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REL Midwest Ask A REL Response

September 2017

Questions:

What research is available on using a balanced calendar for large districts?



Response:

Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports, descriptive studies, and literature reviews on the relationship between balanced calendars and student outcomes. Schools that follow balanced calendars, also known as year-round schools, “are schools that reorganize a traditional school year without allowing for any extended breaks in instruction (e.g., 10-week summer vacation). Rather, the days usually included in summer break are redistributed to create regular breaks throughout the year” (Skinner; see below). We also searched for case studies of districts that transitioned to a balanced calendar. For details on the databases and sources, keywords, and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of publicly accessible resources on this topic. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. We have not evaluated the quality of references and resources provided in this response, but offer this list to you for your information only.

Research References

Cooper, H., Valentine, J. C., Charlton, K., & Melson, A. (2003). The effects of modified school calendars on student achievement and on school and community attitudes. Review of Educational Research, 73(1), 1–52. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ674001

From the ERIC abstract: “Synthesizes studies of the effects of modifying the academic calendar in grades K-12 to do away with the long summer break without increasing the length of the school year. Findings show that evidence on such modification is weak, but that modified calendars are associated with higher achievement for economically disadvantaged students.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

Graves, J. (2011). Effects of year-round schooling on disadvantaged students and the distribution of standardized test performance. Economics of Education Review, 30(6), 1281–1305. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ944391

From the ERIC abstract: “Using detailed longitudinal data for the state of California, this paper estimates the effect of year-round school calendars on nationally standardized test performance of traditionally disadvantaged students. The student subgroups studied in this paper are: low socioeconomic status, limited English proficiency, Hispanic and Latino, and African American students. I find significant negative effects of multi-track year-round calendars on academic achievement for all subgroups examined, with only the limited English proficiency student subgroup producing unreliable estimates. Negative and significant results for another type of year-round calendar, single-track, are also found for the full sample of students and low socioeconomic status students.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

Haser, S. G., & Nasser, I. (2005). Year-round education: Change and choice for schools and teachers. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED489002

From the ERIC abstract: “Over the last 20 years, many districts and schools have begun to explore year-round education or a modified calendar in response to student under-achievement in low performing schools. Here, the authors detail their two-year study of Title I, year-round, or modified calendar schools that switched from a traditional to a modified schedule in order to meet the academic needs of students. Year-Round Education will: (1) Highlight the benefits of the modified calendar for teachers; (2) Explain the transition process through three real-life case studies; (3) Identify the principals’ leadership styles as a transformational facilitator, transformational leader, transactional leader, and authoritarian administrator. The book features include: (1) An action plan for schools/districts preparing for the transition; (2) Ideas for setting up an intersession program; (3) A comparison of teacher motivation and leadership styles from each case study; (4) A discussion on university partnerships and community support; (5) A review of professional work and literature on teacher motivation and year-round education; and (6) An actual intersession brochure with classes listed. Written in layman’s terms this book will be of interest to parents, community members, and educational professionals interested in student achievement and teacher motivation.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

McGlynn, A. (2002). Districts that school year-round. School Administrator, 59(3), 34–38. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ640947

From the ERIC abstract: “Describes four school districts that operate year-round schools: Socorro Independent School District, Texas; Valley View School District, Romeoville, Illinois; Murrieta Valley Unified School near San Diego, California; and Rock Island-Milan School District in northwestern Illinois. Briefly describes three tracks of year-round education: Single-track, multitrack, and extended year. Includes sample year-round calendar and resources.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

McMullen, S. C., & Rouse, K. E. (2012). The impact of year-round schooling on academic achievement: Evidence from mandatory school calendar conversions. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 4(4), 230–252. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23358251?seq=1 - page_scan_tab_contents

From the abstract: “In 2007, 22 Wake County, North Carolina traditional calendar schools were switched to year-round calendars, spreading the 180 instructional days evenly across the year. This paper presents a human capital model to illustrate the conditions under which these calendars might affect achievement. We then exploit the natural experiment to evaluate the impact of year-round schooling on student achievement using a multi-level fixed effects model. Results suggest that year-round schooling has essentially no impact on academic achievement of the average student. Moreover, when the data are broken out by race, we find no evidence that any racial subgroup benefits from year-round schooling.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Metzker, B. (2002). School calendars. ERIC Digest. Eugene, OR: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED466007

From the ERIC abstract: “This digest discusses the rationale for changing school calendars. It describes what some districts are doing and advises school leaders and board members on the issues that typically arise when a calendar is changed. It examines the nationwide push toward a longer school year, driven in part by so-called high-stakes testing and mandated increases in instructional hours. The digest also looks at the district and state levels and how their calendars are being adjusted in response to local imperatives. In Michigan, for example, district superintendents had to incorporate a state-required increase of 108 instructional hours. While some year-round schools offer intercessions during breaks for students who need remedial help, other districts are exploring extra days, after-school programs, and/or summer sessions as ways to extend learning. Researchers and educators recognize that the traditional school calendar does not correlate with children's learning patterns. However, experts agree that it is of little value to add days to the calendar without a concrete plan for using the time to enhance instruction. Viewed this way, the calendar becomes a variable that educators can tailor to the particular needs of their students; modified and extended calendars are rapidly becoming the norm in schools across the country.”

Morris, R. N. (2002). A case study on the perspectives of an optional K-5 year-round/multi-age program in Virginia. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED479350

From the ERIC abstract: “Noting that the growing popularity of year-round schools (extended calendar without increasing the number of school days) has coincided with an increase in school accountability, this report provides a descriptive case study on one year-round school located within a large elementary school district in central Virginia. An optional year-round school for grades K through 5 was implemented with multiage grouping during the 2001-2002 school year. This study examined the perspectives of parents, students, teachers, and administrators on the year-round school. Data collection methods included historical document analysis, open-ended interviews with stakeholders, and focus group discussion. Seven parents and three administrators were interviewed, and four teachers participated in a focus group discussion. Findings revealed that participants were positive about the year-round school and suggested changes that included revising intersessions, changing the multiage grouping component, and improving communication between the school and parents. Participants focused on continuity of education as a major reason for participating in the year-round school. The impact of the multiage grouping was identified by administrators and parents as being as important as the year-round calendar.”

Ramos, B. K. (2011). Breaking the tradition of summer vacation to raise academic achievement. ERS Spectrum, 29(4), 1–20. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ955832

From the ERIC abstract: “This study found that students in settings with a year-round calendar statistically outperformed students with traditional calendars in a school-within-a-school setting in mathematics. The study included reading and math achievement of fifth graders in three school-within-a-school year-round elementary schools. Overall, the study made 16 comparisons of year-round and traditional student achievement and growth. When mean scores were compared in reading and math achievement and growth, all four comparisons favored year-round education. Only one difference, fifth grade national percentile rank in math, was statistically significant. When student-level variables were controlled, four reading comparisons were not statistically significant. All four math comparisons, however, were statistically significant.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.”

Skinner, R. R. (2014). Year-round schools: In brief. Washington DC: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved from https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43588.pdf

From the summary: “In general, year-round schools are schools that reorganize a traditional school year without allowing for any extended breaks in instruction (e.g., 10-week summer vacation). Rather, the days usually included in summer break are redistributed to create regular breaks throughout the year. While year-round schools have existed to some extent since the early 1900s, there was substantial growth in the number of year-round schools from the mid-1980s to 2000. In 1985, there were 410 year-round public schools, serving about 350,000 students. By 2000, the number of year-round public schools had grown to 3,059 schools, serving almost 2.2 million students in 45 states. During the 2011-2012 school year, there were 3,700 public schools across the nation operating on a year-round calendar cycle.

The research on the extent to which year-round schools affect student achievement has generally been found to be inconclusive and lacking in methodological rigor. There is some consensus that year-round schooling has no effect or a small positive effect on student performance; however, the quality of the studies that led to these findings has been questioned.

There are various pros and cons raised in relation to year-round schools. Among the arguments in favor of this calendar approach are stemming the loss of learning over the summer, creating opportunities during the school year to provide remediation and enrichment activities, and cost savings. Among the arguments against the year-round school approach are the costs associated with the initial implementation of a year-round school, the greater need to focus instead on other aspects of education (e.g., effective teaching and parent involvement), scheduling difficulties for families if year-round schools are not implemented districtwide or if their children end up on different schedules within the same school; the lack of opportunities for older students to have summer jobs; and issues related to student participation in extracurricular activities while on breaks.”

Wu, A. D., & Stone, J. E. (2010). Does year round schooling affect the outcome and growth of California's API scores? Journal of Educational Research & Policy Studies, 10(1), 79–97. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ930166

From the ERIC abstract: “This paper examined whether year round schooling (YRS) in California had an effect upon the outcome and growth of schools’ Academic Performance Index (API) scores. While many previous studies had examined the connection between YRS and academic achievement, most had lacked the statistical rigour required to provide reliable interpretations. As a response, this study used data collected from 4,569 schools over six years and two integrated and more sophisticated statistical techniques—mixed analysis of covariance and latent growth model. Results showed that YRS did not affect either the outcome or the growth of API scores.”

Methods

Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Balanced calendar

  • Year round school (descriptor)

  • School schedules (descriptor)

  • School district year-round

  • [Year-round district name] AND Year round school (descriptor)

  • National Association for Year-Round Education

  • Year-Round School Districts

  • Year-Round School

  • Year-Round Calendar

Databases and Search Engines

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2002 to present, were include in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Region) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.