A Hoosier tradition has been to send students to school for a straight 180 days. Then there was the summer to plant fields for dad, the farmer. Then, the non-farming kids started getting summer jobs and everyone thrived.
But schools started struggling with finances and became more accountable in making noticeable achievement gains.
Many districts have turned to year-round education, also known as balanced calendars, in which the 180 days of education are spread out over the year.
For families and teachers who planned summer travel, the change has not always been appreciated.
There’s been no definitive study that indicates a balanced school calendar improve grades. One Indiana study cited most often comes from 2007 in which, basically, year-round calendars were found to have a positive impact if proper intercessions — offering remediation or enrichment programs during the breaks — were made. No truly significant cost savings were found. And more research was needed.
In other words, balanced calendars can work if a community states what it is looking for in making the switch.
Mostly though there’s a lot of wishing and hoping by school officials when they make the change. When one school district begins to alter its calendar, others seem to fall in line. That’s true in Indiana. Lately, Elwood’s school board decided to take on a different calendar. School will begin two weeks earlier and there will be two-week breaks in the spring and fall. A true year-round calendar distributes the days more evenly.
Communities, however, would be wise to ask, and even rally, to find additional alternatives. Parents should be asking if a longer school day would work. Or whether the calendar should be more evenly distributed to perhaps help students retain knowledge of subjects.
Granted, there are family and teacher contract issues at stake, but individual school districts should be willing to discuss and make the changes necessary.
Having a discussion on balanced calendars is the first step. But solely realigning a calendar doesn’t guarantee student achievement.