Sounding Off: Summer vacation as we know it is obsolete 

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Summer vacation: It’s the freedom we all crave after a long grind of a school year. We all put up with the relentless Octobers and Marches, just to make it to that golden time of year where alarm clocks get put to rest and backpacks get put away. Illustration by Kaitlyn Tran/The Daily Campus.

Summer vacation: It’s the freedom we all crave after a long grind of a school year. We all put up with the relentless Octobers and Marches, just to make it to that golden time of year where alarm clocks get put to rest and backpacks get put away. Well, I’m here today to tell you why I think we should get rid of summer break. Ok, I can feel you getting ready to close out the tab or throw the paper in the trash, but please hear me out. Because yes, obviously everyone deserves a massive reprieve from the current system we have, but what if that wasn’t the system we had? What if school was a year-round institution for people too young to work a summer job or internship, but instead of having long periods of time with no breaks, we actually distributed break time throughout the year to give everyone proportional rest time? 

Right now, if you ignore weekends, students spend over 85% of days during the school year in the classroom.  In the town I went to school in, Fairfield, Connecticut, the number is 88.3%. If you were to have students in school year-round, they would spend less than 70% of their time in the classroom (182 days out of 261 non-weekend days). This even distribution could lead to a lot more free time for students at all times of the year. While certainly there’s a short-term benefit to having every hour of every day out of school for more than two months, the long-term benefit of freeing up more of every child’s schedule for the entire year is worth it. 

One reason that distributing the school year throughout the calendar year makes sense is the always scary topic of summer learning loss. For those who do not know what SLL is, a study by Drs. Allison Atteberry and Andrew McEachin titled “School’s Out: The Role of Summers in Understanding Achievement Disparities” was published in 2020. The study explains that across multiple subjects, the average student loses between 17% and 28% of English language arts school year gains during the summer, and between 25% and 34% of math school year gains. Basically, by leaving students without their usual schooling for months, some knowledge that may have been retained had continual schooling continued is lost. 

Countries like Japan and South Korea do not have extended summer breaks. Their consistent schedule is broken up by two smaller summer breaks, and a few additional breaks throughout the year. Photo by Nattu Adnan on Unsplash.

Another argument, brought up by former President Obama’s secretary of education Arne Duncan in 2009 was this: “I think schools should be open six, seven days a week, eleven, twelve months a year.” Duncan proposes this idea that students should simply be in the classroom more, and this is definitely a more extreme take than mine, but there is evidence to back it up.  According to the National Center on Education and the Economy, countries like the Netherlands, Japan and South Korea, all nations at the forefront of education internationally, require students to be in the classroom for 200 or more days a year. 

The debate here becomes simple: Is the problem with U.S. education one about consistency or volume? What’s clear is that the length of our summer break is too long either way (NCEE shows that Japan, the Netherlands and South Korea all have six-week summer breaks, while the U.S. break exceeds 10 weeks) but the argument comes in when one has to decide what to do with that. 

Personally, I think it would be worth it to try the consistency model before moving to adding days in the classroom to the schedule. First off, the former can be built upon to create the latter if it is not effective, and second, two shocks to the system instead of one would be a bit brutal. The goal is to make the school experience easier, more accessible and to promote less burnout, not to punish students for existing in a system that was created to serve a community that needed children to help with agriculture in the summers. 

To wrap up, here is how the schedule would look if my model was implemented: Both winter break in December and spring break in April would go from being one week to two. The rest of the year would have four two-week breaks: One in June, one in August, one in October and one in February. This way, there are no two-month periods where there isn’t at least one two week break. It’s the same amount of time off, just more evenly distributed, which will hopefully combat both learning loss and burnout from the repetition of sitting in a classroom. 

In adult life, many jobs are year-round. If we expose kids to a model from a young age that resembles how that system works, they’ll be more prepared for what’s to come, and they’ll learn how to better budget their time from an early age as well. 

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