Dive Brief:

  • Maryland state Sen. Paul Pinsky pitched a plan for a year-round school schedule to State Superintendent Karen Salmon and other leaders in an April 7 letter, according to WBALTV11. Pinsky, the chairman of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee,​​ said he suggests an “immediate conversation about starting year-round school …. beginning, possibly, this summer or next.”
  • Pinsky is advocating for four quarters, each lasting nine to 10 weeks, and four seasonal breaks and vacations between each quarter. Salmon said she was open to the conversation and that she is “not sure we are not going to be doing school in the same way going forward,” but added she is currently putting her efforts into distance learning.
  • Baltimore’s Robert Coleman Elementary School set up a year-round schedule in the late 1990s, but the program was scrapped in 2005 due, in part, to poor academic performance.

Dive Insight:

Year-round education gives students consistent structure, which is particularly helpful for students in unstable households. It can also prevent achievement gaps and continues social-emotional learning. However, summer vacations give teachers and students a break from the stresses of school, and year-long school schedules are more expensive than traditional ones.

After experiencing the impact of early school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, some states and districts may consider year-round learning as a way to prevent learning loss over the summer. Nearly 90% of parents polled in New York and California fear their children will fall behind academically due to the shutdown. That fear is backed by a prediction from the NWEA, a nonprofit assessment provider, that expects students may fall up to a year behind in math by the fall.

Other school schedules are being scrutinized, as well. While students and teachers adjust to distance learning, administrators can look at what has and hasn’t worked in their existing schedules. Some districts are rethinking the length and arrangement of periods, as well as start times. Most secondary schools still start between 7:30 and 8:30, for example, despite data suggesting teens benefit from later start times.

The coronavirus pandemic will likely lead to many functional changes in the way schools are run and how they prepare for any type of disaster that prevents students from going to school. Many districts were caught flat-footed when they were suddenly forced to shift to online learning. But from feeding students to leveling out inequities in online access and supporting families, districts are finding ways during school closures to continue learning and prevent gaps in education.

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