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Debating Year-Round Education

Some families and businesses oppose programs that keep schools open all year. Second of two reports about school calendars in the US. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

Today we continue our discussion of school calendars as a new American school year begins.

Some people say the traditional calendar of one hundred eighty days no longer meets the needs of American society. They point out that students in most other industrial countries are in school more hours a day and more days a year.

Critics also say a long summer vacation causes students to forget much of what they learned.

Schools are under pressure to raise test scores. Some have changed their calendars to try to improve student performance. They have lengthened the school day or added days to the year or both.

This can be costly if schools need air conditioning on hot days and school employees need to be paid for the extra time.

Local businesses may object to a longer school year because students are unable to work as long at summer jobs.

Some schools have a year-round schedule. The school year is extended over twelve months. Instead of a long vacation, there are many short ones.

The National Association of Year-Round Education says almost five percent of public school students attend year-round schools. It says almost all of the states have some public schools that are open all year.

Some parts of the country had year-round programs in the nineteenth century, mostly for economic reasons. They felt it wasted money to use school buildings for only part of the year.

Year-round programs can also reduce crowding in schools. In one version, students attend school for nine weeks and then have three weeks off. The students are in groups that are not all in school at the same time.

Another year-round calendar has all students in school together for nine weeks and off for three. This is meant to provide the continuous learning that can be lost over a long break.

But year-round schooling has opponents. They say it can cause problems for families when they want to make summer plans. And they say it interferes with activities outside school -- including summer employment.

Some experts say no really good studies have been done to measure the effect of school calendars on performance. But some educators think year-round schooling especially helps students from poor families that lack educational support at home.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. Our reports are online at I'm Steve Ember.