Registering your child for school can be a daunting task. You want to provide the best education as well as help them become a successful student. Traditional schedule operates usually on a nine-month basis, with no school for two to three months during the summer (a total of 180 hours of classroom time per year).
It provides the same curriculum as year-round schools. However, the amount of time a child spends in the classroom each day is extended compared to a child in a year-round schedule.
Conversely, the amount of time one spends not going to school is an extended period of time also, whereas with a year-round schedule, students usually get three-week breaks several times during the year.
Year-round schools operate on a 'track' schedule all yearlong, with the exception of a few weeks between the ending of one school year and the beginning of the next. Track scheduling is a staggered system specifically designed to accommodate more children in a school.
Usually a school has anywhere between 3-4 tracks and the start and end dates of those tracks are staggered. Regardless of when a specific track starts and stops, children go to school for nine weeks straight and then have a break of three weeks. When you hear a parent say their child is "tracked out", it means they are out of school on a break.
A lot of studies have been done to see whether children in a year-round program do better on their test scores as opposed to those in a traditional program. However, many of the studies were inconclusive, indicating that there was not a large difference in test scores between the two types of schedule.
So, when deciding which type of school is best for their child, parents may want to consider the other pros and cons of these systems.
For many working families, the year-round program fits better with their lifestyle; finding childcare for a three-week period is a lot less daunting task than having to find it for a two-month period, especially if both parents are working.
Year-round scheduling also affords families the opportunities to take small trips throughout the year rather than planning the typical summer vacation that was commonplace years ago, before year-round schools existed.
Some people would argue that, having an extended period of time in the summer for children to be out of school gives them a longer time to 'regroup and recoup' from the traditional program.
But others argue that children tend to forget over the summer the things they have learned; and that the first two to three weeks of the new year are lost on 're-learning' what they forgot. Depending on the specific child and their educational needs, year-round schooling can provide more continuity for children, who need a more structured environment.
Teacher feedback about the two types of schedule is varied as well. Some teachers find it to be a real hindrance when they have to pack up everything in their class at the end of nine weeks only to have to come in and set it up again three weeks later.
Maintenance issues at the schools are a consideration as well, since children are in the school all yearlong. However, the results of many surveys show that teacher absenteeism is lower with year-round staff and the scheduling reduces teacher burnout.
But coordination of track schedule is a drawback for teachers who have children, as they may be on different track-in and track-out dates from those that their children are on. Most systems, though, try to accommodate and place families on the same tracks.
Parents need to do their homework when deciding on year-round or traditional schedule. Asking your local school system for their opinion is also a good option. If they have resources available for you to read, that's a good place to start. Contacting your state board of education is another resource.
- By Deborah Lambeth
- By Deborah Lambeth