The “Balanced” School Calendar

Pat HaneyWe’re just about ten days from the start of the 2013-2014 school year in Worthington.  Our school year begins officially on August 19th.  On that day all 7-12th grade students will attend school.  Elementary students and parents will attend “meet the teacher” events throughout the day, and will then attend for a normal school day on August 20th. (Kindergarten students will phase-in.  Half the class will attend on the 20th, the other half on the 21st.  The entire class on the 22nd.)

While August 19th is a few days earlier than Worthington has historically begun school , it will still be a week later than some of our peer school districts.  For instance, Olentangy will begin school on August 14th.  Even small calendar tweaks in our conservative, traditional community, create significant community debate.  However, what is happening in Columbus, Ohio pales compared to what is happening just three hours West, in the Indianapolis suburbs.

My college roommate, Pat Haney @phaney10 (pictured above), is an elementary school principal in Noblesville, Indiana.  Noblesville is a northern Indianapolis suburb that serves approximately 9,700 students.  It’s demographics would be very similar to Olentangy and southern Delaware county.  The first day of school for Noblesville Schools this year was AUGUST 1st!  In Noblesville this school year, they, along with many other Indianapolis suburbs, made a radical calendar shift to what is called a “balanced” school calendar.  The “balanced “ school calendar reduces the summer break but provides for small breaks after each nine weeks.  Summer is reduced to 7-8 weeks but there is a two-week break in October, December, and late March.  This calendar is designed to help reduce the “summer slide” that many students experience even in Worthington.  The Indianapolis STAR newspaper wrote a very interesting article about the new schedule here.  A similar newspaper article was written by the Cincinnati Enquirer here.

Research documents that all young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer (White, 1906; Heyns, 1978; Entwisle & Alexander 1992; Cooper, 1996; Downey et al, 2004).  Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains (Cooper, 1996).   More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college (Alexander et al, 2007).  Children lose more than academic knowledge over the summer. Most children—particularly children at high risk of obesity—gain weight more rapidly when they are out of school during summer break (Von Hippel et al, 2007).  Parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do (Duffett et al, 2004).  Worthington MAP (NWEA) shows that our students are no different from the national research.  Districtwide we see summer slide and we rely on our teachers to make up that slide and then accelerate students at least one year’s growth.

On March 14th I wrote about the school calendar that our BOE approved on 3.11.13Next year our plan will be to begin just a little bit earlier than this year but we have not discussed a truly “balanced” model and I’m not advocating for one.  But, as Indianapolis and Columbus are very similar cities I expect that this conversation will eventually come to Columbus.  What are your thoughts on a balanced calendar?  Do see advantages or disadvantages?

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4 Responses to The “Balanced” School Calendar

  1. Jennie Dedmon says:

    I LOVE the idea of year round school and/or a balanced calendar. I think it would help the kids, teachers, and parents with more consistency and less a day off here/there that we have now. Kids retain more, teachers have breaks, and families can schedule vacations during the not so busy times of the year. It’s a win/win situation.

  2. Nicole McLean says:

    My son attended school for two years in Nashville, TN, where they had a “balanced” school year and we loved it! Yes, summer break was shorter, but it helped through out the year to have several weeks off. We received a week long fall break, two weeks at Christmas and a week and a half for spring break. We would be all for it if Worthington decided to implement this schedule!

  3. Amy Krohn says:

    Although I recognize the benefit of avoiding the “summer slide”, a “balanced” school year will pose significant challenges for two working parent families. I can imagine the childcare nightmare of finding two weeks of childcare every couple of months. This will wreck havoc with the childcare schedules of many families and is really only “balanced” for those families with one parent who does not work outside the home. Until our childcare system is in sync with our school system, a year round school will prove extremely difficult for many families in our district. More discussion needs to occur that includes this issue- please do not leave two working parent families out of the conversation.

  4. tbowers3 says:

    Amy,
    Don’t worry. Worthington Schools is not currently considering a balanced school calendar. If we ever do, there would be significant community engagement and all stakeholders would be part of the decision. I just thought it was interesting that this was happening in Indianapolis and thus thought it would be an interesting blog topic. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
    Trent

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