

    April 13, 2013 at 12:38 am |
  39. Jon

    The computer just ate my long post but I feel so strongly about this that I will start all over. I must fall squarely in the "old fogey" category. I went to elementary and middle school in the 1960's at private American schools in Germany and France, and attended high school in suburban upscale Stamford, Connecticut in the early 1970's. School always started after Labor Day (around Sept. 5) and ended around June 20 or so. I was slack-jawed when I fairly recently read about schools starting in August, but now that I read that some misguided districts (in the steaming South or Arizona desert, yet!!!) start in JULY, well, that to me is like waving a red cape in front of a bull. While the agrarian origin of September post-harvest season school starts might well be an anachronism, I absolutely cannot agree with today's early start dates. Traditional long summer vacations allow students time to explore the physical world out there, to just be KIDS, to hang with their families and even travel to Yosemite or Yellowstone or Everglades or Canyonlands National Parks, or even Disneyland or Disney World. All represent potentially educational experiences, not to mention opportunities for the kid to just mature. To deprive kids of traditional summers, not only hurts the tourism business, yes...........it hurts the kids themselves. Shame on you, misguided school boards..........you are actually CONTRIBUTING to the Dumbing Down of America. School should start after Labor Day. Period. The earlier starts are just more evidence of a decline in America, more evidence of a decadent trend in this nation.

    April 13, 2013 at 12:20 am |
  40. Rhonda

    Sadly everyone has an opinion on how long the school year should be but not enough are concerned about students graduating that can barely read and teachers that don't make a decent salary but still have to buy supplies from their own pocket because the states don't have enough money to supply them...these should be more of a concern than when the school years starts and ends

    April 12, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • Tony

      An extra month of school will *not* make a child literate. Adding one month to a nine month school year is increasing the amount of time spent in the classroom by 11%, but it's also decreasing breaks by 33%.

      April 12, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
  41. Gail

    As a teacher, I say that kids AND teachers are ready to finish earlier and the last couple of weeks of school accomplish precious little; by the same token, kids and teachers are mostly eager to return and when every one else goes back at the end of August, camps close, the pool closes, etc. it is not fun to wait until after Labor Day. So shifting earlier is okay. But Aug. 2 is too much of a good thing. All this talk of AC is majoring in the minor. A generation (or maybe 2) ago, there was no AC in any school. I taught many years in Central America in exceedingly hot weather in the 1990's with only ceiling fans; we did fine. It is all what you are used to. Students have become used to AC in summer (too cold, so you have to bring a sweatshirt) and overheated buildings in winter (so they wear shorts!). The energy bill is wasted money. Studies show it takes 6 weeks for the body to adapt to a significant temperature change. The body cannot adapt to the heat if it is constantly in air conditioning.

    April 12, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
  42. Katherine

    While I see the validity of her point, I don't really believe that making the school start dates later will solve the problem. I am a 19 year old female from south Georgia who has always started public school in the first or second week of August and ended in the third or fourth week of May. Talk about hot! For my generation, this is normal. Changing the school start date to later in September will shock the majority of the voiceless high school students who are impacted the most by these changes. Many opportunities for upper level students seeking to better themselves can be lost or gained through these changes. Let's take for instance, dual-enrollment. At my high school, any one who dual-enrolled at the local college received a major discount to their tuition. If public school start date was later than that of the college, then those students would miss a very valuable opportunity to advance their skill set all because of mismatched scheduling.
    If Ms. Duin decides to continue fighting this issue, then she needs to consider all levels of children in her school system, not just the first-graders who are missing out on camp activities.

    April 12, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
  43. Nicole

    We should have vacation time more evenly scattered throughout the year, rather than three months off in summer. Kids do better. Period. It isn't about tourism, it's about kids. Yes, children need breaks and need play time, and I'd love to start by banning mandatory homework before fifth grade (it isn't research supported) and mandating at least 30 minutes of daily recess. Also I'd like more week long breaks during the school year. Throwing kids into months of summer vacation isn't the solution.

    Air conditioners can be purchased for buses and gyms. Families can reschedule family reunions, or just pull their kids out. And this isn't really about the typically developing upper middle class kids who are going to do great anyway, it's about the poorer and needier kids.

    April 12, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
  44. MysteriaKiito

    There are foreign schools that have much shorter summer breaks and barely any other holiday breaks for that matter. They are much smarter than us in so many ways it's not even funny. Kids forget everything they learned the previous year because summer break is TOO LONG. I'd rather my kids be in school learning and not at home forgetting everything as they sit around complaining that they are bored.

    April 12, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
  45. Kim in michigan

    Pure Michigan. More freshwater coastline than any other state. Medical pot. And a state law that requires schools to start AFTER labor day. Because Michigan respects people who have jobs in the vacation industry. And it's just so gosh darn nice here in August.

    April 12, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • Cee

      I am a fellow Michigander, and I love the fact that my kids don't have to go back to school until after Labor Day. We have more time to relax at the cottage, and it is Pure Logic to do so. We have relatives in the south whose kds start back in August, that is ridiculous. We love our four seasons and summer vacation.

      April 13, 2013 at 12:00 am |
  46. Murph

    Teachers work in summer!? That's unpossible!

    April 12, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
  47. gahh

    The Utility Companies are probably behind the schools starting so early. All they have to do is grease the palms of the Board of Education Legislators in your state, and look at the money the taxpayers have to dish out, for those electric bills. Schools now go into June and start in August.

    April 12, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
  48. Gary Li

    This year all schools in Chandler Arizona starts on July 22. It could be the earliest in the nation. But they have a 2 weeks break in October. The early start date does interfere with many summer camp activities.

    April 12, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
  49. Jason

    This author is completely off base. As a teacher myself not only should schools start earlier, they should run year round. Studies have shown how detrimental a three month vacation is to children's learning. Its RIDICULOUS! We should be in school August through June. Have July off, and sprinkle in additional 4 day weekends and weeks off here and there. Thats how the rest of the world does it and how studies have proven most effective. Stop acting like school and education is less important than your precious vacation and travel.

    April 12, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • Jim

      Finland goes to school less hours per day and less days per year. The Finnish educational system has been praised for its results.

      It is not the length of the school year that is important, it is the quality of instruction (and not needing to teach toward standardized tests, but that is an argument for another time). I have been teaching for 17 years, and would LOVE to teach at a school based upon the Finnish model.

      Let me end by saying this: The generation that put the man on the moon and invented the internet went to school from Labor Day to Memorial Day.

      April 12, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
      • Really

        . . .and because nothing has changed in the meantime, we should keep education at the point it was almost 50 years ago!

        April 12, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
      • kkhd

        You say in Finland they also have the summers off, but do they have 2.5 to 3 months off? Here in The Netherlands (and in many other European countries) we have 6 weeks off for summer vacation. That is it! We're used to it and it works. I doubt in Finland they have the length of summer vacations that they do in the USA.

        April 15, 2013 at 3:57 am |
    • Mentalcase

      Wow good thing you don't right the rules. Why do you say "stop acting like your vacation is more important than education" why can't they both be important? If kids are boarded at the school they get better results also but that doesn't mean it gives the child a better life.

      April 12, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
      • Really

        Right? I spot someone who could have benefited from a longer school year!

        April 12, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
    • Valjo

      I completely agree with you. The majority of people act is if a 3 month summer vacation is a basic human right, and are completely indignant that some people think that time could be better spent educating, inspiring and motivating students. Is it any wonder most students can name all the finalists on American Idol, but don't know who the Vice President of the United States is. Ditto for majority of the parents.

      April 12, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
    • Wietsma

      You can have your four day weekends, your one week off, but you'll have to excuse most of your gifted kids for a week or two. Summer is the time when we learn more than most times in school.
      Let me give you an example: for one week I will be in band camp. We will learn music, which is generally known to help kids, and learn about how to survive in high school. For three weeks I will be out of the country. One week will be in traveling around Germany and the surrounding countries. The other two weeks will be spent in a German high school, learning German and anything else they choose to teach. At the end of summer I will spend at least two weeks with the marching band, learning the routines, music, and everything else needed, but impossible to learn with only a few hours per week. And the rest of the time won't be spent in vain either, it will be spent in the library, reading fiction, nonfiction, periodicals, and anything else that catches my fancy. The better part of the day will be spent learning what they often don't teach in public schools.
      So tell me, is summer so detrimental to us? I agree, that, yes, most kids waste their summer, forgetting most of what they've learned, but those of us who would succeed anyway will keep our minds sharp. It is said that some people won't succeed whatever you do for them, and some will succeed whatever you do to them. Maybe we ought to let them go their separate ways, find out what kind of life they will have

      April 12, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
    • Cee

      Respectfully, do you think the government would pay for an extended year? They don't want to pay for nine months most of the time. I have respect for you being a teacher, thank you. Shaping young ones into good people is a profession only a select few can do well.

      April 13, 2013 at 12:03 am |
  50. Sandy

    Kids today are expected to be little automatons, drugged into silence, robbed of individuality, starved of creativity...it's revolting. The people eschewing summer vacations clearly weren't allowed to grow souls themselves so they don't get it. My son (an honor roll student) absolutely HATES school, and I would never force him to spend 100% of his childhood with teachers breathing down his neck. Oh, and by the way, how would they EVER get to attend family functions, vacations and so forth if they are in school all year? No school that my kids have ever attended has allowed absence for any other reason than illness or death. More than two days and you need a doctor's note. So the only time they are to have off during their entire childhoods are school sanctioned holidays??? No WAY. I would sooner homeschool my child than just hand him over to the less than stellar educational system we have going in the US of BS. There are more than test scores involved in educating a child. No wonder kids are so messed up these days. Not mine though, mine are awesome; smart, responsible, compassionate, talented, creative–and all this despite having INDULGED in time for themselves and their families each summer. Go. Figure.

    April 12, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
    • Jason

      Educating youth is how we build a better future for America. Your precious family functions, vacations, etc. take a back seat. Want to know the real reason the US of A lacks behind the rest of the world when it comes to education? Its because too many people think like you and care more about their beloved time off than proper schooling and learning.

      April 12, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
      • Mentalcase

        Jason.........the US does not "lacks behind the rest of the world when it comes to education".

        April 12, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • Santiago

      Teachers do not "want to breathe down the necks" of kids. They want to educate tomorrow's generation. Most of these ridiculous decisions are made in legislatures around the country by people who have never taught or worked with children. In fact, I'm willing to bet their own children attend private schools and are exempt from the impact of such decisions.

      April 12, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
  51. Year-Round Education

    Wow, I wish we lived where 12-month education was available. My kids thrive on the routines and structure of school days; "breaks" that are more than a week are matter of high anxiety for them. On the other hand, we find homework to be completely useless. By the time we get home from therapy, having another 30-60 minutes of school work every night means they get to eat and go to bed- no time to play, inside or out. And it isn't like they are sent home with work specific to their needs for review or practice, or opportunities to do projects and generalize skills. Just lots of worksheets, over and over.

    April 12, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
    • Wietsma

      I completely agree with the less homework. I take all honors classes, including two high school classes in middle school. In one class we got at least fourty problems a night. Nobody cared whether we got it right, we just had to write something down. In language arts we had to write a five paragraph essay. I and my classmates worked for hours on that thing, only to learn that it was a particapation grade. Some homework is useful, if it shows you what you need to work on. Most, though, is a waste of time.

      April 12, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
  52. leeann

    I agree completely with the author. What happens to children who are deprived of time to "be children?" Does anyone know? Have studies been done? We forget that physically being in school is only one part of the school year. The other part is the hours and hours of homework, that in some districts, start as early as first grade. When your children are out of school, they have more time in the evenings for family activities, like going for a walk, visiting a park or other family, studying the stars, watching a movie with popcorn, playing any old game, reading a fun book, etc. ( I acknowledge that not all children live in an environment that is able to nurture such activities.) With a longer school year, families lose valuable time together.

    One of my children had a hard time with homework, so I spent hours each week keeping him focused and on top of things. If I missed even one day of checking on him, there were problems. So by the end of the school year, we were both mentally and emotionally frazzled. I've known other parents who were the same way. Another month of school would be too much. But for those children who need/want more school, maybe summer school programs should step up and be a viable option.

    One last personal thought: my children attended both traditional and year-round school. We hated year-round. When their breaks happened during the cold weather, their outside play was drastically cut. Their friends were often on different tracks, so they had no friends to play with, and their friends had no one to play with when they were off-track. It was hard to go on vacation to visit family because those children were still in school. Also, one of my children's teachers (who hated the year-round also) told me that he spent the first week after each break getting the students caught up, instead of just once in August. And every time they returned from a break, he was in a different classroom, which confused some students.

    There are pros and cons to every preference. All should be studied.

    April 12, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
  53. KS

    Then move. Just not to the Pacific NW. We're full.

    April 12, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
  54. Nax

    Kids traditionally got summers off to help with the farm. Since there's no farm work to be done, year round school with a few weeks off once every few months, like in Europe, is better for everyone concerned. Let's do what best helps our children learn, rather than romanticize about days of yore.

    April 12, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • Lee

      I agree! Year round school with the summer break spread around makes sense. They started school in Hawaii on July 30.

      April 12, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
      • icarus

        I don't think we should be following what Hawaii does. Their public education system is horrid.

        April 12, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
    • tabbi

      look at how much it costs to keep schools cool during the months of summer..... it should also be about being practical with money!!!!

      April 12, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • Nicole

      The summer vacations had little to nothing to do with farming. Most farmers plant in spring and harvest fall- those are the able intensive times.

      Summer vacation comes from some early 20th century psychological theories, that are now debunked. Kids need time to be kids, yes, but not in several month long chunks.

      April 12, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
  55. just me

    While i understand the authors frustration with the difference in start times, that does not justify the new district change to meet her perception of what is best. In stead of telling us how this will upset her traditional summer plans, she should have asked the locals how they plan their summers. After all, she moved to this place, this is not the town she grew up in that suddenly changed. She is the one that must adjust.

    This doesn't mean the author does not have a point. The are financial insentives to starting school later for the state, but the personal issues that affect her are not relevant to the district. Child care during the week off is how ever a revelant issue, I have seen this become a difficult thing all over the country is a number of school districts move to year round school. two eeks off at spring break, 2 more in the fall, 3 weeks at christmas, and 4 during the summer. To minimize the effect, some schools have different weeks off than others in larger cities. This can make vactions and family activities difficult, but those are personal issues. Where it really causes problems is in child care. As the author said, becuase there is no school for the fall break thousands of parents have to miss work to care for their children.

    i do admire the authors spirit, ask questions, take action, do research. She seems to be doing all of the above. And while I agree that the early start-test score story doesn't hold water, that does not mean that they should move the start back later. The financial aspect is an EXCELLENT start, continue to use the facts to influence change. But remeber that some times we fail. As a parent you are well aware that life is not bed of roses. It has its ups and its downs. If this is truly a down for you, you may need to make a change. However, I suspect that the author, like most of us needs a little time to take it all in. The way Each of us grew up and experienced life was NORMAL to us.... not it is different to others. Different doesn't mean better or worst. Just not the exact same. WHen you move to a new place the traditions and culture can change a little or a lot, and you may have only move 50 miles down the road. I have lived in 9 stated while in the military, every change had positives, and other positives. NOT NEGATIVES. just because something is different does not make it negative.

    You are not in Kansas anymore, accept the state you have made your home, and make the best of all it has to offer. That doesn't mean you can't make a case for change... us course you can. But don't do it because of what you are used to, because your nieghbors will continue to give you a glassey eyed look, as you are challenging there culture, and inserting yours are better. I am not saying YOU think that, but that is exactly how most people in ANY town will see it. "The outsider comes in and wants to modernize the locals". You have to embrase your community, and appeal to what drives them, it may even be what drives you!

    April 12, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • UniqueName

      I think you started off well but then you let the author's bias and opinion affect you. Jackson-Madison County School System has a standard 180 day calendar. Early start, early finish. "Summer" break is the same length that all the reminiscers talk about just shifted.

      Second the author quoted some study about whether Christmas break is beneficial. It had nothing at all to do with summer. I would find it hard to believe that her school officials actually tried to claim a shifted schedule increased test scores. In fact, her shcool officials appear to support the author's spaced learning position because they have a fall break scheduled.

      Finally, have you ever seen a month long fall camp while school was in session? Of course not. Local child care adjusts to the school calendar and again the facts are Jackson-Madison County School System actually has a fairly normal calendar. "Summer" camps have no problem adjusting to the school calendar.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
  56. IT Recruiter Mom

    In Chandler, AZ my son will start high school on Monday 7/22/13. It's always been that way and he's never know anything different. I'm a working parent, but when he was in before and after school care, it was always the same hours as the school schedule.

    April 12, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
  57. Christine

    WOW! Do none of you remember being a child? I grew up in northern Michigan where school started after Labor Day and went into early June. Summer was baseball and lightning bugs, swimming in the lake and building forts in the woods. Summer was bonfires and orchard fruit, midnight tag and riding your bike. Summer was our freedom and reprieve from harsh winters and teachers and rules. You have precious few years as a child. Let our kids be kids.

    April 12, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • Andy

      Yuch! Saccharin family values crap., most childhoods consist of cruel emotional torture of the not "in crowd" by the self proclaimed "in crowd". Mixed with physical and emotional abuse and fear issued by parents. Childhood sucks

      April 12, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
      • Joe

        Andy, not everyone had a s#itty childhood like you.

        April 12, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
      • leeann

        Andy, I'm sorry if your childhood and/or those of others you know was so awful. "Most" childhoods are not like that, although they might become so if families do not make time, or have time, to be together. Part of what this author is saying is that she wants more summer time with her daughter. If all parents felt like that, there would be no more abusive or tormented childhoods.

        April 12, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
    • Alisa

      I grew up in Saginaw, I totally agree. You're only a kid for so long, and one of life's greatest joy's is summer vacation. Why do schools insist on starting earlier and earlier? It's insane. We had our childhood summers as they should be, let today's kids have theirs.

      April 12, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • Year-Round Education

      Then why send them at all? Homeschooling frees up a LOT of time, and can be much more individualized to the child's talents and needs- which means you can take better advantage of every day of good weather available.

      April 12, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • Tina Crowder

      Let's poll the children...you can bet they want a longer summer break. Today's schools are nothing more than propaganda mills that would love to undo everything traditional about the American way of life. More time at a desk does not equate with a better education. Einstein took a year off from his schooling (because he hated it) so he could backpack in Italy and think....our children need time to think, be inspired and wonder about the world around them. Let's stop pushing them through the grind with more time in class.

      April 12, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
    • Cee

      I agree, Christine!

      April 13, 2013 at 12:06 am |
  58. Jennifer

    Last I checked, Hawaii isn't in the South. Maybe this journalism prof should go back to school to learn to do some research.... "The Volunteer State is one of 10 states – all in the South except for Utah and Arizona – where a majority of schools begin classes before August 15." Hawaii has been starting classes as early as the end of July for at least the last decade, although this year students will report 8/5.

    But like the AZ teacher wrote, it's way too hot for kids to be in school in August. While it's not as hot here as in AZ, most of our buildings don't have AC, so kids sweat and suffer and don't really learn much at all that first month.

    April 12, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • Kim in michigan

      Last time I CHECKED, Hawaii is further south the any of the other states.

      April 12, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
  59. romabella64

    school in America are BAD, they sucks

    April 12, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  60. romabella64

    America schools sucks anyway no matter where you at.

    April 12, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
  61. lynne

    Honestly, in terms of what is best for EDUCATION of kids, having a summer break at all is bad. Year-round schools make much more sense. The traditional schedule exists as it is because there was a time in our history when children were needed at home to help with farming in the summer months. This is clearly not universally needed anymore. Giving students 2 plus months to backslide is not helpful. As a teacher, I hope most schools transition to year round if possible. I understand that parents may disagree over logistical issues, but finding childcare in the summer and finding childcare during a track-out can't be that different.

    April 12, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Rosy

      hah, someone was just telling me about this ... no longer is our reality system that was based on farming calender when U.S was mostly an agrarian country ... no more

      April 12, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
      • Andy

        To your point, The rural agrarian mentality still has too much of a hold on this country and is keeping it from progressing.

        April 12, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • Lyle

      Oh please!!!

      Starting salary after completing 12 years of school with 3-month summers: minimum wage
      Starting salary after completing 12 years of school with 2-month summers: minimum wage

      Any questions?

      The happiest memories in my life were when my mother and I would visit my grandmother, aunts and uncles during the summers (3 month summers that is). It's about the only time I've ever had, or likely ever will have, when I had no worries, my loved ones were still alive (everyone above me in the family tree is now dead), life seemed good, and I was happy. Reminiscing about those carefree days has gotten me through countless boring meetings. I probably won't ever get to retire, not real retirement anyway. I'll just get too old to work, and end up sharing a trailer with 2 other guys while we try to live on what's left of Social Security, and wait to die.

      There's more to life than being a corporate slave; at least, there should be. Enormous technological achievements were made all while children had 3-month summers. There's a huge glut of qualified workers as it is. Don't believe me? Just Google, "The unemployed need not apply".

      Take away summers, and then marvel at a big spike in teen suicide.

      April 12, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
      • Mary P

        Yeah, because you having fun was more important than being an educated member of society.

        April 12, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
      • UniqueName

        > Starting salary after completing 12 years of school with 3-month summers: unemployed
        > Starting salary after completing 12 years of school with 2-month summers: minimum wage

        Fixed it for ya. Kidding aside, lack of facts and study might be what's led to your predicament. Jackson Madison County School System has a standard 180 day calendar. "Summer" is about 2.5 months from 5/24 to 8/3. This is equivalent to the 6/22 – 9/1 "ideal" you have. Maybe 1 week less because Jackson Madison uses it for a 1 week fall break. I find it incredibly contrived that this one week could have made you a better person. Forget about facts though. Have you lived in the South? It's incredibly hot and humid in August. May/June is much nicer. Maybe the residents of Jackson Madison are willing to pay a bit more in electricity in exchange for nicer weather during breaks. But that is just an opinion. You're free to have your own.

        April 13, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
  62. Andy

    Quit whining and keep the little brats locked up and away from the rest of us for as long as possible. Family re-unions, family activities and the sachrin sweet "family" in general are all completely overated and given mythical status by the over shelling numbers of Evangelical freaks in this country.

    Children would be put to even better use if we could just revoke child labor laws! Then we wouldn't have to worry about how long they were in school for.

    April 12, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • marik48

      You post is just TROLLING and I'm surprised the the moderators haven't shut you down.

      April 12, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
  63. Mary P

    I actually just completed a full research report on this for my teaching degree. It was detailed information in implementing year round schooling. Every year, the school spends almost 2 months reteaching because of summer learning loss. There is no reason, nor any full studies that show a reason for kids to have so much time at once. School districts with year round school have higher graduation rates and less children repeating a grade. Most studies only count annual costs but long term costs are actually CHEAPER. The same amount of time off, but spread throughout the year. The highest perks – ESL kids (who get even farther behind because they aren't hearing English continuously) and high risk kids such as inner city, those in poverty and those with learning disabilities.

    But yeah, let's go ahead and keep the antiquated Agrarian calender based off farming – because instead of having them be productive, we want to make them "happy".

    April 12, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • Kim in michigan

      If you have to re-teach, then they didn't learn it in the first place.

      April 12, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
  64. Amy

    Move back to Maryland.

    April 12, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
  65. Meghan

    This article basically said: “Like, getting only two months for a school break is just ridiculous because it totally messes with my bourgie ritual of spending my summers in the Pacific Northwest. Who cares if long summer breaks contribute to significantly reduced learning outcomes among vulnerable communities (none of which I mention in my article)! I don’t want my kids to ever experience life without air conditioning!”

    April 12, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
  66. Ken

    Not once in the these posts is future mentioned.

    As a kid I could not wait to get back to school. I wanted more. I wanted a challenge.

    Stop worrying about a bottle of water. 180 days of school per year in most states mean less time learning than goofing off. Give them a challenge. Other countries do.

    April 12, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
  67. Azalea

    I'm about to graduate from MCPS in Maryland and I agree with Julia Duin. Our schedule is beneficial to everyone. It gives both students and teachers enough time to prepare themselves for the new school year, allows the county to make any repairs to the buildings/infrastructure as needed, and saves the county and schools money, which can go to other necessary things. Now, to get MCPS to start high school after 7:25 A.M.!

    April 12, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
  68. Jody

    Arizona schools have started as early as the last day in July to as late as August 8, but never any later. Next year it's August 5.

    As an new educator (retired early from a Marketing career), we have had to deal with heat advisories (translation...the kids can't go outside at all because it's too hot) for nearly the entire month of August for the past two years. The kids go bananas because they aren't allowed to run and be kids, the teachers don't get a break all day long and the air conditioners are running full blast just to try to keep some level of comfort in the buildings.

    Have our test scores increased? No, but I am sure that our electricity bills do!

    April 12, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • Rosy

      guess this writer didn't co her research ....
      I'm here in Tucson and the kids get back in Aug.

      April 12, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
      • Vail schools

        Out in Rita Ranch, we will be going back to school 3rd week of July. Hotter then hot out on the playground in July!

        April 12, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
    • Nicole

      I live in northern IL, normally our playgrounds are closed for buisiness for large chunks of December, January, and Febuary. We heat the classrooms and good schools figure out a way to throw in more gym time. We don't just cancel school.

      April 12, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
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