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 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. Ralph

    I work in public education and have seen this same behavior in the district where I work. We used to NOT start school until my wife's birthday, went about a week and had Labor Day. What is sad is we now start around August 15th. Teachers return around the 12th and new hires start August 1st. Totally agree, that this is ridiculous. Back in the day we didn't get 1/2 a month off for Winter (Christmas) break-but now parents expect that so they can go on cruises to the bahamas or go skiing. They don't realize the importance of a good educatoin. Just like they pull kids out for trip any time of the year anymore. They think it beats the crowds, but what does this teach their children about a value of an education? We used to get off for EASTER but don't do that anymore either. Sadly in America with both parents having to work, public schools have been looked at, as a cheaper alternative to day care providers. Snow days-we have them built into the calendar and still have enough contact hours to meet legislative requirements- but yet we still make them all up, often going into JUNE here in the midwest. Why? Because parents want us to. Again the childcare is cheaper but how much REAL teaching is being done when you make up snow days? Hardly any! School calendars used to be formed to work around the GROWING SEASON because often students in school, were kids of farmers. They were needed to help on the farms back in the old days. Now that isn't the case–so let's throw them into school and give them a short summer break. From an educators perspective, the summers are so short now- why do we have to box things up for "SUMMER" when it is only 9 weeks long anymore? Teachers need and want to take more education classes–can't get it in, in that short of time. Buildings and grounds and custodians cannot clean the schools adequately enough in 9 weeks-or if the building hires outside contractors to put new things into the building it doesn't get done on time or they push the contractors so hard due to the start date of school is so quick and summer is so short. I'd love to see this practice stop and reverse itself-but sadly in today's society- we have lost our morals, values and what is truly important for the almighty dollar and all this other junk. Good article though!

    April 12, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
  2. Dustinsc

    Is there a substantive argument somewhere in here? This all sounds a lot like personal preference.

    April 12, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  3. michael53

    Just because she has connections with CNN, her whining can go national rather than stay local where it belongs. I had children in year round schools and initially I did not like it. The multiple tracks allowed fuller utilization of the physical plants, the teachers still had time off and we were able to switch tracks to accomodate our vacation preferences. No big deal. Adapt to the local customs, or move.

    April 12, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
  4. Victor

    Cry me a river. Try working a real job and taking off two months and getting all the benefits teachers get. Teachers should stop compalinging and do their job like the rest of us. As to your treasured childhood memories. Give me a break.

    April 12, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • Eric

      This isn't about teachers, idiot. Go whine somewhere else.

      April 12, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • Barbra & Jack Donachy

      Victor, people like you who are so angry they can't think straight present a real challenge to discourse in this country. Have someone read the article to you, and then rethink your response.

      April 12, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • Ralph

      Thisi isn't about teachers and my wife is a teacher-I think you should walk a mile in a teachers shoes before you ever spout off about "teachers have it so easy" and "I wish I had two months off". You have NO CLUE what so ever. The teacher today has so much on their plate it isn't even funny. Kids are tested constantly to meet governmental goals, and adequate yearly progress, MAP scores, State Assessment Scores, Teaching is far far more difficult today than it was when we were all kids. Check it out- walk in a teachers shoes for awhile-you will be totally blown away and you'll never make this comment again.

      April 12, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • Kristina

      That is just offensive and, no I am not a teacher or in education. They are grossly underpaid for the job that they do and their summers off is a perk. Additionally many that I know use the time for fellowships which help bring more education to the classroom. And kids do need a break and the ability to just be kids, be free, go to camp, stay with Grandma and mostly decompress..

      April 12, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
  5. Carlos Gonzalez

    People of West Tennessee: This is how it starts. Whiney Liberals from the NorthEast who move to your state to take advantage of lower taxes, lower real estate prices, and greater job opportunities and then start up with the same behavior that screwed up where they came from. Accommodate me! Make an exception for me! This idiot rambles on and on about her vacation preferences and personal inconvenience but not once does she mention her daugher's education. The more quickly you learn to recognize them and shut them down when they pull stuff like this the longer you will be able to preserve they way of life that you have enjoyed for years...but they only came to take advantage.

    April 12, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • Kathy in MN

      I'm a liberal....though not from the northeast. But, I agree that this writer seems off-base. She proports to be discussing the school calendar, then bemoans the loss of some vacation options. I agree that the students and teachers should be able to have air conditioned comfort if they are expected to attend school in the summer. In other nations, students attend year round with a few weeks off here and there. We should all be more concerned with quality education and classroom time than we are with family vacation plans.

      April 12, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • Barbra & Jack Donachy

      Carlos, both school systems and the economy are stronger in the Northeast than in the South.

      April 12, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • jheron

      Darn those northerners! Its just like when they forced the southerners to give up slavery!
      Like it or not, when people move to a place, they have just as much right to voice their opinion as you do Carlos.

      April 12, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies

      I'm a liberal.. from Texas. With proud Southern heritage, and a deep love for tradition. I don't think the author states her case effectively, but I also don't think sending kids back to school in August in Southern climates is the right thing either.
      To your point, sir, it is insulting to think that all liberals are "northern" or that all republicans are "southern". That's simply not the case, and you really ought to think about that for a minute. Sure, where you come from and how you were brought up may have some influence on your political beliefs, but you simply sound ignorant to make such sweeping claims.

      I came up in school when they were just starting to make the switch. We didn't start until Sept 1 at least during my elementary education, but the older I got, the sooner we started. My senior year of high school started on my sister's birthday, August 15th. And it was damn hot. Even in high school they cancelled gym classes and football practices throughout the month of August. What's the use in that?

      I actually think year-round school is the way forward, and will be looking for a school district with that option when my own child reaches school age. I have a teaching degree, but I'll never use it because I'd rather make money elsewhere than deal with school districts and parents that think they know how to run my classroom better than me.

      April 12, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  6. KT

    School in my town in WI begins the Tuesday after Labor Day, just as they did when I went to school in CT and CA as a kid. This is relatively recent and my kids, when they were in school usually started the week before Labor Day, typically on a Wednesday or a Thursday which never made any sense at all to me. Why have kids go to school for 2, maybe 3 days only to give them a long holiday weekend and another short week? I think it is the right choice. Kids can study for ACT or SAT's over the holiday break at Christmastime. It is usually almost two weeks long. Kids get out of school mid-June and get to have a "real" summer. Especially in the southern states, as the author noted, it is too bloody hot (I've lived in VA and FL) and sending kids to school in un-air-conditioned buses is nuts, add in the cost of air conditioning schools for August and whatever you think you're saving you aren't. Not to mention....who starts school when it's still summer!???

    April 12, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
  7. Live&Learn

    I am a parent myself and while I understand the concern of the kid riding a bus without isn't a tropical country. Trust me, people (including children) survive living in the tropics. Parents or guardians should teach their children how to "adapt" in certain conditions and it may benefit them later on. I've learned a few tricks to survive the summer growing up in Asia. Drinking cold water helps while using a decorative paper fan to get a breeze. Schools aren't trying to kill your kids. They are trying to educate them by keeping them in school longer (if statistic shows evidence). A little bit of discipline here and there helps along way. As parents, I know you want to help your child. But there is a better way, teach them to adapt.

    April 12, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • russjowell

      So you're comparing our U.S. school kids to survivalists in Asia? I'll bet none of those Asian kids have to wear nice clothes to school, say for picture day, while carrying a 50 pound book bag and a massive science fair poster all by themselves onto a bus. Public transit buses have AC, why can't school buses?

      April 12, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
      • Live&Learn

        They go to school to learn, that is the objective. Would you let your kid go to school in the winter without a jacket? Why do some cars have manual transmissions? Why do buildings have stairs and elevators at the same time? Why can't you teach your kid to cool off by bringing paper fans and towels to dry off sweat and a cold drink? Is that really hard to do? Goodluck with the AC on the bus.

        April 15, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  8. William Demuth

    Perhaps we need to see what actually gives the best results?

    In truth, I fear the unions have their OWN interests at heart rather than the kids, so some real research might help us in making the best possible choices.

    April 12, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
  9. J

    I think it's funny how people say summer needs to be shorter so kids don't forget what they learned from the year before. How about parents review things with their kids over the summer occasionally so that the loss doesn't happen as badly? I would also point out that as a kid of two teachers I learned a great deal camping around America that couldn't be taught in the classroom. It wasn't all just beaches and fun, there was museums, landmarks, historical places and learning about different ways of life. Summer can be a great learning experience if its used correctly, plus it builds family time which Lord knows our society could use more of.

    April 12, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
  10. CTmom

    One real reason TN is beginning school in early August is so high school AP students have from August to early May to make it through the curriculum. Better test scores = better college acceptance = better schools/educators/administrators?

    Although in CT we are beginning school the last week of August (and unfortunately not getting out until the end of June) our high school AP students are required to begin studying on their own during summer because they have to take the AP exams the same time as kids in the South (and nationwide) in early May. We loose almost a month of class preparation time compared to these states.

    I personally would prefer for our limited summer (didn't it used to be 3 months, now my children have 2 months) to actually be summer! No essays, online courses, required (not pleasure) reading, graded blogs, etc. Beginning school in early August, but not having to sudy throughout the "summer break" would be an improvement. Count your blessings!

    April 12, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • ztom

      Even though CT starts later than these southern states, they generally have smarter kids and better schools. So they end up doing the same or better on the tests in CT. So it's okay.

      April 12, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
      • ztom

        Unless you live in Bridgeport, of course.

        April 12, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
  11. stephanna khanna

    my old school oakley union school district in oakley california we would get out of school june 16th and we would start july 25th

    April 12, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
  12. Carolyn

    This author makes total sense. I grew up in Nashville and now teach in Nashville. Growing up, we never started back until after Labor Day, BUT we also went until the early part of June. Those complaining about starting back too early and not letting kids have the summers of yesteryear forget that starting back early also means getting out early. We start early in August now, but we get out earlier and in May. No time is being lost. I agree with the author because of the cost and heat of August.

    April 12, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
  13. Stan

    while I agree that we need to be wary of schedule creep, I would say we need to watch out for school years getting longer more than we need to worry about start and end dates. Most of the author's concerns seem to be about parents, tourism, and other such schedules. What about the students? I can say as a student that switched from a "normal" schedule to one more like she is complaining about, I liked not having to study for finals over Christmas break, I loved fall break (a week off in October) – for some reason Spring Break is normal, why not something similar in fall? All this said, I feel it should be up to individual communities. Let's not let the school year get longer and let local communities decide how they should spread the schools day out.

    April 12, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • lkoh

      This article sounds more like mom wants her summer break back, not anything to do with her daughter

      April 12, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  14. Daniel

    Our education system is failing miserably. Our 3 month breaks were set up during a time when kids lived on farms and needed to be home to help with that farm. Were their summers fun? I doubt they were that great. Not to mention our entire modern education system is based on a British system meant to run the Empire. That's hardly relevant today. They need more schooling today or at least much more efficient schooling. I would opt for shorter schooldays but also less summer break. Let them be kids every day and also learn every day.

    April 12, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • phorse

      I wonder why summer would be more labor intensive down on the farm? If you're talking crop farms, aren't the busiest times spring (planting) and fall (harvesting)? I can't really see why dairy and cattle farms and the like would be any busier in the summer, either.

      April 12, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
  15. ccw

    TN, MS, and AL have some of the lowest test scores in the nation, highest drop out rates, highest teen pregnancies, not to mention obesity. It's time to extend the school years. The points mentioned in this article seem to be based on putting the parents out, not the student's best interests. People will have 2 months to take their vacations and knowing the set yearly school schedule, parents can plan ahead. I live in Nashville now but have lived in MS, but not AL. Students in these states need the extra time in school.

    April 12, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
  16. ES71

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

    Nope. I remember babysitting my younger sister on workdays and pulling weeds on our veggie patch during weekends.
    TIme for the author to check back on the real world.

    3 months is too long and kids forget everything, then the 1st month of school is spent on bringing everyone back up to speed.

    April 12, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • tom LI

      And you base your conclusion on sound research I'm sure...not!

      April 12, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • LDFH

      I agree! My summers as a child were spent in childcare so that my parents could work – not touring the countryside and visiting museums. My son's summers will be the same.

      April 12, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  17. Bjornn

    I personally believe it should be pushed back. I don't know if anyone has ever been forced to experience an Indiana summer, but if you have not, allow me to put into to simple terms. 90-100 degree heat, 100% humidity, day after day. The local school corporation does not have the neccisary time or funding to repair the air conditioning and heating elements, which are about as effective as a hand fan or someone breathing warm air onto your face. Also, childhood is miniscule to the duration of time in which you have to work. Save childhood. Make summer break longer.

    April 12, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
  18. PE teacher

    It doesn't matter how you work the school calendar...some group will not be happy. Our district did ask parents and the ones who even took the time to fill out the questionnaire and return it were split pretty evenly in 3 different camps...those who work, those who want more vacation and those who want the kids in school as much as possible. No consensus at all!!! We also have families who have 3 kids in different districts, could be private for 1 child, public for another and a religious based school for a third one. Things are not like the "old days" Our world has changed and we must as well. Our nation as a whole does not put an emphasis on teaching or education. We teach the masses...other countries weed out those who are not the brightest and offer technical or manual labor options. We continually try to shove a college prep based education down everyone's throat and that may not be the path for most. I would put more effort into looking at the content of education, not if I can go visit relatives during the warmest part of the summer!

    April 12, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • ES71

      Thank you. I completely agree. In the US we spend too much effort on those with lowest scores, who don't even want to learn instead of putting our resources towards the most promising. We bring everyone to the lowest common denominator in misguided pursuit of fairness.

      Perhaps we could offer different tracks – one with 3 months breaks and another with 6 weeks breaks.

      Anyone cares to guess where the smarter kids with more involved parents will be?

      April 12, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  19. Matt

    Have to agree with the author. Kids don't get a chance to be kids anymore. All of the schedule restructuring so we can "juice" the testing scores? Kids need to enjoy lazy summers before they become workaholics like us adults.

    April 12, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • Daniel

      Or maybe they can work hard and retire when they're 40 and have 60 years of lazy summers. Lazy summers aren't something we can keep anymore and expect to make it in this world.

      April 12, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
      • Carrie

        Yes, because we all know that multiple degrees and working hard will guarantee that one will be able to retire at 50. Do you have any other fairy tale advice to share?

        April 12, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  20. Lydia

    I live in Minnesota and would like to have the school year start earlier, mid to end of August and end earlier mid to late May. My kids (I have 5) are ready to be outside at the first hint of spring and learning isn't their first priority and by the end of August they are bored (and hot) and ready to go back.

    If concerns about test scores are really at the core of start and finish dates, the schools should go to a 4 day "learn" week with Friday required as a study day, with all teachers available to assist students.

    April 12, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  21. TallyChick

    When I moved to Florida from Pennsylvania in 1993, I went from the traditional school year to year-round schooling. Yes, it sucked as a kid but I got used to it very quickly! In 1997 ish, my school district went to a regular school year but we were still starting in August and getting out in May. Actually, my HS graduation date was May 17th or something like that.

    I think this country needs to go back to year round schooling. More time in the classroom is always a good thing for our kids. They way my elementary/middle school did it was through assigned tracks that all had their own calendar for when they were in and out of school. For example, we had five classes of 4th graders/teachers (each on a different track) but only 4 classrooms designated for 4th grade. One class of 4th graders was the designated "shifters". At any given time in the school year, one of the 4th grade classes was on a 2-week break. While that class was on break, the "shifter" class used the vacant classroom. Students were able to retain lessons better (I went from a C Pennsylvania student to an A student in Florida), the school was able to teach five classes with only 4 classrooms (talk about $$ savings), and students/teachers were able to have their periodic breaks throughout the year. Moreover, each track always had a 2 week break scheduled sometime in the summer.

    The only downfall to this was if parents couldn't get their kids, who may be in different grades, on the same tracks. One kid would be on break while the other was at school. I'm sure that was a nightmare in terms of daycare and vacations, but with some logical scheduling and ensuring siblings are on the same track, it could work!

    Just my opinion....

    April 12, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  22. DLS

    I think the author has an unrealistic expectation of what life is like outside the ivory tower of academia. Hey, I'd love to take 3 months off to hang out with family on the other side of the country too, but for the regular working people, that kind of thing is just a dream.

    She also seems to be a newcomer to the area and has determined that things should be the way she wants them rather than the way they are or the way everybody else likes them. She comes across as the kind of person who moves out to the country among the farms and then complains when the farmer next door spreads manure on his fields like he has every spring for decades.

    April 12, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
  23. cryofpaine

    Studies have repeatedly shown that shortening summer vacation leads to better performance, because students don't have as much time to forget from last year, and don't have to spend as much time re-learning what they learned last year during the first few weeks or months of the new year. A summer break that is 1 – 1 1/2 months is a perfectly reasonable amount of time, with more shorter breaks throughout the year.

    You want to talk about inertia? The idea of long breaks started back when most students had to take spring and fall off to work the farms. As we migrated to an industrial society, we kept the longer breaks, but many places put them in summer due to the heat. The current standardized school year was pretty much set by the 1920's. This isn't inertia, it's progressive – breaking from a mold that was held over from when we were on farms to reflect the needs of a modern age.

    And how does this make sense? You want to get four weeks off in August because it's hard to find a babysitter for one week in October? Maybe someone should spend less time worrying about how to spend her summer vacation and go back to school herself.

    April 12, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • EvolveNow

      The U.S. is falling behind in producing students who graduate highschool ready to attend a 4 year university, falling behind in graduatiing a high percentage of students from college and falling behind in producing enough doctors, scientists and engineers for our own country. In many countries the students are graduating highschool one year faster than U.S. students AND they are ready for a 4 year university. The U.S. is currently importing doctors and scientists and offshoring IT, Electronic and Mechanical engineers through the use of contacting companies and H1 visas. If we do NOT shorten our summer breaks AND lengthen the school day, this trend WILL continue and may accelerate. Our children MUST grow up a little quicker, or be left behind when it comes to finding good paying jobs. We should be uninterested in the plight of our teachers having a good "summer vacation".

      April 12, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
      • newshowforall

        OR we can focus on training teachers better and demand accountability as opposed to suffocating our poor kids by reducing their free time, the kids who are already being subjected to abuse of incompetent teaching.

        April 12, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
  24. Eric

    You mentioned the August 1st start date for Nashville, TN/Davidson County schools. Did you mention that the kids will get extended breaks during the school year for the earlier start date? Here's the link to the 2013-4 Balanced School Calendar publicly available on the MNPS website....

    April 12, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
  25. Tiffany France

    Let the kids have a break. Why do we kill ourselves in this country? There is more to life than school and work.

    April 12, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • MSW

      Move to France and get a job with 11% unemployment rate so you can lounge around and drink wine with good food with an average sales tax rate of 15% and income tax of 43%.

      April 12, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  26. James

    Virtually none of the author's concerns are educational while most of the school board's seem to be. That seems pretty telling.

    April 12, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • Debbie from Virginia

      I agree with James. Studies show that a longer year favors learning. The kids just remember more. A longer year also favors longer breaks. It would give growing children a chance to have longer periods of rest throughout the year. You are just tied to nostalgic thoughts of your own youth. This new way of schooling could lead to its own nostalgic thoughts in your daughter when she is an adult.
      Hats off to Tennessee for supporting learning! May your children become our new leaders.

      April 12, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  27. Jenny

    Killing summer break is killing America's most precious asset – creativity.

    April 12, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
  28. KatyColumbus

    uhm...has she been out in the real world lately?...where all the kids are stupid, make really poor judgements, do criminal activities for fun and lack any form of empathy what-so-ever?...and is getting worse every day! if anything, they need MORE school not less.

    April 12, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • Ric

      Yeah, that makes a lot of sense...not. The laughable school systems have 9 months with the kids and churn out those "stupid, make really poor judgements, do criminal activities for fun and lack any form of empathy what-so-ever" kids. If only they could have 10 months instead of 9, THAT would fix things, right?? Ridiculous. Have you ever stopped to consider the system is the PROBLEM, and not the solution?

      April 12, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Get Real

      Are you serious? while I agree that kids today are different from a generation (or 2) ago. Its not all bad, or all the kids fault. Parents today are just as stupid, make poor choices, etc etc. Let the kids be kids while life is still fun for them. Raise your dam kids correctly and they won't turn out to be as*holes.

      April 12, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • Carrie

      That's interesting all the kids in my neighborhood are too busy being shuttled back and forth from multiple activities to have time to be evil thugs or even do homework.

      April 12, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  29. badcyclist

    Take it as a sign from god– get the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of Tennessee. You aren't going to change them and it isn't worth the effort. Accept your fate or move.

    As they said to Jake Giddes in the movie, Chinatown: "Let it go, Jake, it's Tennessee." Or something like that.

    April 12, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
  30. Nicci Hartland

    Three month vacation for kids is ridiculous. The US is the only country that has that long of a vacation and you see how bad they do academically. 6 weeks is enough.

    April 12, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • Tracey

      We don't start until after labour day in most parts of Canada and have very good test scores and a 99 percent literacy rating.

      April 12, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
      • Hugh Anderson

        As a former teacher in Alberta and Sask. I can tell you summers ar too short up here to start fooling with the school year. It was tried in one school I taught in and the parents raised H.H. It was quickly rescinded.

        April 12, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • Jason

      6 weeks? Are you serious! Was it like that for you as a child? 2 months out of the year in Europe nobody works.

      April 12, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
      • Nicci Hartland

        eh nope we had summer camp just like the US but not for 3 months.

        April 17, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
    • newshowforall

      If you don't know please don't pretend you do. US is not the only country with the longest break for its kids. In Russia for example kids finish school by the end of May and go back on September 1st. They also have shorter days starting at 8:30am and finishing at 2:30pm for older kids. They also cover far more ground than in the US teaching kids physics, chemistry and calculus for 4 years. Its the teachers that need to be better educated to cover more ground in class. Instead, our kids are taking the hit and losing their summer time and other free time to make up the time for the incompetent and lazy teachers that really need to be taught how to teach as they don't know. These teachers teach the same material over and over again instead of pushing forward and reinforcing what has been taught, while collecting their paychecks.

      April 12, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
      • ES71

        > These teachers teach the same material over and over again instead of pushing forward and reinforcing what has been taught, while collecting their paychecks

        That is because in Russia they only care about those who can keep up. In the US , if kids don't learn it is teacher's fault. Nobody cares that the kid is not payign attnetion, not doing homework or may be just not smart enough.

        Also, even though school day is shorter in Russia, there is much more homework. hours of it. This is why the school day is shorter. In the US kids don't have much homework until they reach high school.

        April 12, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
      • newshowforall

        sorry ES71 but your understanding is incorrect. if you look at books that are sold for learning they have mistakes in them. no one cares as long as they can make a sale. there has to be a board that overlooks these books for errors. but wait, it would be censure! oh no, lets keep having mistakes in the books because its freedom of speech. and our kids can just forget about having their free time, let them learn and re learn over and over again. at some point they will get it.

        April 12, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • Cee

      I am tired of the schools here being compared to those overseas. The reason being that in the other countries, schools are well funded where education funding is one of the first things cut in state and federal budgets. Also, the standardized tests are useless, not many other countries teach only what is on the test for the first three months of the school year. It is like comparing apples and oranges.

      April 13, 2013 at 12:13 am |
      • Nicci Hartland

        Actually schools in the UK are losing funding every year. I feel that the US only care about tests and not about teaching the kids what they really need and the fact they have 3 months off during the summer is absurd. The whole schooling system needs to change if anyone expects the kids in the US to compete against the kids in other countries.

        April 17, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
  31. runymede

    "This year I will be suck in Tennessee". Boo Hoo Hoo.

    April 12, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • runymede

      Stuck not suck.....TYpo.

      April 12, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • C504

      It says it's a weekend trip too.... Apparently TN has school on the weekends haha.

      Seriously, she has magical child care arrangements if the reunion was in the summer but not if it's during the school year? I suppose she was dropping the kiddie off with the family.

      April 12, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  32. fyre

    I agree with taking working parents into consideration when designing a school schedule, but the rest of your atricle seems to primarily be an argument for providing schools and buses with air conditioning, as is done in my home state of Florida.

    April 12, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
  33. Foz-man!

    So the rich white lady wants to take her kids on extended vacations. Good for her. What about those who can't afford childcare, vacation days, etc. during the summer months, and their kids may be left in unstructured environments in bad neighborhoods. Cry me a river. Our kids need more school, not less.

    April 12, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • badcyclist

      Why is race important to you on this issue?

      April 12, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • Really Man

      Listen you little racist sponge. We need our schools to work better in the time they're given. Extending the school year because the district is functioning properly is both sad and wrong. If you look to public schools as some sort of daycare, I suggest that you really couldn't afford your kids in the first place.

      April 12, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
  34. Jennifer

    I am very surprised at all the negative comments here. I agree with the author, I would love to see summer vacation start about June 10th (or thereabouts) and resume directly after Labor Day.

    April 12, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
  35. lroy

    Would be interesting to have had a birthday on a school day. Why not have school year round including Saturdays. Parents are first and foremost the primary teachers for a child so THEY should be the ones who determine when a school starts, when vacations are, etc. I say, as long as all the work is covered (double time if necessary especially for the older kids), why not cut some days out. If I had a child in school, I would say that child is on a learning experience (camp, field trip) until the day after Labor Day.

    April 12, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
  36. catsnake

    it's because most people in the south are so poor and lazy they don't even know where Oregon even is because they don't leave their own state. I wouldn't walk, I'd run from actually living in the south. It's beautiful in so many ways but there are so many negatives to make it a permanent residence.

    April 12, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • Lisa

      Yes, and they all go barefoot and have no indoor're an idiot.

      April 12, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  37. sybaris

    When the main concern is the occurrence of reunions, sporting events, fairs, festivals, tourism, camping and other summer outdoor activities we shouldn't wonder why the U.S. doesn't even rank in the top 10 of global scholastic performance.

    April 12, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
  38. SickOfTheBS

    Seems kind of ridiculous to start school so early. Not only do children need their summers but we need to start giving adults a summer break. This constant corporate slave state in the U.S. is not doing anyone except the 1% any good. Why in the world are we the only country without mandatory vacation for employees? We should have 6-8 weeks of vacation period. 30 hour work week would be plenty as well.

    April 12, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • MSW

      Move to Europe and get a job. They average unemployment rates of 12%. Take a siesta in Spain during lunch with an unemployment rate of 26%.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • Jennifer

      i completely agree with you!

      April 12, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
  39. Katie

    I totally agree with the point on asking parents what works for them. In Wisconsin there has also been debate on this with districts wanting to start school earlier in the day. During the winter that start time is when it is still dark outside and kids are waiting for the bus or walking to school in the dark. Do you want your teenage girl walking to school in the dark? But no one asks the parents. Another issue around here is dismissing school 2 hours early every other Wednesday. Try finding daycare for 2 hours every other week. But did anyone ask the parents? No.

    April 12, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • Sylvia

      Ah yes the Wednesdays. We had that. Now, instead of an early leave on Wednesday's we have a 4 day week. For parent's with younger children, that means a lot more spending on programs that can care for your child while you work. Not a babysitter, but something to enrich my kid, and compensate for the loss off classroom time. We got the argument that children tested better on a 4 day week. The statistics are not cut and dry, so that was quite an analysis. And what about the teenagers who lack proper guidance on the home front? Sure the kids who take advantage of this extra day may get jobs or pursue a hobby. The others? They are let loose to run around as they see fit, because their parent's are working or don;t care.

      April 12, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • FreeReally

      Middle and High school here have a two hour late start every other Monday – try working that into your schedule. Buses don't help because we live within 2 miles of the high school so the kids don't qualify for bus transport, winter is especially hard we have to work out schedules with other parents to manage getting the kids there late. BTW school here will start Aug. 1st and run into mid June. Two weeks in Oct., 3 wks at Christmas, 2 wks in spring one of which can't be used for vacation or family plans because it is designated as snow make up days and until Easter arrives, we don't know if they will have that first week or not.

      April 12, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
  40. supawiz6991

    Wow talk about hate. All I've seen is "your a bad parent" and "suck it up" and other hateful remarks. Don't get me wrong, there are some sensible reply's and I applaud those of you who are able to do so.

    The School I went to started August 26th and ended June 10th and I found that to be an almost perfect schedule. Now a days is seems that parents only blame schools and teachers for their children not learning enough and forget that learning is a two way street. Teachers have to teach and the student has to be willing to learn the material being taught.

    Now I'm not saying that all teachers/schools are perfect but in a lot of situations the student(s) just are not willing to learn the material. They would much rather slack off, misbehave and not do the work. Worse yet when the teacher(or the principle) informs the parents of the students lack of participation, misbehavior and lack of effort, the parents don't care. Then when the student ends up failing the parent immediately blames the teachers/school for not doing enough when, in fact, they continuously have reached out to said parent and have given that student every opportunity to succeed.

    I saw a lot of that when I was in school (I haven't been out that long) and I've seen good teachers have to deal with uncooperative students and its not fair to them as well as those students who actively participate and want to learn.

    Do some teachers suck.. yeah some do. Would a longer school year improve student learning.... potentially.
    I support summer break for students. Its only 2 1/2 months most places and the students need the downtime so they don't get overloaded and so kids can be kids.

    As for it being "all about HER"... its not. She clearly pointed out the effect on the tourism industry and the effects it would have on teachers as well as about the hot bus issue.

    You say "hot bus? pssshhh. I rode one and im still here" Well when one of your kids gets heat stroke (or god forbid dies) then don't go and play the blame game. You know its an issue and you obviously don't care.

    April 12, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
  41. MSW

    Also Julia, Most all universities in this region of the country begin classes for Summer sessions the first Mondays in June and July. This allows public school teachers time to take classes for continuing education and advanced degrees. You should know that since you are a college professor. So blame it on the colleges' and universities' schedules.

    April 12, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
    • birch please

      College is changing... take your classes online, after work.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
      • MSW

        Maybe for some courses, but teachers learn best by being around and listening to great teachers though personal instruction and collaboration.

        April 12, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • Daniel

      How about if teachers did what the rest of us do–take classes at night and on weekends? Sorry, but a teacher's desire to take college classes should have no bearing on the academic calendar of the school system. The school doesn't exist to serve the teacher. I'm not saying I disagree with the expansion of the school year; rather, my point is that the teachers' ambitions toward higher education should not be a factor in the decision.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
      • Ohreallynow

        Would you want a surgeon to operate on you if they were taught obsolete information? I think not, plus in many states it is a requirement that teachers continue their education (ie useless and costly college courses) in order to maintain their teaching certification. THEY ARE FORCED TO TAKE COLLEGE COURSES! Comparing teaching salaries to the price of college, I don't think there are many teachers just willing to drop 10K for expanding the knowledge of the profession when most of the classes lack the comprehension of real world teaching. Please research your data before making a comment like that.l

        April 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
      • Clarinda

        Teachers do not take classes in the summer simply to further their "ambitions." Teachers are required to take classes in order to maintain their certificates. As most teacher's find that they must use many evening and weekend hours to correct papers and prep for classes, it really is an undue burden to have to squeeze these mandated classes into an already full school year.

        April 12, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  42. Ben

    Summer's should be shortened to keep kids in school for longer throughout the year.

    April 12, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • Katie Fox

      I agree, Ben. Especially in lower income areas, students need more quality time in schools in order to succeed. While it can be difficult to adjust to a new calendar, the benefits are worth while. For more information, here is a link to a coalition supporting expanding learning time for students in high-poverty communities:

      April 12, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  43. Mitch

    As an educator I have seen the earliest part of the school year dedicated to reteaching information that students learned the last part of the school year. I my mind with would be nice would be to break the school year into the 4 quarters with approximately 2 to 3 weeks between quarters. This would limit reteaching and allow families (and teachers) the opportunity to vacation or break during different times of the year.

    April 12, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • FreeReally

      That is a nice idea, and when my kids were young it worked for us because of the difficulty of getting vacation time in the summer. But the folks that cannot take vacations during those 3-4 week breaks are stuck with the astronomical price of child care – even the school sponsored ones are extremely expensive.

      April 12, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
  44. hilary

    I can't believe I found this on the homepage. If you hate it, move away. I grew up in Arizona and always started school before the 10th of August every year, and we got out by the 15th of May (at the latest). Who wants to be cooped up in a classroom when the only thing separating you from the 110 degree heat blasting in through the window is a swamp cooler? No one. If your daughter was in that situation I'm sure you'd be complaining too!

    Why can't this story be about something that matters to schools?

    April 12, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
  45. Martha Caron

    We recently moved to Arizona and the schools here start the last week in JULY!!!! When we lived in Colorado we started around the 8th of August, but I think July is insane!! Also, talk about hot, here in Arizona it's still around 115-120 degrees in Phoenix around that time or so I am told. I have yet to experience that! Our schools here are also outdoor schools which means that all of the hallways are outdoors and the students are only in air-conditioned when actually in their classrooms. They must have a bottle of water with them each day that gets refilled many times. I cannot comment yet on how this starting in July will make my children feel physically but as a mother, I would appreciate not having to send them to an outdoor school when it is SO HOT!!! The children walking to and from school or even riding the bus are at risk and I would prefer to go a bit farther into June and avoid July and early August. We too have two weeks in the Fall and two weeks in the Spring which for many working parents provides a difficulty finding child care during that time. I have not seen any statistics on the actual educational retention rates of shorter summers but would like to see if it really makes a difference!!

    April 12, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • DesertRat

      Not all schools here are "outside" like yours. It might be worthwhile looking at changing schools, if it's that much of an issue for your child/ren.

      Personally, being a Zonie, I like the schedule. It's too hot to do anything productive anyway, might as well be indoors learning something!

      April 12, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
  46. oronowoman

    This does NOT work.. Kids needs their summers and teachers need a long break. What happends everyone gets burn't out and nothing gets accomplished.

    April 12, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • fake tome paine

      The problem is the kids have such a short attention span that they spend the first 4 to 5 weeks of each school year 'refreshing' what most kids have lost! In order for US kids to 'keep up' with the rest of the World and be able to actually compete again the current long summer vacations will have to go!! Several 3 weeks breaks will work just fine and the parents will have to adjust! Parents 'adjusted' to kids riding the school bus and the kids not having to walk 5 miles to school 'uphill both ways' as the kids in the 40's did!!

      April 12, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • Tom

      They only work eight months a year, that break is more than long enough. What about everyone else who work 50 weeks a year.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
      • KLS

        Yes. And they only get paid for working 8 months a year. If you envy their schedule then perhaps you should change careers...then you too can get a second job to make up for the months where you don't "work".

        April 12, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
  47. jack

    This is just silly. TN needs to change its rules in order to accommodate Julia and her "daughter". Anyone can see that.

    April 12, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
  48. birch please

    Yes, take off summer and enjoy not working young... that way when you get older you are used to not working when a Chinese immigrant with greater discipline takes your job.

    April 12, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
  49. lunchwithdad

    Two biggest myths in education are that if educators just had more time and more money, they would get better results. The data doesn't back it up either claim.

    April 12, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • birch please

      Yes because studying more, with shorter breaks, makes you less intelligent. That is exactly how memory works

      April 12, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
  50. MKR

    We live in Maryland and love the fact that the kids get a summer break, just to be kids. School will end this year on 6/11/13 and they return back to school on 8/26/13. I feel bad for the other students who don't get the luxury of having this down-time.

    April 12, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • birch please

      Dont feel bad for them, they will be more successful when they get older.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
      • Millie

        I don't agree with you at all. I bet you've never been a teacher who has to put up with kids (and now, their stupid parents, who don't give teachers any support) every day of the week for nine months of the year. Teachers need the summer break. And, by the way, teachers aren't lounging around the entire two months of summer break. Instead, they are preparing for the next school year and the next bunch of disrespectful kids and their equally disrespectful parents.

        When I was in school in Indiana, we went back just before Labor Day and were always out by Memorial Day. I earned scholarships to college and now I am as successful as anyone I know who had shorter summers. I don't think more days, longer days, and more homewrok equates to more success. A second grader shouldn't have two hours of homework each night (as my second grader does here in South Carolina).. A second grader needs to be a child. Contrary to what many people think (including you, I bet) children aren't little adults. They are CHILDREN. With everything our children must accomplish at such a young age, it's no wonder many of them suffer from depression and anxiety. School shouldn't be a prison. It should be a learning EXPERIENCE, and that doesn't always mean work, work, work. Children need a balance between school work and fun. Let them have their long summers so they can have fun and simply enjoy being children! That time of their lives ends far too soon anyway.

        April 12, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • Lana

      In Georgia school will end on May 23rd – that's 2.5 weeks earlier than in your state and we will go back on August 12th – I really don't see the difference, considering that it's almost suicidal to be outdoors in August in ATL.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • natalia

      Yes – I too live in MD and can remember when we didn't start until after Labor Day. Time honored tradition – those of you who always gripe about the old ways – well this is one old way I would love to see return.
      And what about teachers? They work 10 hour days as it is, then have to report for after school sports, parent-teacher meeting, prom and Homecoming, and school plays. They cannot pick and choose their vacation days as everyone else does. They know their vacation will coincide with Christmas, Spring break and summer – that's it. No taking off a week to go to a wedding in Hawaii. Well these teachers are now getting a total of about 3 weeks off for summer, counting that they need to stay after school is over to finish things up, and report back a week or two before. This equals burnout.
      We want better education – we need good, inspired and inspiring teachers – not more days for kids to stare out the window of their classroom.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
  51. Katie

    It's not WHEN the school year starts, it's WHAT is taught in the school year. But all too often someone with an idea provokes a change and the children and their families are the guinea pigs. Usually the idea is backed up or not by the bottom line: money. I laugh when I hear school boards say "This will save money" because most of the time it does just the opposite. Starting the school year earlier doesn't save money if children are too hot or dehydrated and real learning happens later in the year. (And it certainly doesn't save them money if they have to spend more on air-conditioning.) It doesn't save the parents money if they have to pay more for day care or day camp for special times of the year. It doesn't save tourist places money they find their hotels and shops half empty. I agree, summer vacations are not anyone's "right", neither should a teacher's desires dictate the school year or day (although teachers are mandated to take classes and seminars to stay certified and that does need to be figured into the overall schedule) but "just because it's always been that way" is also not a reason not to make changes. Instead of rallying around blame-the-parents or blame-the-teachers, all interested parties should be able to have a say, and everyone should recognize that what works for one place may not be the best schedule for another.

    April 12, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  52. Lana

    I think that the longer is break, the harder it is to get back to work and study! What is this woman's argument about working parents and a one week break in Ocotber? Does she still get 3 month off in summer to care for her child? Well, she might be one of very few. There are camps for it.
    Call me crazy – but in Georgia – I much rather be out of school for a MONTH if I had to in October than in July!
    I love some article about every-day life CNN is posting but this one is just waste of time.

    You can't be serious comparing Georgia's summer with Calorado's or etc.! I don't want to be outside in August in Georgia. What tourism?? Indoor tourism? Please!

    Waist of time!

    April 12, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • PCadby

      Have you been in a school bus in August? I'll bet you haven't. It is probably hotter than is considered humane for pets, let alone our children. p.s. you might want to take a basic English refresher course (waste, not waist)

      April 12, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
      • Lana

        I don't need directions from you, so I mistypes. If you were so clever you would notice it wasn't the only word – there are few – go ahead, pitiful person.
        Our school buses have air-conditioning and heaters. Perhaps you also don't own a car to take your child to school? otherwise what is your excuse for putting your child in such bus?

        April 12, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
  53. pragmatic

    bottom line, this lady got paid to write an article and the paycheck is what matters to her more than anything.

    April 12, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • Lana


      April 12, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
  54. MSW

    I am involved in education in West Tennessee. I also graduated from Union University. Most states, including Tennessee require 180 days of instruction a year. The states of Vermont, Missouri, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Wyoming, Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Maine require about 175 days, give or take a day. The Michigan state legislature voted last year to increase their days from 165 to 170 beginning this school year. Colorado only requires 160 days of instruction. Tennessee public schools are leaders in educational change. Ask any public school education official across the country. Her only argument is the weather and her vacation time. In my local town, schools start in August and end in May, 180 school days later. There was a group of parents upset that the local school board wanted to do away with Fall Break. Their excuse was this was a good time to visit their condo in Florida when it is cheaper, less crowded and nicer weather.

    April 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  55. Stacey R

    I do wish she had better arguments in her article.

    Here in Hawaii our schools start the first part of August, which was shocking at first. But I have to agree that it is nice to have extra breaks through the year. October has a week break, and Christmas break comes after the second quarter ends, which makes sense. Spring Break is almost 2 full weeks. It really comes down to the school meeting the required number of school days for the year. Sometimes it benefits families to have those breaks during off-peak travel days. Vacation spots are less crowded and less expensive.
    As for a quality education, I'm tired of teacher's as a whole taking so much heat for it. Some suck (I am homeschooling my 8 year old this year because of it) but there are plenty of teachers who are like a second parent to our kids, and they deserve more respect.

    April 12, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • Nicole Jakubowski

      When you have amazing weather ALL the time, it's easy to say who cares when school starts. But here in NW Indiana, where the weather in June is SO unpredictable (could be 50 degrees some days), starting school in early August is so unfair to the kids b/c August is our best month of the summer where we are guaranteed great weather!

      April 12, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
      • natalia

        Yes – you hit the nail on the head....I was thinking the same.

        If I lived in a climate that was pretty much the same throughout the year (and emphasis on the "pretty" part), I don't think it would matter either. But in most of the 48 states – it's cold in the winter, warm or hot in the summer, and summer means go swimming, play ball, etc. Winter means stay inside and study for a test.

        April 12, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • Lana

      So well said!

      April 12, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  56. mtadams1208

    I don't care when kids have school. as long as it is in a manner that is the most effective for learning. Once I hit 15 years old I spent all my free time in the summers and after school working, anyway – once you're school age, it's not going to kill you to go to school year-round or for longer days, kids adapt and if they're used to it they'll be fine. I think schools need to be more lax on letting parents take their kids out for a week here and there for a family vacation; but otherwise, when the school year occurs doesn't matter.

    From what I recall we learned that summers off was from the old days when the farms needed their children to help tend crops during the summers or something, wasn't it? That's no longer relevant so let's focus on what is the most effective thing for education, whatever that may be, and abandon our nostalgia for the summer vacation.

    April 12, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
  57. Just Call Me Lucifer

    Seriously, who allowed this woman to breed?

    April 12, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
  58. Teacher in Maine

    I have to admit that I'm rather ambivalent about this woman's stance. Her support for the longer summers hinges on what exactly, tourism dollars? Then she goes on to claim that the October Break is for the teachers (without acknowledging that the behavior of the kids who have been without a break too long is often what makes them feel like they need a break....

    Completely missing is the affect of an extended break on student learning. Students return to school in the Fall weeks behind where they left in the Spring. This is what needs to be addressed not air-conditioned indoor PE classes.

    But understand, if somebody 'forced' a longer summer vacation on me I can't honestly say that I would object too loudly.

    April 12, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • GJ

      Re-read, she isn't advocating for "LONGER" summers, she is advocating for the summer being in the...well...summer. Big difference. She isn't saying shorten the year, she is saying "how bout we have summer vacation in the summer. It's a valid point, August is the hottest month of the year, kids are not learning in that heat and humidity as well as they would a month later.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
      • Lana

        are they learning outdoors?

        April 12, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
  59. Concerned U.S. Citizen

    Why doesn't it surprise me that it’s the South starting schools so early?....Is it because the slow need to catch up with the rest of us? Or perhaps its football related?....Either way, once again, the South has demonstrated its ability to do things wrong, and continue to do them because, "it had been this way for years and that parents had just gotten used to it." Seriously?? Right, because this makes a lot of sense; and BTW, it’s not the number of school days in a year that matter, it’s the quality of those days, and if the teachers, and the school board aren't smart enough, or willing to do the work to actually try and teach, to spend the time and money necessary to help students succeed, than they could go to school all year and it won't make a bit of difference. The problem with a lot of these school systems is not only a lack of resources, but a lack of teacher accountability. Don't get me wrong, I love teachers, they are one of the vertebrae in the backbone of our society, the problem is that there is no accountability for their performance. Unions, and years of crying about how teachers are underpaid and underappreciated (which they are), has eroded the system, teachers get complacent and lazy (as is human nature if you allow it). Invest the money, get A/C and loose the unions, make the teachers (and the school board) accountable for a more progressive academic curriculum; the U.S. hasn’t fallen behind in education because we don’t go to school year round, we’ve fallen behind because we’ve become complacent. Don’t believe me? The best schools in the world…Finland…All they did was take our ideas and principals and build on them. Why didn’t we do that? Do they go to school year round? No. But their teachers collaborate and are held accountable.

    April 12, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • Carter

      Please do not lump all of the South with the likes of Honey Boo Boo. There are actually intelligent people here who care about education. We have some amazing teachers,as well, who do their jobs and then some. I am quite tired of people assuming that since we have a southern accent, we must be inbred idiots. Please think about the fact that we are individuals, not a stereo-type. Thank you.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
      • Millie

        I live in South Carolina, and the best teachers my children have had are not from the South. Almost all were raised and educated in the Midwest or in another part of the country. I know not all teachers from and educated in the South are bad, but when you have a first grade teachers who says "I let them get it theirselves" or "It don't make no sense," something is WRONG. How was this person allowed to earn a teaching license when she can't even speak correctly? And, she teaches first graders, who are listening to and picking up on everything she says? You say there are intelligent people in the South. Yes, but if you look at the ones who REALLY care about their children's education, they weren't born or raised in the South. They are professionals who moved to the South from other parts of the country or world, at least that's the case in the city in South Carolina where I live.

        April 12, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • Lana

      you absolutely have no back up of what so ever and all you just did was complained out of so unknown anger. You're not concerned – you're angry.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
  60. Susan

    We live in North Carolina and our kids attend school on a multi-track year-round calendar. We're torn between nostalgia for the old traditional calendar schedule we were familiar with, and the practicality of the year-round schedule we have here. The school year starts in early July, and there are four rotating tracks in which one track is always out and the other three are in. Each track consists of 9 weeks of school, with three week breaks in between. There are advantages and disadvantages to it, too many to name, but the frequent breaks are nice and there's less catch-up time after the breaks. It's too hot here in the summer for kids to play outside much anyway, and it allows vacation planning at off times of the year, which is very beneficial. That being said, the benefit of year-round vs. traditional is negligable. The problem isn't with the amount of time spent in school, or the frequency of the breaks. The problem is with the quality of the curriculum and the misguided approach of the local school boards, and the new national core curriculum, and most importantly, with too many unprepared, disrespectful kids who drain time and energy from teachers who must deal with them and try to teach them, no matter what. I believe we should focus less on the school calendar, and more on teaching parents how to parent, and kids what the expectations are of them while in school.

    April 12, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • Millie

      I think we need to teach parents the expectations schools hold as well. It's bad enough having to teach kids who are disruptive and disrespectful; teachers also have to deal with parents who are just as bad or worse. Some parents blame teachers for their children's failures without putting any of the responsibility on their precious child or on themselves. When I was a K12 student, if I had gotten in trouble at school, I would have been in even more trouble at home. Today, some parents seem to reward their children for misbehaving and being disrespectful to teachers. And some of you wonder why teachers need a break? If you've never been a teacher, you have no basis for faulting teachers for needing a break. You try to deal with some of the people they encounter on a daily basis. You'd need a break, too.

      April 12, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
  61. larry

    Here in Texas we have summer creep as well. The funny thing is the summers are getting shorter and shorter BUT the number of days students are in schools is the same as if we had longer summers. Go figure.

    April 12, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
  62. Bob

    We home-schooled and, therefore, took a traditional summer break. My daughter earned a full ride academic scholarship and my son earned a half ride. They had 'social' time as well during all the home-schooling and was allowed to participate in the local school athletic programs. The local school system tries to do too much with too little. I realize home-schooling is not for everyone and in a lot cases it is impossible, but it can work and is a great alternative to the 'early' systems that don't care what the parents want

    April 12, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • iplawyer

      They ..... was allowed. Hmm. You home schooled your kids?

      April 12, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
  63. Owl96

    The United States put men on the Moon, launched and International Space Station and put rovers on Mars. All this was done with people who had extended summer vacations. How did that ever happen?

    April 12, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • BobbyGB

      Because we valued education then. We belittle it now.

      April 12, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
      • Stuball

        The reason we were able to do those things was due to the leaps and bounds GERMAN scientists gave us when we took them in after WWII. Germany's pursuit of science without moral boundries during the Hitler era is what gave us that. The US scientists merely walked in their shadow.
        But, why are people complaining about the loss of extended summer vacations when we are so poorly prepared in regards to education levels when compared to other coutries? We should be applauding the extension of the school year to make sure our children can compete in the coporate world when compared to other individuals from better educated countries.

        April 12, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
      • birch please

        Stuball is right, just as asian immigrants are driving our advances in medicine now euorpean immigrants were driving science back then. Americans are good at one thing, exploitation and spending money.

        April 12, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
  64. Dale

    I'm shocked at just how callous some of these comments are! I'm also sick of reading how adamant some people are about imposing their way of thinking on others. This woman is simply making sense while defending her child's right to have a complete summer vacation like so many of you were able to enjoy while growing up.

    So much is already being taken from our children's childhood experience because of the times we live in. How about we stop being education nazis and let them have their summer vacation, for Pete's sake! If their educators are worth a damn to start with, they'll get their education the same way and same time frame you and I did – between September and the BEGINNING of June.

    To quote a very popular, tongue-in-cheek song from my generation – "Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!"

    April 12, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • kpkpkp

      The writers that support longer summers are silly. Their children do not benefit from shorter school year. Not only that their children aren't the only ones who go to school. If more parents spent more time with their children reading, doing small motor activites, sports and other things we had when we grew up. Even reading and learning nursery rhymes has an amazing impact later because of the brain training. Unfortunately, too many silly parents don't really know how to "parent" their children and don't do that including the author of this article. She should never had children.

      April 12, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
      • AJR

        Wow. Thank goodness you are here to teach all of us exactly how a child must be parented. PHew!!! I was worried for a moment that there wouldn't be a know-it-all on this comment board! THANK GOD YOU GOT HERE JUST IN TIME. And concluding that the author shouldn't have had children based on nothing other than the fact that she happens to disagree with the start date of school...that's brilliant! Such logical and rational thinking! Why, with baseless conclusions and irrational assumptions like that, you should post more! As a matter of fact, you should be the ONLY one allowed to post. Because clearly no one else's opinions matter.

        April 12, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Russell Carpenter

      It's interesting how you consider summer break to be a right.

      Bottom line: If Ms Dunin is unhappy with the Tennessee schools, and thinks Maryland schools are so wonderful, perhaps she should move back to Maryland. Or maybe homeschool her granddaughter.

      April 12, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
      • AJR

        Or, maybe she could hope to have a rational discussion with rational adults who may listen to reason and consider the alternatives to the way "it's always been done." Huh. Imagine if reasonable adults actually acted that way...why, we might be able to move our country forward! But nah...why do that. You're right. The school board should stick its fingers in its ears and shout "we can' hear you!" Or maybe this woman should be jailed for speaking her mind. Hey, now there's an idea!

        April 12, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • Dar1

      I agree with you Dale 1000%.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
  65. reasonablebe

    statistical evidence and studies from which they are garnered demonstrate, irrefutably, that a year round school program results in kids doing better and acheiving more in school.

    a year round program does not necessarily add actual days to the school in session, just makes the breaks spread out and the summer (between grade) period 6 weeks rather than 10 weeks. the additional vacation time is spread out, with a full week off every 9 weeks and 2 full weeks in december/january.

    the 'traditional' school year, with long summer breaks was started because wealthy people living in the densely populated cities wanted to go to coller, country vacation homes to escape the heat. not at all what we were taught about summers for farming, etc. in fact, the farm communities had year round school. with a few weeks off in spring for field prep and planting and a few weeks off in late summer for harvesting. those kids were otherwise in school.

    we don't need the summers off to escape anymore- we have air conditioning and most people in reality don't go away for more than a week or 2 at any season. and the farms, well, that would still work as in the past, but at this point, kids don't do field prep or planting, adults with mega tractors do. they don't do much in the way of harvesting either-

    the summer off thing is purely american- everywhere else has a year round calendar.

    so wise up, get with modern day needs. how many kids go to camp for more than 2 weeks? i mean real camp, not day care camp which is needed because kids are too young to stay home alone whille their parents work?

    April 12, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • reasonablebe

      by the way, if school starts in early august, i bet it ends in mid may, rather than going through june as schools back east do and did. i recall a year school went through july 1 because of the requirement of 180 days and a few extra snow days.... school started the wednesday following labor day.

      in the south and west, it starts in august and ends in may- kind of like college, but without an intersession.

      April 12, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
      • notexactly

        In our school district, our children begin the school year on August 1 and do not end the school year until May 30. They have added extra weeks off during fall, christmas, and spring break.

        April 12, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Dr Pepper

      What studies are you referencing? I have searched for studies showing that year-round or early starts increase academic performance, but the results are mixed at best. I will admit, I haven't looked into the subject for a few years, but when I did, there was nothing close to irrefutable evidence in any academic journals I looked at.

      April 12, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  66. Dcwa123

    Bravo! I'm a Memphis mom (transplated from New Jersey) who absolutely cannot stand the early school start date. Like you, I wrote a letter to the editor about this same issue a couple of years ago. I applaude you for speaking your mind. I've been told that the parents don't want their kids to go to school after Memorial Day and that is the reason for starting school so early. How that is a valid argument baffles me. I've also been told "this is how it's always been done", however that is not true. My husband was a student in Memphis in the early 70's and he started school around the more traditional Labor Day start date. I'm quite a bit younger and when I moved to Tennessee in 1991 to for college, my classmates who had attended HS here started much later in August and graduated in June.
    The majority of teachers that I speak with are not at all fans of the early August start date, and the elementary level teachers have often said that they need the extended break in October because they have been stuck inside with young kids who do not get the chance to get out and get the exercise that they need at that age. I have supported Save Tennessee Summers in the past and will continue to do so.

    April 12, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • reasonablebe

      interesting. my sister in law grew up in memphis in the 70's and she distincly recalls starting school in late qugust, with last day in mid or late may. her kids did the same thing but in the 90's.

      April 12, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
  67. C. Dierbeck

    Wow, the anger is out of line. Whether you agree or not please learn to be civil. As parents we are the most influential teachers for our children, and it seems like there will be lots of angry children in the next generation.
    Her points are well articulated and understandable. You don't have to agree, but be understanding and agree to disagree with some class.

    April 12, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
  68. rockysfan

    Seriously? Guess you don't care if your child can't compete with kids from countries where they have school all day! Keep thinking the US is tops in education, we are NOT. When you kid ends up at McD's, don't b i t ch to any one but your mirror. Cannot understand parents that do not want to be parents. If you can't handle it, use birth control. Nothing worse than a parent that does not want children!

    April 12, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • AJR

      You are completely off base (and overreacting more than just a little). How do you conclude that the author should not have had children simply because she doesn't agree with the school start date? Wow. And by the way, you provide no support for your implied conclusion that an earlier start date equates to better test scores and/or better educated children. Do you have any support for your assumption? Seems like you're just speculating and ranting instead of countering the article with a well-reasoned discussion. Likely because there isn't a well-reasoned argument to be made. Let's see...jumping to baseless conclusions, complete assumptions with no facts to support them, unreasonably lashing out at must be a republican. Am I right? I'm right...right?

      April 12, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • sunflower2

      Whoa..... you jumped the track like a train wreck....

      April 12, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
  69. Jon

    One of the opening paragraphs: "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."

    Shut up. Seriously. (potential) parents need to make a choice: kids or freedom. It doesn't mean children are "bad", it's just the honest truth. You don't like that your local system's widely accepted policies interfere with your own personal vacations? Too damn bad. If it's that big of a deal to you, you shouldn't have had kids. I'm sick of hearing parents whine about problems with school systems that go beyond the qualitiy of education (which, unlike this article, is actually a valid argument for change). You chose to have children, so accept the consequences of your choice. Yes, your daughter is going to be in a scorching hot school bus. Yes, she is going to have less summer vacation. It's called life. Instead of sounding like a spolied teenager ("OMG, i WONT be able to party with my college gals!" or "My daughter will only get to go to TWO sumer camps now, instead of THREE!!") be grateful for what you have. You want to know what a real issues are the in world? Global poverty, AIDS epidemics, war. How about instead of asking the school officials to sit on your daughter's bus, you go to central Africa and ask children how big of a deal it is that their summer vacation gets cut short? I'm sure that's on the top of the list of their priorities.

    April 12, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Paul

      What a ridiculous comment. How is it you seem to miss the author's point that starting school so early can be detrimental to the children. As for putting forward an argument that states "it's always been done this way so it should continue" is inherently ridiculous. Taking that thinking to its logical conclusion would have left us without all of the advancement of the past 200 years.

      Innovation and progress is only possible because someone says "the way it has always worked is not a good enough reason to continue doing the same things".

      April 12, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • thaney

      Wow! Someone is angry. She is talking about maximizing the experience of childhood. Evidently, someone was locked in a closet with nothing but textbooks to read. Find something a little more important for your next diatribe.

      April 12, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • Jesus

      Hey Jon, I don't recall seeing you in Central Africa lately...

      April 12, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
      • Jon

        you also don't see me writing articles to CNN complaining about personal issues

        April 12, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
  70. Back at ya

    Some of you are attacking the author PERSONALLY - even calling her daughter "little princess." It's Ok to debate ideas, not to make personal attacks against someone whose ideas differ from your own. She is presenting a VIEWPOINT, people. She's not insulting you. Don't insult her – OR her daughter.

    April 12, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • sunflower2

      thank you.....Some of these people are making horrible, insane comments... It boggles the mind.

      April 12, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
  71. chief

    You're whining about your child receiving more education so you can go on vacations during summer? You are a terrible parent. Your children NEED education, they don't NEED to go to the east coast during perfect weather times. Quit being a baby and sack up. Most of us went to schools with no air conditioner and we are still alive, guess what the suns hot its always going to be hot in the summer. Buy her a damn fan if she can't stand the heat. Kids are babies these days and they whine about everything and its because most parents baby them. Know whats best for them and toughen them up because it's not going to get easier as they grow up. Education is way more important unless you would rather your child remember the perfect weather of a vacation they once had.

    April 12, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  72. Kevin

    Read Ray Bradbury some time, particularly the story about the lemon-colored shoes, the boy who just can't wait to buy them and run through the fields of summer. Ray Bradbury's very existence, his body of literature, is always singing the glories of childhood and summer. That's beautiful, and sane. Of course, Bradbury was from a different America, one that – amazingly – put the child before anything else. Children should be playing at least as much as they're pushed to learn, for God's sakes.

    This is about hate and pain. America in 2013 is about hate and pain too. This has nothing to do with Obama, either. It's just something that happened while all us ex-children were staring out our cubicle windows at the sunshine outside, and buying the idea that this is as good as it gets. Nope. Not even close.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Amy

      Well said! Bravo!

      April 12, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
  73. Teacher K

    I think we are really having the wrong discussion here. We are no longer an agrarian economy, why are we still having extended summer breaks? Year round education with 45 day terms and 15 days off or a 60/20 schedule would allow time for family commitments without the loss of skills often associated with prolonged breaks. Students have much more to learn in this complex world than did students a generation ago.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • Feekoningin

      I agree. Like this author, I also have been a journalist for more than 25 years. But I also worked for nearly a decade in public education, so I understand the research-based reasons behind the change in calendar. I don't know much about Tennessee and its educational system, but I am willing to bet that the time taken away from summer break has shifted elsewhere, such as longer fall and spring breaks. The reason for this is twofold: 1) Students need the calendar aired out because they lose much of their educational progress over a longer summer break. That means rather than picking up where they left off, teachers have to re-cover ground from the previous year during the first weeks of the new school year, losing precious instructional progress time. 2) Schools shift time rather than replacing it entirely because of their teacher's unions and the fact that actually adding days would be too costly.

      April 12, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Agree

      With the world, being so competive our children need more education, not less, after a few weeks, the kids are bored. Also after a few weeks, sometimes they are more prone to get into trouble. How many times after coming back after summer vacation, how many girls ended up getting themselves in trouble

      April 12, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • Lana

      Yes, absolutely! If there were a vote – I would be first in line! Long breaks are hard to come off not only for students but for any working individuals too!

      April 12, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
  74. Samantha

    Karen, THANK YOU!! Let's be a crazy society like China and do nothing but test. I would rather my kids have a summer break than act like those pushy out of control people in that country.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
  75. Meitis

    I suspect the writer of this article got minimal response from school board because her argument seems to be all about HER (exception being the hot school bus). She has presented zero concrete evidence that an earlier start date is detrimental to the education of her children. Basically, the presentation of her arguments are selfish.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Feekoningin

      I agree. At various times throughout their educations, my sons have attended alternative calendar schools. I'm not sure I understand the objection. In our case, the only real problem was that day care services weren't really geared toward longer fall and spring breaks. But the schools made sure parents with such needs could make arrangements. I suspect if this is a statewide mandate in Tennessee, then the day care programs are all geared toward this so it's not a problem. My younger son's high school went to an alternative calendar this school year. As a non-custodial parent living in another state, I love it. It means I get to see my son for longer stretches at other times of the year. For instance, he just spend two weeks with me, rather than one, for spring break. In the fall, I also get him for two weeks. In addition to the educational reasons, I think it's great for personal reasons.

      April 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
  76. Bob

    How do the students in Tennessee rank against the national average?

    April 12, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • Sally


      April 12, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
  77. Cted

    I agree that schools should start that early but for NONE of the reasons this write does.
    Too hot? I suppose – the brake should be at the hottest months however long that break is – but ending at MEMORIAL DAY? in what universe? So they just shifted summer back a little that's no big deal
    You want to vacation in the NW in the summer – please
    You don't want to prep classrooms in july? who cares. Most people work full time all year round no matter how hot.
    October break sounds odd to me and the teachers "needing a break" after 2 months is nuts. I know teachers don't get vacation like the rest of us and can't take days off for breaks but most people take their vacation in one lump (2 or 3 weeks) many years and work straight through the rest of the time.

    Summer break is important for kids (I think) and 2 monhs is plenty – which she seems to have. In my state School starts the last week in Aug and ends the last week in June.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  78. Karen

    Yes, let's compete with other countries like China where the suicide rate is over the top because there is no down-time.
    And don't even bring up the MCAS testing. It has not proven to help education one bit and more and more educators are starting to see that. Kids need to be kids.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
  79. Sally

    I teach in Middle TN – my county went back to school July 23 this year. We more than make up for it, however, with 2 week spring and fall breaks. Also, we get out in early May. I think the students vastly prefer getting out of school earlier in the summer.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  80. stillin

    This is the country's PUSH to kill everybody off through stress, lower how much they have to pay out for pensions and retirement checks....I seriously believe it. Other " less rich" countries live BETTER, take naps, work less, have breaks and live longer than people in this country. People a long time ago knew more, and knew better how to live. The "great USA" is becoming a nation of idiots and you can just watch their money and their lifelines decline guaranteed.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Kevin

      100% with you on that one. Some would say "conspiracy theory," but like the paranoid man who was correct that somebody WAS after him, you're correct that what's going on is the destruction of Americans' lives. It's best for the 1%, and that ain't conspiratorial thinking. That's just the truth.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • agreed

      Couldn't have said it better myself!!!!

      April 12, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  81. Scott

    So much curricuar attaiment and adherence to structure is lost due to extended summer vacations. Standards and benchmarks are increasing. More pressure is being put on teachers to get students to perform. Ending excessively long summer vacations is an excellent idea. Time to start putting our money where out mouth is in terms of catching up to other developed countries in educaiton.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Taysha

      In the mid 1990s, when I started high school in Mexico, the school year was mid-august to december, then January to May. We got three full months in the summer, and no less than three weeks for Christmas break.

      And I was still running circles around the freshmen in college when I came to the States.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • Kevin

      ...and here, we have a true believer.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Diane

      Oh Scot, let children be children and enjoy their sunners just like you did. You are probably one of those "data driver" fools that believes we need to bury children under mountains of work and testing. Do you know anything about children? Do you have children? Do you even like children?

      April 12, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • jofish

      Then tell me why states with longer summer breaks outperform states with shorter breaks.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
  82. Dean

    We started school the day after Labor Day and always got out the last week of May. We didn't have to worry about national test scores or anything else the Dept of Education could come up with. It did not exist then. And best of all we received an education that was head and shoulders above what is received today.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Scott

      No you didn't.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
      • Michael

        Yes, he did. I did. My parents were head and shoulders better educated than I was. My Mother read the Federalist papers in middle school. She can do sums in her head that make my head swim. But, sadly, I'm head and shoulders better educated than my child is (or would be, except for my intervention in that process). In both cases, we went to school less than kids do now. In my mother's case, she came from farming country and the schools ended promptly at the end of June and didn't start again until Sept. Same for me. Schools waste a huge amount of time on nonsense. Partly because they make federal/state dollars from having longer school years. Not to mention, the notion that teaching to a test and having kids vomit back predigested material will make our kids better educated and intelligent is ludicrous. We used to teach kids to think. We asked for essays. We asked them to put facts and ideas together not fill in a bubble. We made sure kids could do basic math well. We let the teachers decided how best to do that in a particular situation. The American education system is a joke, in large part thanks to idiocy like No Child Left Behind. But to be honest the teachers' unions don't help. It's almost impossible to remove a teacher that isn't very good but has achieved "tenure." The present school system is like a factory. It's not about educating kids, it's about keeping the industry going, and greasing the path of staff, school boards, and the big business interests that make money off testing. Shameful.

        April 12, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Roger

      Haha, you're funny. I doubt that you were taking things like AP courses( which I took) and advanced math classes like trigonometry and calculus.

      April 12, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
      • Fred

        Actually we did take the same courses you did, possibly even more. We just happened to have teachers who understood the importance of ingraining that education into thier students rather than aiming for that retention period required to just get through that final State exam. That is the true cruxt of the matter when you get right down to the nitty gritty. Teachers develop their curriculums to match the state requirements to pass the state mandated proficiency test, cant say that aint true, just ask any honest teacher. And before you go arguing the case, three of my sisters are teachers, 2 HS & 1 MS and all have agreed that their cirruculum is based along the lines of their respective state exam.

        April 12, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
  83. Observer

    People sure are having kids later in life these days.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • ???

      what does that have to do with anything....JO

      April 12, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
      • Observer

        The leading picture of the article. Looks like her granddaughter more than her daughter 🙂

        April 12, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
  84. Blueangel

    Summer was originally started so kids could help with the harvest on their family's farm. If you can prove that that is your family's situation, maybe and exception could be made. If you are independently wealthy, and don't have to work, then just get tutors homeschool, whatever. But if you are not, your child will have to hold a real job, and real jobs don't have summer.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Matt

      So Blueangel...teaching isn't a "real job"? Are you saying that all of our public and private school teachers and our university professors don't have "real jobs"? If it wasn't for great teachers, where would you be?

      April 12, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  85. Physics Doc

    I grew up in Mississippi in the 50's-70's. I now live in West TN. I know about hot and I know about un-airconditioned public schools. I also remember that school didn't start until the end of August, when the weather started to cool at bit (90 instead of 100). We had June, July, and August for summer, not this truncated 6-8 weeks that some people seem to delight in. My friends who are public school teachers don't like going back the first week of August for a variety of reasons, but usually because "I need more rest."

    I also remember that we didn't finish the semester until AFTER Christmas break. I see the advantage of moving back a week or two to finish the semester, but since the early 70's the start time has crept back a full month. I believe it's due to school boards that have nothing better to do than "change something."

    April 12, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  86. Ryan

    It is opinions like yours that ensure that we will continue to suck at education. The rest of world has given up the vestige of summer holidays (which are a hold out from when the kids used to be needed for crops) and their children routinely have YEARS more education by the time they graduate college. Putting your social life ahead of your child's education is selfish. We ought to be educating our kids 12 hours a day and middle schoolers should be taking calculus like the rest of world. Of course, if you really cared about your child's education, you wouldn't have moved to Tenessee in the first place. Bust of luck to you and the marginal child you're child to raise through reduced schooling.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Dale

      Tennessee is not providing more school time, they are just changeing when the children are attending. Notice a week off in October. A reasonable argument can be made for extending the amount of time our children are in school, but, that is not what this article is about. If we accept the current standard school year length, this piece argues that the year should start later in August or pehaps early in September. Given the evidence presented it is a reasonable position to take. I would be interested in hearing a well reasoned counter that provides solid evidence to support the position for early start.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • RU4RB

      I'm not going to argue for or against summer break. I think support for both could probably be made depending on the study used. I would just like state that the United States continues to compare itself to other countries that DON'T educate all children. Also, we as a society continue to pay millions to people that play sports and/or entertain us. Kids think success is being famous or athletically gifted, not necessarily being intelligent. We sign our kids up for multiple sports as they neglect their studies. They go on less sleep than necessary because of ball practice or having tv's in their rooms. We glamorize "spring break" and treat it like a right of passage. Watch kids go to school and flunk out. It's our culture and I don't mean a lack of religion or anything like that. We Americans are just soft, unfocused, and lazy. Kids in school are just symptomatic of a bigger problem. It has nothing to do with the length of summer break.

      April 12, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  87. thesouthernreef

    Been a product of both growing up in East TN and now living in West TN. I hate how early school starts....and just about everyone I know agrees with me....and YOU! Yes, it's ridicculous to start school the first week of August. Utterly ridiculous. It's a million degrees in Memphis in August and kids would be better served getting out a few weeks later –
    like Memorial Day – and going back to school later in August – like the third week – that would be perfect. Kids could still be in camp, playing at the pool, enjoying a few more weeks of true summer bliss. I whole-heartedly agree!

    April 12, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  88. CT Yankee

    Let's see, Duin moves to TN and finds that the long established school schedule there conflicts with her preference of vacationing in the Pacific Northwest when the weather is to her liking. So she wants the school schedule changed for her benefit since obviously the world revolves around her. The only point that she unintentionally made was how well mannered the folks in TN are by quietly ignoring her. In the Northeast she would have been promptly told what the folks in TN undoubtedly think but are too polite to say out loud, shut up or pack up.

    April 12, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • Southern Teacher

      Thank you so much for this comment. I get tired of reading about how bad the South is from people who move into that region. I also get tired of reading about how bad teachers are. Why can we not focus on issues instead of stereotyping regions of the country and/or groups of people? I live in the South, and I am a teacher, but neither of these labels defines me.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Dan I

      You mean like the two teachers who basically wrote to her saying "don't like it? Leave" that sounds a lot like "Put up or shut up" to me.

      April 12, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
  89. M.E.

    Dear god, your little princess can handle it lady. The less summer, the less slippage in kids. If you don't like it, either home school or go back to Oregon.

    April 12, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Jon


      April 12, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
  90. cvryder2000

    Tennessee schools also let out well before Memorial Day, which is something the writer fails to mention. I can remember my kids getting out as early as 2 weeks before Memorial Day. There really are not more instructional days. It's seriously stupid. Something else she fails to mention is that many rural schools, especially older ones, either do not have good air conditioning, or aren't air conditioned at all. This is true in east Tennessee anyway. Then when it's really hot, schools are dismissed at 1 pm, which just gets in under the wire to qualify as a "full day", but the children miss out on 2 hours of instructional time. It also inconveniences working parents whose schedules are usually structured around the time their child ordinarily gets home. Tennessee school officials are STUPID. I dealt with them for 15 years and I know.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  91. Dave

    I find the idea of starting school on August 1st or anytime in August appalling. Perhaps it is all about test scores, which makes it seem even worse. Turning school into one big test instead of making it about actually learning and teaching students. By starting school in August, you're really depriving kids of a chance to have a summer, to be creative, to explore their inner selves and the larger world out there. A week off in October just doesn't cut it. Many places are closed after the summer, the beaches are colder, it's tougher for parents to take off work. When I went to school, we started the week after Labor Day and got off the 1st week of June. Now that's a summer the whole family can enjoy.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Tesla

      Actually, the big issue is retention. A long break like that causes kids to lose a lot of what they learned the last year. The first couple months of school are review work. Instead, we could have the same amount of break time and days off, split throughout the year.

      Besides, who's to say beaches are the only important thing? I grew up around hunting, fishing, skiing, snowmobiling, and paintballing (which is a little warm in the summer if you're wearing full protection). There's a lot that can be done.

      And in terms of parents taking off work? The time of year doesn't matter. At all. Their vacation policy matters. Unless it's a seasonal job, it's just as easy to take off non-summer days as it is to take off summer days.

      April 12, 2013 at 11:41 am |
      • tired of bs

        you are wrong. Finding long-term day care (ie, and entire summer) is much easier than finding it for a week here or there.

        April 12, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • Natalie

      We live in TN, have an awesome summer and we go to the beach every October & it's amazing. We have a week off to refresh & relax. By August, it's really hot here, the kids are "over" the pool & the park and we are ready to go back to school. Until you live in TN with 4 kids like I do, I suggest you find something else to be "appalled" by!

      April 12, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  92. Kat

    I totally agree with auntintheattic, many kids in the South don't have to worry about vacations conflicting with their summer.

    I grew up in rural Arkansas, we didn't even have air conditioning in my school unitl I was in 4th or 5th grade. We sweated, we stank, we still learned, and turned out none the worse. I went on to college, earning a Bachelors and then a Masters degree. I did all this after years of riding a bus, for an hour each way, down dirt roads with no AC. She needs to suck it up or go back home.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Diane

      Why don't we get rid of child labor laws as well. You can sweat in an unairconditioned building. I would rather not.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
  93. Alice

    That lady looks awfully old to have a first grade child...

    April 12, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Karen

      She and her husband adopted a girl from Kurdistan..

      April 12, 2013 at 11:39 am |
      • Samantha

        How horrible of you!! That's all you have to say about this article? My husband and I just adopted and we are 43 and 45. God Bless her!! I hope she and her daughter have a wonderful life.

        April 12, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
      • Karen

        samantha- I think what she did was wonderful. I was merely explaining why a woman who is 57 could have a 7 year old. So simmer down.

        April 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  94. Allison

    I was born and raised in Jackson, TN. I graduated and left there in 1991. I can tell you that the ONLY school I attended that had A/C was my high school and it didn't matter if it was May or August, we were burning up due to the "no shorts" rule. The breaks are tough on families, however, they are good for the kids. I have worked in TN schools for 7 years as a nurse and we will be entering into a new school system when I graduate with my FNP degree soon that starts classes on 7/31 and has a 2 week fall break.
    Is it tough trying to make sure I can have grandparents and sitters help out? Yeah, a bit, but my kids will love the time with their grandparents and I will take days off to be with them as well.

    A lot of the breaks that are in the TN school calendar are that way to accommodate in-service days and mandated continuing teacher education/professional development, not to irritate parents.

    I can tell you this as well, it doesn't matter WHAT summer month you are in in West TN; it is miserable.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:42 am |
  95. auntintheattic

    This viewpoint seems to come from a position of privilege. The children I know will be at daycare centers most, if not all, of the summer, stuck inside air-conditioned school gyms, watching repeats of Disney movies and playing endlessly with their video games. Very few will have the opportunity to go on any kind of vacation, and few will have the freedom Ms. Duin recalls from childhood. Many will be bored and restless by the time school starts in the fall, and will need recovery time to get back up to speed on their learning. I support year-round school, which incorporates a few weeks away from school between terms.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:38 am |
  96. Dee

    I live in Georgia and I love ending the school year in May and starting back up again in early August. We don't get a week off in October, but I wish we did. I'd love the Tennessee school schedule. My kids enjoyed playing outdoors a lot more in the earlier days of summer than they did in August; August is too hot.

    I don't understand the comment the author makes that this is the South and when people like things the way they are, don't expect things to change. That's a criticism? This is the Deep South, not the Pacific Northwest. We've adapted our schedules to suit the climate here, not Oregon. There's a reason we don't have a lot of snow plows and we let our schools out early. There's a reason the author only got one phone call of support and there's inertia from the parents.

    If I moved out west or up north, I'd understand completely why they have a different schedule that suits their climate. It's the sensible thing to do, and it's the best thing for children and families.

    Furthermore, if the teachers need a break in October, there's nothing wrong with including a school break for the teachers' convenience. I applaud the Madison County school district for considering the needs of the teachers as well as the needs of the students. Kudos Madison County for maintaining a schedule that works for most of the people of Madison County, Tennessee!

    April 12, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • Lana

      I'm form Georgia too and agree with you 100% percent! Yes – the week in October would be PERFECT!!! 🙂

      April 12, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  97. So...

    Let me get this straight. You complain about having to find babysitting for 1 week in October, but want the summer to be extended by a few weeks...hmm...

    April 12, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  98. alumette

    Move back to Oregon, please. Nothing is going to change in TN. For real ! Once you understand your voice will not matter, you may as well move on. You are digging your heels in vanishing sand.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  99. Axyraandas

    School is a business, with its products being (hopefully) well educated students. The school board wants to keep the productivity of the teachers high with those breaks. An earlier start date may increase the productivity of the teachers, which are more permanent resources than the students. The teachers stay in the schools for years, if not decades, while the students transfer into a new school after just a few years at the most. Thus, it makes sense to increase the quality and effectiveness of the teachers to improve the quality of the school. Unfortunately, an earlier start date may decrease the productivity of the students (and thus the effectiveness of the teachers) due to temperature concerns. One solution would be to install air conditioning into every school bus, but that would raise maintenance and fuel costs dramatically. Another solution, mentioned in this article, is to have an later start date, but that may lower the productivity of the teachers. Perhaps alternative teaching methods would be helpful here, like virtual schools or summer assignments or smaller class sizes. But then there are problems like the accessibility and maintenance of the virtual schools, completion of summer assignments with no one to enforce completion, and a high student:teacher ratio.

    So we need cheaper fuel to fund ACs, more teachers to increase interactions with students, or ensured completion of summer assignments. These could all raise the quality of the product, i.e. an educated student. I await your reply (if any) to my musings, Internet.

    April 12, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • Canadian Hobo

      you forgot a space after the colon in "student:teacher"

      April 12, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  100. johnyma22

    Stats from show that schools holidays creep up and down ~3 to 4 days a term based on the days public holidays fall. It's not true to say the creep is only one way.

    April 12, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • Axyraandas

      The creep might not be only one way, but it would raise the average number of days per school year. That's the real creep. Annual variations are normal. It's like climate change.

      April 12, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Tyler

      How did you find any relevant information from that website? It's British?

      April 12, 2013 at 11:22 am |
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