How effective are year-round schools

Studing in outdoorYear-round schooling has been used as a way to ease overcrowding while controlling the costs of public education. Advocates suggest that year-round schooling has other advantages, including:

* Children retain more over shorter vacations.

* Rotating schedule makes it easier to provide enrichment opportunities and remedial help during the school year.

* Planning time for teachers is distributed throughout the year.

* Attendance improves and teacher and student burnout decreases.

The Wake County, North Carolina School System is considering expanding its year-round programs. The effectiveness of the existing year-round schools was evaluated recently by Bethany Prohm, Evaluation Intern, and Nancy Baenen, Director of the Evaluation and Research Department, to determine whether students in year-round schools show achievement and attendance equal to or higher than those in traditional schools, and whether parents and staff are as satisfied with their programs as those in traditional schools.

Wake Forest’s seven year-round schools use the 45/15-day schedule (nine weeks in school, three weeks out). Students attend schools for the same number of days (180) as children on traditional schedules. Schools operate a multi-track system, students rotate through the schedule with 75 percent of the population in school while 25 percent is on break. Thus, one-third more students can be accommodated in the same building. All seven schools currently using year-round schedules are voluntary.

To analyze the effectiveness of year-round schools, these researchers studied three schools that have been operating year-round for at least three years.

Fewer minority students enroll

When student populations in these three schools were analyzed, it was found that these populations differed significantly from the average district populations. Significantly fewer minority and poor students chose to attend these year-round schools. However, a higher percentage of special-needs students were enrolled in these schools than in the district’s traditional schools.

Individual end-of-grade tests describing a student’s mastery of grade-level material showed that students’ scale scores in year-round schools increased by about the same amount over a three year period as students in traditional school.

Although year-round schools did not show superior achievement results and attendance rates were only slightly higher, parent and staff attitudes about school climate and effectiveness were consistently more positive at these voluntary year-round schools than at traditional schools in the district.

Although these voluntary year-round schools did not increase academic achievement, parents and teachers like them and they are a cost-effective way to serve more students.


“Are Year-Round, Multi-track Elementary Schools Effective?” ERS Spectrum Volume 14, Number 2, Spring 1996 pp. 42-47.

Published in ERN September/October 1996 Volume 9 Number 4


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