American Morning

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May 11th, 2011
05:38 AM ET

Should American kids go to school year round?

Students in classrooms across the country are gearing up for summer break, but some say three months off is exactly what they don't need. U.S. schools rank 14th in Reading and 25th in Math among industrialized countries, and have one of the shortest school years at 180 days a year. Some, like columnist LZ Granderson, say we need to reevaluate summer vacation and keep American kids in school year round to compete globally.

AM asks you, should American kids go to school year round? Comment here, we may pick your response to read on air. And, stay tuned at 8:40a ET when we talk live with LZ Granderson.

Want to read more? Check out a study from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) on how American students stack up globally in Reading, Math and Science.


Filed under: AM Asks
soundoff (143 Responses)
  1. alex

    Really? All year? I'll bet any amount of money that the hard working scholars in America can exceed the scores of those whom we are being compared to. Its the students, not the time spent in school. If a student is reluctant to learn, throwing them in the classroom for two more months and taking away the one thing kids work for will surely make them try even less. Maybe they should work on more hands-on teaching to get kids interested.

    May 11, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  2. Rick

    The varied opinions expressed here clearly show how little common ground there is and no one solution will satisfy both.

    Why must there only be one option? It seems most districts are large enough and concentrated enough so both can be offered and let the parents decide (and future testing results indicate) which approach is better. There are merits and detractors to both ideas. It may vary from student to student.

    As a teacher, I think year-round would offer a better chance for students to retain their knowledge. Increase the school year slightly and spread shorter breaks (no more than two weeks) throughout the school year. Yes, it would increase building maintenance and operation costs (and probably busing as well), but the investment may pay off with less absenteeism, more in-depth learning.

    Another option I've been an advocate of is having the four-day school week with Wednesdays a non-school work day for the students. They would be expected to have some assignments designed to be done on their own time. For parents with care issues, the schools could be open for limited use, activities, lunch, computer availability and tutoring by teachers. Assuming the number of teachers needed would be small, this could address budget issues. The loss of Wednesdays could be filled in with more weeks in the summer and still have suitable weekly breaks throughout the year.

    May 11, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  3. Barry

    Does anything you can say scream 'old fart', louder than saying kids should go to school year round? 'Cmon

    May 11, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  4. tre

    kids are not robots and they need time to enjoy there childhood while they still can students cannot be forced to be working 365 days out of the year im a student myself and yearround school will just bring on more stress and peer preasure on students so i am against yearround school

    May 11, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  5. pimplemousse

    What utter nonsense. It is quality that matters not quantity. Sounds like this article is written by a troll.

    May 11, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  6. lynn nelson

    Why not try the English version of school hours: 8am – 4pm with 2 x 15 min breaks and 45 mins at lunch. Summer vacation is just 6 weeks and 2 weeks at Christmas. Kids start school at 5 yrs not 6. With all this, students there learn as much by the age of 16 as they do here at 18.

    May 11, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  7. Dean Mullen

    well there's no point in having an education is your gonna be depressed. like they say education comes first, then happiness but whats the point in working in a world where we don't make happiness? I thought the point of our civilization is to have a better life and be happy, if not then why do we keep the world going around? that's my opinion.

    May 11, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  8. Amanda Armstrong

    Summer break offers many enrichment opportunities outside the classroom, like visiting zoos and parks, taking family vacations, and attending day or weekly camps. Pushing our children to continue week after week in the classroom buried in books and homework does not equate to better test scores.
    Additionally, for many high school students, summer break offers a chance to earn money through jobs like babysitting, mowing lawns, and life guarding.

    May 11, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  9. mit

    I don't believe kids should go to school all year.They need a brake from all the stress of school and everyday life.I think it will cause more dropouts.Schools are not what they used to be,and schools and students would do better if prayer would be put back in school,look at the difference since it was taken out.Our children are not trained robots they are human,give them a break.

    May 11, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  10. Lori

    The way we educate children has been substandard for a long time. I am 46 years old and I don't know multiplication and couldn't do long division if my life depended on it. While I was in school I was put in special education classes and given simple assignments that I could accomplish. I did have one special education teacher in the 6th grade who did her very very best to educate me in math but our time ran out. I was around other students in special education who could not read yet we all passed on to the next grade every year. I don't believe the answer is keeping kids in school all year long, I have never believed the answer was in the no child left behind act either. All children don't learn the same. I was the type of learner that had to go over the material several times but once I understood the concept it stuck with me. I think more focus should be on what really works then build on that, when we quit feeling like we have to do things how they have always been done then we might actually find the answer.

    May 11, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  11. Amy Steed

    I have been in the classroom for 15 years. I do have some opinions on year-round schools. However, I wanted to make a comment on the overall state of our public schools. I HAVE to make STUDENTS more accountable for their educational outcomes. If they don't pass the test, if they don't learn the content, there is nothing that we can do. I don't know why we don't hold them back or require summer school. Teachers need to be held accountable, but so do parents and students.

    May 11, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  12. Richard V. Harmon

    Yes, schools should go year round, however the schools are going to have to meet certain conditions in regards to there facilities.(Air condition) Some schools don't have it!
    Teachers are contracted to work the 180 days, and lots of them are represented by unions. Teachers want more money, this would be a good time to do it, because you will have to pay them for entire year.
    There are fewer jobs for working teens and students at this time, so this could be a good time to start the programs.
    Keep in mind this school year of 180 days was set up when a lot of kids work on farms and seasonal employment. The great complaint now is from folks who schedule there summer vacations around the school year. If we went to a quarter school year and provided time for the "family vacation" there would be less opposition.
    All the funding for summer programs could be redirected to the schools. I believe some working parents would be receptive to some extra fees for summer session, because they are paying for day care/latch key and etc programs presently.
    In summary the "year round schools" is going to be very expense in the start up phase. It must be creative to hold the interest of the students. It may require more electronics,"Large TVs" in class rooms with a teacher teaching more than one class, this would be a great place for student teachers to begin there training. It is a great idea for year round school, but it is going to take a lot of time and money.

    May 11, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  13. Ida

    I think that it would be very hard on teachers. Teachers are overloaded now teaching skills, manners, behavior. Some of which should be done at home. Rather than year round school, perhaps trimesters.Three months school, two weeks off.

    May 11, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  14. Dr. Cornelis Rillen

    Extending the number of school days for attendance will do little to improve the performance of students in various subject areas. In this country we pay much attention to secondary problems instead of the principal or surce problems. Discipline is one of the major source problems.It's the main building block for students' performance. Students in the leading countries in science, math etc. have an "A " level in discipline. Students in the U.S. have a "C" level in discipline, and I'm being generous with that grade. Another source problem is the restriction placed on teachers to enforce required class discipline. As an educator I worked with the "so called" mentally restricted students, amazingly, about 95 percent of them became mentally capable when taught how to be disciplined in their approach to class work.

    Dr. C. Rillen

    May 11, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  15. Scott

    No, children should not have to go to school year around. Maybe there should be options for the small group of students and faculty that want to do this. Maybe this is their calling, but don't force everyone.

    I agree with Curtis 100%. If we all have the same talent (academically, socially, and physically), then I'd like to be an NBA superstar. If not, then the education system did me wrong. I think we need basketball classes year around, so we can compete globally at every level.
    Point in case, not everyone is an athlete. Not everyone is great academically. Not everyone can speak perfectly. Hence, don't force everyone to be the same. God made each of us perfect in our own ways. It's up to each individual to discover their talents.

    I know many Amish people who are entrepreneurs and are doing great. The Amish go to school through the 8th grade. They go to work after the 8th grade. By the time they are in their 20's, many are starting their own businesses. This speaks for itself.

    I believe that Summer vactions should be from Memorial Day through Labor Day (like Mac stated above). We need a combination of school, work, and play to gain a variety of learning and experiences.
    Motto: "Work hard and play hard."

    May 11, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  16. Katherine Curnen

    It has always been my belief that school should be year round. As a retired teacher of regular and special education I have experienced having to review the previous grade for a few months before introducing the new information. This is because the students always loose so much over the summer break. Ex; Use it or loose it!
    Nine months of school is NOT enough. Don't forget there are also many days off within those nine months.
    By the end of each year my students were growing and learning at a faster rate. I found it upsetting to have the children stop growing because of summer break.
    In the past, summers off were only needed so that the children could help out on family farms. It also was very uncomfortable trying to learn without airconditoning. These reasons no longer apply to our times.
    I believe going to school 4 days or 4 1/2 a week year round would be
    best for the students mental and physical health needs.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  17. Aaron Fowles

    Summer learning loss is a documented and crushing phenomenon.

    You're going to get very different responses to this issue from urban, suburban, and rural areas. Urban schools, which tend to have lower scores, would clearly benefit from year-round schooling. Those kids, on average, don't get exposed to as many books or other intellectual endeavors as their suburban counterparts. I can't speak for rural kids; I don't know that many.

    I was a suburban kid and I spent a lot of my summers reading at the library or engaged in a college for youth program (http://cfy.illinoisstate.edu/). Now I teach in Memphis and even though plenty of summer learning opportunities are available, many students spend their summers watching television.

    It is very doubtful that we will move to year round schooling anytime soon. Rather, it would be more beneficial to see more money funded into summer learning opportunities for low-income areas, where parents are less able to pay for summer enrichment. These programs, funded with public money, should offer breakfast and lunch just like during the regular school year.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  18. Curtis

    Why don't you just send failing kids to summer school? Oh wait. We do, and it doesn't work? So how is that any different than year round? The successful students will be fine, no matter when they go to school because of their family life. FAMILY LIFE is #1 to a person's education.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  19. James McDowell

    The problem is not the length of the school year. It is putting a the children in one basket. Some kids will never be good at science, some will not be a math genius, and others will never be a great reader. But all have a talent, if we spend enough time to find it, that can carry them into a life on promise and success. A 4 foot child will never be a pro basket ball player, so why spend time training him for basket ball? He may be your great reader, scienist, or math genius. But if you look at our schools, we have standardize test and at the end we do not push the kids into areas where they are most suited.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:34 am |
  20. Michael Rodeman

    I graduated from high school 2 years ago and I'm going into my 3rd year of college right now. I do not think that extending the school year would be particularly effective. Students need a break from the stress. The real solution to our education problem is to make our teachers better. There are a lot of teachers that have no idea what they're doing. We need to give them the tools to make them better. We need to recruit teachers that are passionate about what they do. In China teachers are revered and payed as much as engineers are; teaching is a prestigious occupation. Teachers are very highly respected in Asia, unlike in America where they're occasionally praised but never actually supported. Education in Asia is like sports is in America. Kids in America care more about sports than they do about their education and our culture encourages that behavior. We need a more stringent process for teachers to go through like Finland has in order to even become teachers. We need to give them the salary and the respect they deserve like they do in Asia. We need to hold our students accountable. If the worry about having a summer break is that students will forget things that they've learned throughout the year, then we should do what Japan does to fix that: send home a large packet of homework to do over the summer that is due when the students return the next year.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  21. NoWay

    I usually agree with you on your points, but on this one I must disagree.

    Summertime is a time for rejuvenation. If kids are watching tv, etc. as their only activities during summer break, then I blame the parents. Aren't you a big proponent of parents being parents? Why is it always the schools' responsibility to educate our children? Summertime gives kids the opportunity to learn other things that are just as important as learning from books or lessons.

    We can barley afford our educational system now, what will we do if teachers need to work more days a year? If Finland, with it's top ed system worldwide, can accomplish that feat in 190 days, we're not far off at 180 days. The quality of education in this country needs revision, not the quantity.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  22. Lisa Favacchia

    ABSOULTLY NOT!!!!! Teachers have 180 days to teach. If reading and math scores are low a teacher is not doing their job!! Hire better quality teachers and pay them right! Children need to be children, they need play time and family time as well. There is way too much pressure on children today when it comes to school. All day learning and all night homework. Way too much for them!!!! I would be the first to protest this! Just hearing about it makes me so angry because anyone who can even impose such a question is not educated in the area of children. We all went to school for 180 days and did just fine. Leave well enough alone and worry about the major issues in this country. School is not one of them!!!!!!

    May 11, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  23. Denise Breese

    My children enjoyed "year round" school for many years. It doesn"t mean they attended 52 weeks a year, but rather that they received smaller periods of time off between trimesters.180 days was still the norm.

    For instance, the school year began around Aug 1st thru Nov 15; then kids returned approx. Jan 1 thru April 7; with the year winding down from May 1 thru July 1. I liked that schedule too because we could travel without taking the kids out of school or having to wait until summer.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  24. Duane

    We live in Nevada ( Henderson ) and we had all year school .They just changed back to 9 month we are told to save money . The state is 49th in anything to do with education and now they are talking of cutting 10 days off the school year again to save money . Teachers and staff may be laid off, classes cut and what ever to save . The ones who suffer are our kids and our country . Someone had better wake up to this big problem we have with educating our kids .

    May 11, 2011 at 9:19 am |
  25. Curtis

    I'm wondering how many of you did the tradition summers off and turned out alright. I'm guessing ALL OF YOU. Smart people and good families will ALWAYS prevail. It's povery that's bringing some schools down, not teachers, and not because of summer breaks. Heck, even colleges have summer breaks.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  26. Stephanie Lynn

    Honestly, if we take away summer vacation from kids we are taking away a big chunck of childhood. Yes education is definitely important but also summer vacation helps kids develop more social skills in other environments such as summer jobs and camps.

    Summer vacation also alows kids to connect more with their families and friends by going on trips or doing activities. If we make kids sit in a classroom all year round we are just teaching them that school and work are the only things that should matter in life when in fact their not the only importances. Learning how to socialize and deal with problems outside of a school setting as well as spending time with family and friends is not only important for developing social skills but also for health reasons.

    Also, if people are saying that we need to keep kids in school all year round to "compete globally" I feel that this reason is selfish. We seriously need to stop feeling that we need to be better than every other nation on the globe. Stop putting competition first and and look into what is really important for your own citizens. We need to teach future generations that life should not be about competition but rather than helping eachother by being encouraging and giving back to one another.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:16 am |
  27. B. Coppola

    The short answer is 'to restructure our educational system on several fronts at once' and not have unrealistic expectations about the results. Change takes time. The important thing is not to withdraw support too soon More often than not we know what to do but are not farsighted or committed enough (impatient? naive?) to let our ideas come to term.

    We don't have to pile on more days in school to get better results. (Sweden roves this point at 190). Rather, let's consider things like:

    A 'round the year' shool year (a kind of trimester format with a month's vacation inbetween each semester) to promote better retention of material.
    Renewed repect, better pay and better training for teachers in order to attract better candidates and help them be effective in the classroom.

    A new look at students responsibility to their own education. Students need to be encouraged to take their studies seriously and to consider doing so their patriotic duty. The statistic on our nation's dropout rate is frightening at 25%. That translates into an underclass economically of 25% of the upcoming population that will put a drain on all kinds of services and programs. The ramifications are mind-boggling.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  28. Dale Shamp

    If the school year was extended it should be in four week increments at a time to allow students time to readapt.
    I believe that it also be worked out so students go for perhaps eight weeks at a time and have two weeks off.
    The one good outcome of this is that two working parents will not have to wonder what to do for babysitter's for the long summers now. Maybe this will also alter the fact that the federal tax law could be changed for claiming child care expenses and put a little more money into the treasury.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  29. Nora Giordano

    Yes, I believe that Public School should be extended longer for several reasons:
    1. Need to downsize classroom, in order for all students to concentrate fully
    2. Need more competent teachers that enjoys working with children, not for just a paycheck
    3. Phycial time in classroom should be longer to be spent on main subject
    4. keep some kids out of trouble during summer months
    5. Make class time exciting why teaching
    Keep in mind, how many holidays plus spring break they received each school term.

    Botttom line, parents plays a very important part, stable home and lots of love and food.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:13 am |
  30. Mike McGinnis

    THE TROUBLE WITH EDUCATION TODAY

    1. Teaching is an art and a skill which not everyone can do it well. It is not a business and can’t be run like one. There are not enough of the best teachers to go around even if they were paid enough, which they are not. This means that we must at times settle for those who are willing to try. There are not enough of these either. Which means some teacher will not measure up to the public’s wants and needs. You can fire them, but those you get to replace them will be just like the ones you fired in most cases.

    2. Teachers can not teach without having the right materials. They can’t teach if they are required to all teach alike. They can’t teach if their students are not ready for the subject matter.

    3. Education can not be legislated. Just because you were elected doesn’t mean that you know what is good for students. You have to have taught for some time before you can even begin to know.

    4. Teachers are being required not only to teach their subject but to be parents to many children. This takes away from the teaching of subject matter. Teachers have always had to do this, but today it is not just caring for the children. It is more like parenting them.

    5. It is not the teacher fault if the child does not learn. It is up to the child and his parents to see to that. But, parents tend to blame the teacher.

    6. A child who doesn’t know his multiplication tables can not be expected to learn pre-calculus. Yet, some legislators require them to do so in order to graduate from high school. Teachers are being required to do the impossible. There needs to be other tracks for such children.

    7. All children can learn some things. But, the expense is too great in many cases to the child, to the teacher, to the state, and to the parents for them to be taken beyond their abilities. There needs to be some place beyond the classroom for them.

    In short, we must put more money in education and start having more respect for those who teach.

    Retired Mathematics Teacher 37 years in the classroom
    Athens, TN

    May 11, 2011 at 9:11 am |
  31. Lorna - MA

    I am retired from Education – College level. When you look at the cost of college keep in mind that the amount of Support Courses necessary to bring a student to college level is staggering. If students were better educated these courses would be minimal. Standards must be higher. Teachers must be trained better. We should take some tips from those countries that have better results than the US. Yes, school from K-12 should be year-round.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  32. Renata

    Yes. When my childen and I lived in Houston they had year round school. 3 months at school 1 month off. It was great as a single parent, I did not have to worry about a long 3 month summer trying to find activities for my kids. My kids loved it.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  33. Myron

    Yes, American kids need to go to school year round. Our school system scheduling was based on the farming season. This is an outdated system especially in this technological age that we live in. With China's "dragon" economy breathing fire on our coat tails we should be doing everything we can to give our country an advantage. Our kids are our future and we should be giving them everything they need to compete with their future competitors.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  34. Dave

    I think year around school is a great idea, but first we need to stop cutting funding for schools. Every time the states need to cut their budgets the school system and teachers are some of the first to loose money. Lets get our mind set right and start realizing that our kids education is indeed important!

    David T.
    Twin Falls, ID

    May 11, 2011 at 9:05 am |
  35. ex-teacher

    Year-around school would hurt summer visitation for children of divorced parents who live in different cities. Schools are not in sync nation-wide. The summer-time lessons would vary from region to region. The concept of year-around schools focuses on one single thing, and not everything which is required to raise a balanced child.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:05 am |
  36. trini

    In my country the kids write a national exam at 11 yrs + that gives them the opportunity to attend the high school of their choice. The exam result is publish in the news papers for all to read so that is a motivation to the child and parent to see their name in print.. My children took extra lessons after school to prepare them for that but it also helped them to understand the work and excel in their class. My country (Trinidad) is doing very well in that area

    I do not agree with year long school

    May 11, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  37. Rebecca De La Fuente

    The last thing our children need is longer time in "prison" being told how to dress, act, think, speak, laugh, etc. What we need is more time to imagine and create a world that is more enjoyable, resource based (for those concerned about being left behind) respectful, loving and harmonized with the rest of our planet. "We have to compete". For what. More pollution, more war, more rules (oh I mean safety) more of everything that makes us nothing. There is a reason persons like Einstein said "Imagination is more important than knowledge" Quantum science has proved this now. What you "think" you ARE. How about some good old fashion daydreaming, with a healthy side of self esteem, topped with joy. Talk about the mother of invention. I want to provide an environment for the inventors of our future that is without fear and guilt and shame. Maybe this could be explored as "true" CHANGE.

    Our Education system as it is, is about money, not academics or the well-being of students. It is no different than the prison system. Quit acting like you're all surprised. After all, we would not be good little worker bees and slave away to the credit and tax and religious system that keep the rich , rich and the poor, poor if we understood the true meaning of "as you think you are". We would enjoy our lives without fear, reveling in our amazing ability to create what we want regardless of what "the media" says. As the "voice" you have an opportunity to change everything, but just like the education and prison systems you are all owned and bought and sold and bribed and you will never report the truth because you are not allowed to.

    I know we are all ONE. I know we will wake up one day and it will BE changed. We are Loved and ALL is well. (I'm THINKING) ; )

    May 11, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  38. Tjames

    If the Curriculum becomes more even throughout the year instead of a big break in summer I believe that students will be able to hold information better. After months off of studying algebra would you remember it? Shorter breaks could smooth out the overall workload IMO. Lmk...

    May 11, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  39. Sean

    Learning isn't something that should be constrained to a few months. It's a lifelong process that goes on throughout someone's life. You lose information that you learn when you take that extremely long break. These extended breaks are based off of an outdated schedule that went with the farming season many years ago. It should be removed for the sake of the children.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  40. Otis

    Liars figure and figures lie! The statistics used to rank the school systems should be scrutinized. Remove those that don't want to learn from the stat. Eliminate those that don't speak English from the stat. Eliminate those with learning disabilites from the stat... how many countries require very costly programs for those with learning disabilities. Not everyone is college material. More trade schools are needed. My plumber gets $65 an hour. How many college grads make that?! The USA still produces more college grads than any country. The USA still produces more innovators and innovation than any other country by a huge margin. Graduating more kids should be the goal. Making parents be responsible parents should be a goal. Bringing jobs back to the USA so all young adults entering the job market can find one will keep kids in school. Sign me father of 4 (all who graduated from college in 4-years after STRONG encouragement by their patents to work hard while in public school).

    May 11, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  41. Lou Daugherty

    Year around? ABSOUTELY! The 9 mo. school year is a 19th century agrarian concept (with a week off in the Spring.....for planting?) that probably lost functionality in the mid 20th century, if not before.
    there is too much loss of knowledge that takes place over the break.

    Your comment that "public schools are broken" may be somewhat true. Possibly the characteristic that make America unique and, one that we treasure, diversity, m.ay make it extremely difficult for teachers to address in a "one size fits all" classroom the different values, cultural differences and socioeconomic diversity that is the fabric of America. When compared to high educationally achieving nations like Finland and Sweden, for example, it's an apples and oranges matchup.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  42. Adam

    While year-round school is not the end all solution to improving our education system, it is a step in the right direction. A year-round program will help these young students retain information and would allow for more short breaks throughout the year. I recall that the summers were entirely too long, and by the middle to end of summer, I was ready to go back to school if only to break up the monotony of summer.

    For high school students, I think a trimester program where the first two semesters are strictly for formal education and the third semester is left up to the student to enroll in a work-study program or other less formal educational methods unless they would like to stay in a formal education setting.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:01 am |
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