Broadcast: June 24, 2004
This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Education Report.
Many American schools have closed for the summer. Most children in the United States have a summer holiday of almost three months. This traditional school schedule was designed long ago when many Americans lived on farms. Children were needed at home during the summer to help their families with the crops and animals. Schools later continued the tradition, mostly because it was difficult to hold classes in the hot summer weather.
American schools began to experiment with changing this system in the early nineteen-hundreds. One idea was for children to attend school all year round. But the idea did not become popular until about twenty-five years ago. Studies done at the time showed that American students were not performing as well as students in other countries.
Students who attend year-round schools in the United States do not go to class every day of the year. They spend the same number of days in class as other students. But the time is organized differently. For example, some students attend school five days a week for nine weeks. Then they have three weeks off before going back to school for another nine weeks. In the summer they have about five weeks of holiday.
Supporters of year-round schooling say it improves student learning. They say students in the traditional system often forget what they have learned during a long summer holiday. They say schools can offer special classes during the short holidays for students who need extra help. They also say it saves money because the school buildings are used throughout the year.
People opposed to year-round schooling say the research has not proved that it improves learning. Families report problems organizing activities and travel when children in different schools have different holidays. Some parents want their children to have an extended summer away from the pressures of school. People who operate summer camps for children oppose the idea. So do businesses that employ teenagers in the summer.
The National Association for Year-Round Education says that more than two-million American children, out of a total of fifty-two million, now attend school year-round. It says forty-seven American states have some schools that operate year-round.
This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Steve Ember.