NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Impact of Year-Round Schooling on Academic Achievement

November 9, 2012

Summer vacation, a staple of the U.S. education system, is something that every student looks forward to as soon as the first day of classes starts. Recently, there has been experimentation with year-round school in an effort to increase student achievement, say Steven McMullen of Calvin College and Kathryn E. Rouse of Elon University.

  • In 2007, over 2 million students attended school year-round, or 4 percent of all U.S. students.
  • This is an increase from 360,000 students, or 0.7 percent, of students that attended school year-round in 1986.
  • In Wake County, North Carolina, 22 schools were switched to year-round calendars, bringing the total number of full-time schools in Wake County to 46.

Proponents of year-round schooling argue that lower-income students benefit because they are less able to afford supplemental learning opportunities in the summer. More importantly, student skills atrophy during the long break and are not as prepared for the next year of school.

In opposition, many groups have argued that students don't benefit from longer instructional period. They claim that students get burned out and are less likely to achieve in their courses. Moreover, they argue that community and family life are negatively impacted because a student has to be in school all year.

According to one study, the research finds that a year-round calendar doesn't benefit the average student. Because these schools offer more breaks to make up for being in school year-round, students end up learning the same amount of material. Furthermore, the research found it isn't the amount of time that a student is in school, but rather the amount of learning that takes place.

In response, proponents argue that even if student achievement remains about the same, year-round schools have made overall costs go down for school districts.

Source: Steven McMullen and Kathryn E. Rouse, "The Impact of Year-Round Schooling on Academic Achievement: Evidence from Mandatory School Calendar Conversions," Elon University, 2012.


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