Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lengthening the school year

There is a lot of buzz in the educational world today because of the news that some districts in five states will experiment with lengthening the amount of time students spend in school each year. Some commentators take the position that adding more time to a broken system is not the best answer to the country's educational woes. Supporters of the programs laud their flexibility, in that each participating district will be able to design exactly how the time gets added.

I have not heard mention, however, of a calendar change that would bring us out of the agricultural age for which our school year was designed and into the 21st century in which less than 2% of Americans are farmers. Sir Ken Robinson famously addressed that issue here.

So, knowing that

  • we no longer need a summer vacation for all our farm children to help out;
  • adolescent children's brains prune about 20% of their synaptic connections, thus making them forget what is not repeatedly used;
  • we need to teach our students more in terms of both material and skills than our 20th-century forebears;
  • there is general agreement that we are in need of radical educational restructuring,
Why aren't we discussing having a school calendar that uses the entire year?

Here's my proposal:
  1. First term meets from January 15-April 15. Vacation from April 16-May 14.
  2. Second term meets from May 15-August 15. Vacation from August 16-September 14
  3. Third term meets from September 15-December 15. Vacation from December 16-January 14.
This would give us shorter vacations to enhance retention, provide more school days to enlarge our curricula, and create an updated school calendar that better fits with the times. 


  1. From an educational standpoint, much of this makes sense (though I hold that much of a kid's education should be provided by parents when NOT in school.) From a personal (and selfish) perspective, this feels hellish. There you go, first comment.

  2. I like that schedule - You still get generally the same amount of vacation but you don't forget everything in between. It also provides good starting and stopping points for special projects in addition to regular school work. If school moved to a more creative format a trimester session would make more sense as well--sort of like college semesters + the one month in between used for travel. When does the school year switch? January 15 is the start of new term?