BY JOSEPH STURGEON
The agrarian school calendar that United States schools have long followed is now out of date. For a few decades, the United States has performed poorly in education in international rankings, and partly to blame is the 180-day public school schedule that allows for a two-month-long summer break.
About a century ago, this vacation was deemed necessary for students that needed to help their families with farming. But currently, with not nearly as many American families partaking in agriculture, a two-month-long summer break is unnecessary. While summer vacation is relaxing, it causes regression in a vast majority of students. Once the next school year starts again, there usually isn’t enough time for students to make up for lost time and knowledge.
The long summer vacation adversely affects low-income and at-risk students more than it does anyone else. The National Summer Learning Association states that summer learning loss is more prevalent in students that come from low-income families. This is thought to be because parents in those families usually can’t afford to enroll their children in any summer programs that will keep them engaged.
Children in these situations are usually watched by a babysitter all day, or stay home alone. The lack of any academic engagement during the summer for low-income students only broadens the achievement gap.
In his article “Is Summer Breaking America’s Schools,” Seth Cline stated, “ By ninth grade, accumulated summer reading losses accounted for two-thirds of the reading achievement gap between low-income children and middle-income children, one John Hopkins study found.”
Shortening the summer break would work to diminish the achievement gap by not allowing enough time for students to forget what they learned the school year prior.
One thing that keeps students from neglecting their studies completely is summer assignments. Summer assignments are usually exclusive to AP or AICE courses, and sometimes aren’t even required for them.
“A benefit of a shorter summer would be that we might not get so lazy during a shorter break compared to a two month one,” junior Iago Fernandez said. “It would make us focus on our assignments right away rather than waiting until the last second.”
One purpose of summer assignments is to keep students busy over the course of the two-month break. Some summer assignments can be lengthy though, so perhaps a shorter summer could severely limit the amount of time students have to finish them.
According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, as of 2015, the United States “ranked 40 of 72 in mathematics, 25 of 72 in science, 24 of 72 in reading.” Reasoning as to why the U.S.’s educational rankings are so low is because of the length of summer vacation.
“Currently in America most school calendars average approximately 180 days with some small breaks during the year and a summer vacation that lasts anywhere from 4-8 weeks,” Seton Hall University Dr. James Pedersen stated. “In comparison, several studies have reported that nations with more than 180 instructional days and/or have calendars that are year-round have outperformed American schools.”
Despite all of this, modifying the length of the summer vacation in the United States would be challenging, it’s considered to be the backbone of the American school system and is also visible in American culture.
The television and movie industries are dependent on traditional schooling schedules in the sense that summer is the best season to release family movies such as Incredibles 2, or teen movies like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. As well as giving the student’s something to look forward to.
Two months is too long without a formal education, especially for low-income students. Although other factors are involved in the achievement gap, shortening summer vacation would be beneficial in helping close it.
Shortening the summer vacation would aid in improving the United States’ international education rankings, closing the achievement gap and level of education dependent on income. Shortening the summer vacation would be best for the future of the United States.
Illustration by Colin Camblin