Friday, April 04, 2003


Here we go again: the Ralston Public Schools are attempting to jam year-round education into that cash-strapped district. They're pitching it as a way to help students avoid "backsliding" during the long summer breaks. This is even though there is no evidence that Ralston students "backslide," and even though there is no evidence that the nine weeks on, three weeks off calendar as proposed for Ralston makes a particle of difference to educational quality anywhere it is being tried in the world.

Indeed, an assistant superintendent of the Los Angeles public schools recently admitted that the nontraditional school schedule employed there because of massive overcrowding in LA has "hurt students badly." Year-rounding has been tried, and dumped, everywhere from LA to Denver to Miami, and Ralston voters deserve to know why.

If Ralston educators and school-board members don't acknowledge the "con" side of this issue, that's a red flag to Ralston voters that they'd better stay away from this change with a 10-foot pole. If the Ralston educrats did supply the "con" evidence, though, there might be a move to fire them for even suggesting this boneheaded change that has been so discredited nationwide.

Parents in Ralston need to be alerted to an excellent website with tons of documentation for why year-round education is a bad idea. It's from education activist Wes Walker, who advises parent groups coast to coast on this issue and would be well worth contacting on behalf of the Ralston community:

Wes Walker's Year-Round Education Website

Ralston officials also should be asked:

1. What hard evidence (quality, reality-based research, not people's opinions) is there that the nontraditional calendar is better for the specific Ralston academic community than the traditional school calendar?

2. Since there isn't any evidence that nontraditional calendars are better, why shouldn't Ralston go back to the Labor Day to Memorial Day calendar with a nice Christmas break and a nice Easter break, instead of the goofy half-day on, half-day off, start in mid-August calendar that people hate and that has demonstrably damaged and distracted learning efforts over the past few years?

3. How come Ralston voters are being told that year-round education implementation would cost from $12,895 to $23,659 per school, when national authorities such as Governing Magazine estimate the average implementation cost as $100,000 per school, and that doesn't count ongoing higher costs for such items as air conditioning, other utilities, transportation, and additional teacher pay and benefits?


Here's my educational advice column on the topic from my upcoming series, "Show 'n' Tell for Parents":

Year-Round Education

Q. What are the pro’s and con’s of year-round school?

The pro’s are available from the National Association for Year-Round Education, www.nayre.org

The con’s are documented on the website of education activist Wes Walker, www.geocities.com/weswalker99/

Year-round schooling is generally composed of nine-week quarters with two or three weeks off, and an abbreviated four- or five-week summer break. It is associated with the school management fad, “Total Quality Management,” with its mantra “continuous progress.” It’s also linked to the job-training systems and student apprenticeships of School-to-Work programs that require year-round student workforces.

Bottom line: there’s a glaring absence of evidence that changes to school calendars produce academic gains for the vast majority of students. YRE is hard on family life. And while a shorter summer does reduce backsliding among at-risk, impoverished children, their needs can be met with far less disruption and cost than radically changing the school calendar.

Year-round education has been dumped in so many locations that it is perplexing why educators still attempt to put it in place. Parents usually have to research YRE’s track record for themselves in order to learn the truth about it. It appears to be an attempt by educators to gain more income stream for the public schools and to justify higher salaries for educators in 12-month jobs that the public intends to be 9-month jobs.

Homework: “Academics, the Year-Round Calendar, and the Color of the School Buses,” Christopher Newland, Ph.D.

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