Elementary School Summer Vacation

Elementary school is where we learn to read, write, add, subtract and do some other things kids like doing.  Summer is the season after spring. When you look at these two definitions, you will figure out that elementary school students take a vacation for summer.Elementary school summer vacation is here and my daughter experiences it for the first time. This year I’ve used the summer break to make some positive changes in our family routine related to food and activity. It’s already had a great impact on my daughter’s health and body, but there were some challenges as well. I’d like to share with you 7 important steps we have taken in our diet, what we do at home, and a few other things that have made a difference.

For children, summer is the most wonderful time of the year. Summer vacation is spent many ways: some people go backpacking, others visit South America, and if you are a student, you probably think and hope that it will be spent sleeping.If you’ve been spending all year looking forward to the summer vacation, you’re not alone. Once it starts, I know we’re all itching to get out of the house and spend as much time outside as possible. This can sound like a great idea but then we start thinking, “What should I do with my kids during summer vacation?”This year, we’re spending our summer in a cardboard box! We’ve got a lot to do (lots of cutting and shaping), but doing it with my kids is the best part of all.

Elementary School Summer Vacation

The History of School and Summer Vacation
James Pedersen
Seton Hall University
For more than 100 years the public school system has been the foundation of our society.
Millions of our nation’s citizens have moved through the primary, middle and secondary schools
which, although they vary slightly from region to region, provided a shared experience and are a
part of Americana. History tells us the reasons that school systems used only a 10 month
calendar were due to agrarian needs, but in recent years this rationale does not seem as
applicable. In light of global competition and America’s consistently poor international
rankings, it would seem logical conclusion to extend the school year to increase instructional
time. But the move to year-round schooling isn’t so easy, nor is it unanimously embraced by
parents, community members, businesses or politicians.
For more than 100 years the public school system has been the foundation of our society.
Millions of our nation’s citizens have moved through the primary, middle and secondary schools
which, although they vary slightly from region to region, provided a shared experience and are a
part of Americana. History tells us the reasons that school systems used only a 10-month
calendar were due to agrarian needs, but in recent years this rationale does not seem as
applicable. In light of global competition and America’s consistently poor international rankings,
it would seem a logical conclusion to extend the school year to increase instructional time. But
the move to year-round schooling isn’t so easy, nor do parents, community members, businesses
or politicians unanimously embrace it.
The issue of providing American students with additional instructional time students
spend in American schools is not a recent educational concern. Even as early as 1983, a national
report, A Nation at Risk, urged educators to add more time to address some of the achievement
gaps that, at the time, were increasingly widening in the American public school systems at the
time. This particular report awakened an interest in examining how instructional time was spent
with students in the United States. Educational researchers began to look at how much
instructional time American schools utilized in comparison to other schools in other countries. A
Nation at Risk (National Council for Excellence in Education, 1983), Prisoners of Time (Kane,
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1994), and more recently, Tough Choices, Tough Times (National Center on Education and the
Economy, 2007), recommended districts look into ways of modifying their existing traditional
school day to address ways of improving student achievement.
Many schools around the country responded to these increasing educational demands by
experimenting with the reorganization of instructional time spent in classrooms (Anderson,
1994). With varying degrees of success, as well as a variety of models, a number of these
initiatives to increase instructional time were implemented in schools across the United States.
For example, The Center for American Progress found that in the years between 1991 and 2007
alone, almost 300 initiatives to extend learning time were implemented in American schools
(Gewertz, 2009).
A number of these initiatives involved lengthening the school day, increasing the number
of school days or moving to some form of a year-round school calendar. At the heart of most of
these initiatives was the goal to increase student achievement through the addition of
instructional time (Neal, 2008). The basis for many of these initiatives for lengthening the school
year or extending the school year were premised on a belief that additional instructional time
would allow teachers more opportunities to teach their children (Stoops, 2007). As educators
noticed their global counterparts implementing year-round schools with impressive results,
schools in America experimented with phasing in different school calendars models as well.
School Calendars
Currently in America most school calendars average approximately 180 days with some
small breaks during the year and a summer vacation that lasts anywhere from 4-8 weeks. In
comparison, several studies have reported that nations with more than 180 instructional days
and/or that have calendars that are year-round have outperformed American schools (Farbman &
Kaplan, 2005). Some public, private and charter schools in the United States have responded to
this educational dilemma by taking steps to extend their school days and/or school year in order
to take measures to boost student achievement (Neal, 2008).
In 2005, close to 2,300 public schools in the United States followed some form of a
modified schedule (St. Gerard, 2007). Many of these schools were “designated” year-round and
still operated in the same districts with other schools that followed traditional calendars. Other
programs to increase instructional time, such as classes offered after-school or on Saturdays,
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have had varying degrees of success, but many school districts embraced year-round education
as a concrete means to increase academic achievement (Aronson, 1995).
Summer Vacations Today
Since very few American students today have the same farming obligations as their
predecessors from over a century ago and most buildings constructed in the past 20 years are
equipped with the necessary climate control, the original obstacles for year-round education, for
the most part, seem to have been removed as a scheduling barrier for public schools. Yet, a
majority of American schools continue to operate for only 10 months out of the calendar year.
The deficits that occur from “summer fade,” the time between the ending of school and
its beginning when many students do not receive any formal education, most often severely
impact students from low socio-economic areas and at-risk students. Some studies even claim
that as much as 3 months of academic setback can occur per grade level (Cooper, 1996). Other
research has found that children from various socio-economic backgrounds may make similar
gains during the school year as their peers, but those from low socio-economic groups create
academic deficits during their summer months (Cooper, 1996, Edmonds, 2008, Zuckerbrod,
2007). Lastly, additional studies have shown that in the last few decades our high achieving
students in America have been steadily losing their educational ranking in the world and spend
considerably less instructional time than students in other countries (Bracey, 2002a). Highachieving students are known to benefit from schools with year-round calendars that can provide
accelerated programs and advanced classes (Coalition, 2009).
Historical Perspective
Summer vacation wasn’t widely instituted until the late nineteenth century when one of
the measurements of a good school at that time was the number of days it was open (Weiss &
Brown, 2005). Oftentimes, the financial state of the district determined how long the school was
open during the year. Schools with longer calendars were often perceived by the general public
as more effective. Until educational reforms in the last century sought to unify schools, many
districts operated on a calendar that varied from region to region based on the unique needs of
the community (Weiss & Brown, 2003). The 9-month calendar that is used in the majority of
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American schools today was never initially intended to be the standard calendar for schools
(Ballinger & Kneese, 2006).
The idea of the traditional summer vacation seems to have become part of the fabric of
American culture over the course of the last 200 years. Currently, the summer holiday is viewed
by many Americans as the backbone of our country’s school system (Weiss & Brown, 2003). In
addition, the revenues of many seasonal industries have become dependent on the openings and
closings of the traditional school. As well, the summer-themed attractions for children seem to
give credence to the metaphor given by one writer that the school schedule is one of the “great
clocks of our society” (Weiss & Brown, 2003).
For the past 100 years, though, researchers have begun to document what has been
referred to as summer fade or summer slide as the decline in student achievement immediately
following the summer break (Borman, 2006). Unfortunately, there have always been two great
barriers that made it difficult for schools to be in session for the entire year – the vestiges of the
agrarian calendar and the limitations of the building facilities.
As early as 1684, a grammar school founded in Massachusetts required 12 months of
education. In 1841, Boston schools operated for 244 days while Philadelphia implemented a 251-
day calendar (Association of California School Administrators, 1988). According to Silva, in the
beginning of the nineteenth century, large cities commonly had long school years, ranging from
251 to 260 days (2007). During this time, many of these rural schools were only open about 6
months out of the year. Glines first wrote that the origin for the traditional school calendar based
purely on agrarian needs was not entirely accurate (1995). In the 19th century districts organized
their calendars around the needs of the community.
For example, some special provisions were made for vacations during September and
October for communities with large fall harvests. Prior to 1890, students in major urban areas
were in school for 11 months a year. But by 1900, the more popular 180 day, 9-month calendar
had been firmly established. Year-round programs were implemented in such places as Blufton,
Indiana (1904), Newark, New Jersey (1912), Aliquippa and Ambridge, Pennsylvania (1928,
1931), Nashville, Tennessee (1925), Omaha, Nebraska (1924) and Minot, North Dakota (Glines,
Many 12-month schools called for a 2-week vacation during the summer, which was then
extended to 4 weeks. The reasons for the increase were attributed to high absenteeism due to hot
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and unhealthy summer months; epidemics, vacations, and general truancy of students were other
contributing factors. Some urban centers in America such as Buffalo, Detroit and Philadelphia
changed from year-round in the middle part of the century to a 2-month holiday by the late 19th
century. In rural areas the dates would change depending on funding problems, fuel, harvest and
the weather conditions (Weiss & Brown, 2003). Year-round schooling was also used in some
areas across the country to address rapid population growth. It wasn’t until 1968 to 1970 that
year-round education was established in Missouri, Illinois, California and Minnesota to have
students attend school the entire calendar year to accommodate the increasing student population
(Glines, 1997).
A majority of districts that adopted year-round schools during 1970-1990 did so to
maximize space (Hazleton, 1992). In 1972, California seemed to lead the way in the resurgence
of year-round calendars creating the first multi-track school in La Mesa, Spring Valley and
Chula Vista to address large increases in student enrollment (Ballinger & Kneese, 2006). Also in
that same year, educators from existing year-round schools formed the National Association for
Year-Round Education (NAYRE, 2010).
The traditional school calendar has governed how families organize their lives for well
over a century in this country (Rasmussen, 2000). Yet, in spite of this tradition there is growing
evidence to suggest that year-round schools are increasing in number among the states (Weiss,
2003). The National Association for Year Round Education reports that approximately 3,000
schools within 400 school systems in 46 states currently utilize some form of year-round
education (2010).
A considerable amount of literature suggests that year-round schools are effective at the
earlier grades. Research studies conducted by Alcorn (1992), Downey, Von Hippel and Broh
(2004), Edmonds (2008), and McMillen, (2001), have all shown that year-round calendars
appear to academically benefit elementary and middle school students. Additionally, the metaanalyses of Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsey and Greenhouse (1996), Cooper, Charlton,
Valentine, and Muhlenbruck (2000) and Worten and Zsiray (1994) have all supported these
findings with over 100 years of studies that have focused primarily on the pre-secondary students
(Burkham, 2004).
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Other researchers have found that lengthening the school year has no immediate impact
on student achievement (Ubben, 2001). Penta concluded that gains in year-round schools were
nullified when racial and socio-economic variables were taken into consideration and also found
that the gains were eventually erased over time (2001). Even Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsey
and Greenhouse, whose meta-analysis found gains in student performance, indicated that further
research was needed for any serious decisions to be made regarding this topic (1996). Lastly,
some school districts have conducted their own investigation into the success of their year-round
programs and have discontinued them for a variety of reasons (Cuban, 2008).
For example, the San Diego Unified School District conducted its own study in 1991,
where modified calendar schools were implemented in 1972 and found no significant difference
in student achievement (Wildman, 1999). The Alabama school district also returned to a
traditional school calendar after several years with year-round school calendars Zckerbrod,
Currently there are over 2,000 year-round schools in the United States with modified
calendars (NAYRE, 2010). These schools are comprised of public, private and charter schools at
the elementary, middle and secondary levels and represent most of the geographical regions in
the United States. As more and more schools implement modified school calendars for all
students, it is vital that researchers look at the performance results of all grade levels to
determine if year-round education is effective as well as if it is necessary to be implemented for
all grade levels in the future.
The year-round calendar affords younger students the ability to continue their education
uninterrupted and address key learning areas. At the middle school level, year-round education
has been used to address the learning needs of the students as they prepare to enter high school.
Indeed, most of the research that has been conducted regarding year-round education has
targeted these two student populations. Some studies, though, do not provide evidence that gains
are made at the high school level (Pedersen, 2011). In fact, some of the unplanned and
supplementary analyses show that year-round high school students actually had lower passing
rates than their traditional peers on standardized tests.
Lastly, it must also be noted that there are competing priorities regarding the proponents
of year-round schools who claim that this model has academic benefits and those who oppose
this type of reform because it negatively impacts summer economies. Many critics of year-round
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schools argue that summer industries, such as tourism that tends to utilize student workers,
would be greatly affected. Others feel that non-academic influences such as athletics and family
vacations are obstacles that prevent calendar reform in many districts. These societal influences
tend to have greater influence in determining if a school will move to a year-round schedule than
does the potential academic benefits.
American public schools face many challenges today as they try to compete in the global
arena. Consistently, studies American schools continuously fall far behind many other developed
countries such as China, Japan and the Netherlands when it comes to student achievement.
Reformers have been scrambling to try new initiatives to address this great educational chasm by
developing ways to improve academic achievement (OECD, 2009). In order to adequately
prepare for global competition many districts have begun to re-think how they spend their
summer vacations. Educators have also begun to question the value of having students take a 10
to 12 week break during the summer months. With newer climate-controlled school buildings
and the lack of child labor needed for farming, the agrarian school calendar has been reexamined with many professionals questioning the usefulness of the extended summer vacation
that was based on the needs of a pre-Industrial American society. But as we continue to make
progress with year-round schools at the elementary and middle school levels, careful attention
should be paid to whether programs should be implemented at the high school level as an
effective means of educational reform to improve student achievement.

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