Most American students attend school for roughly 180 days of instruction spanning over nine months of the year. To children, and even some parents, that is more than enough time spent in school. Because of this, many would be alarmed at the notion to propose a longer school year. But for some districts, more days are now a reality, as districts increase the school year in order to make up for pandemic-era learning loss.
A nearly full year of academic lessons is now the norm at two schools in the Aldine Independent School District near Houston, Texas. This past year, a longer school year meant children received about 30 extra days worth of school instruction, totaling 210 school days. While this may seem daunting to some, it proved its worth in raising student performance, with children excelling in both reading and math subjects – two of the hardest hit categories of learning loss these past few years.
The school year began in July 2021 and ended in June 2022, giving students and teachers less than an entire month for summer break. While many would think that this drastic change in schedule leading to a longer school year would have many running for the hills, the district made the alteration optional to families and teachers. Surprisingly, no one opted out.
Since the pilot was well met and so successful, two more in the district are offering the longer school year format this year. This program was made viable thanks to a 2019 state law. The district spent over a year planning and researching how to make the effort run smoothly, as more families are now interested in how this model works.
Students attending these campuses that participate in a longer school year go to school the same hours as regularly seen in others. However, the pilots offer more leisurely “brain break” time and offer expanded programs that allow students to spend more time on various subjects spanning from STEM, music, and social-emotional learning. This even allows teachers more time for developmental training, as they are provided this opportunity every week on Wednesdays.
While local families are said to be enjoying the academic payoffs from implementing a longer school year model, skeptics would rather take advantage of optional, supper programs that have been used all across the nation to boost learning success. This program isn’t suitable for everyone and has the potential to lead to an array of negative aspects down the road. Teacher and student burnout is a serious problem across the nation. And in order for both parties to avoid overstressing, rest and recuperation time away can be crucial.
It is unclear if the district plans on keeping with the longer school year model, or eventually shifting back to a normal schedule once the pandemic woes and learning loss is recovered. But for now, the initiative is proving successful, and families seem to be enjoying it. The pilot is something other states and districts may be able to turn to if current efforts continue to prove futile.