Finally, summer has arrived. School’s out and we can all frolic for 9 long weeks, by which time the euphoria of the moment will have faded and everyone will be quite excited to get back to school. In the meantime students will forget a great deal and the productive habits and behaviours honed over the school year will have faded so that September will be devoted to getting back into the flow. With what is often a drift through June, that makes for 17 weeks of lost learning, or one-third of the school year.
In addition to the lost opportunity for all students, research shows that over the summer the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students grows so that increased inequity must be added to the negative side of the ledger.
And why do we do this? Simply because its a habit. If there ever was a good reason, it is long forgotten and now irrelevant. So, why not change it?
How about shaving three weeks off the summer, which still leaves a healthy six weeks for foreign travel and lazy days at the cottage for those who can afford it, and adding this time onto mid-year breaks, perhaps one week to the winter break and two weeks to the spring break? This would allow for three semesters, with three-week breaks after the fall and winter semesters, and six weeks after the spring semester.
Evening out the year would enable more continuous learning, alleviate the downside of an excessively long summer and provide mid-year breaks that are actually long enough to be restorative. The extended spring holiday in particular would undoubtedly benefit both students and teachers by breaking up the exhausting run from January to June. Perhaps that and the slightly shortened summer would also reduce the inclination to coast through June and add productive learning time without extending the school year.
Of course one could also divide up the year with three four-week breaks but the 3-3-6 pattern is less dramatic in its impact on all the established patterns of behaviour in families and communities.
I am hard pressed to think of a logical reason that this would not be a better approach than what we do now. It seems to be only inertia and lack of political will that stands in the way of a simple change that would be better for everyone.
What do you think?