Bill sponsor says year-round schools will prove popular

A bill to encourage struggling Michigan schools to convert to a year-round schedule was approved by the House Appropriations Committee last week, and now moves to the full House for consideration. The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing, is similar to a proposal for year-round schools made by Gov. Rick Snyder in his State of the State address in January. Bridge spoke to Schor about shaking up Michigan’s academic calendar for more schools.

Bridge: Why does Michigan need more year-round schools?

Schor: Michigan has had year-round schools for many years. This bill simply helps at-risk school districts afford to convert a building if desired. Districts have chosen to utilize year-round schools because many believe that too much of our students’ hard-earned educational progress is lost every year over the summer break. Splitting the summer break up is a way to maintain this progress and make sure the students, parents, teachers, and the state all get the most out of their mutual investment in education.

Bridge: Can’t districts do this one their own? What is the state’s role in encouraging a different school calendar?

Schor: Yes they can. Although some districts in the state have already chosen to move to year-round formats, many at-risk districts lack the resources to make the expensive necessary one-time expenditures needed for year-round instruction on their own. The state’s role is to empower districts to have the choices available to make the best decisions possible for the students they are responsible for. In this case, that means providing an avenue for them to have a year-round school option, with funding support to outfit their buildings (many of which are older) with proper air conditioning, ventilation and other necessities.

Bridge: Why are you focusing your efforts on at-risk districts?

Schor: Students in these schools do not have the same access to educational camps and other resources over the summer that other students have. Our most at-risk students are usually in low-income families where the parents can’t afford educational summer opportunities, or are in communities where these opportunities don’t exist. These students are more likely to be behind at the beginning of the school year, which necessitates re-learning information that was learned in June and also makes it increasingly difficult to catch up as the year progresses. Splitting up the school year with more frequent breaks allows students who are behind more chances to catch up.

Bridge: I can hear kids screaming already. Does your proposal mean students would be in school more?

Schor: Not at all, there will still only be 180 days mandated by the state. Year-round school means longer spring and winter breaks, and more breaks, allocated from summer break. As an example, when I told my 9 year old son it would be year-round, he was opposed. When I told him it could be a 4 week summer instead of an 8 week summer and 4 other full weeks off throughout the year, he said that would be fine. Children and teachers like the down time to recharge throughout the year, which assists in their learning and leaves less time for the students to forget material and fall behind.

Bridge: Would such a move be difficult to implement with current teacher contracts?

Schor: No. The bill has an April 1st application date and a May 1st date for grants to be issued. This will allow time for schools and teachers to amend contracts (which are usually up July 1st or so). The biggest issue is for teachers who use the extended summer breaks for professional development (like getting extra degrees). This can be built into the contract, just as it is now. The schedule is a completely local decision. Most teachers are generally very supportive of this type of schedule, as it doesn’t affect the work load or their pay, and it provides them more frequent breaks. Many teachers work “Summer School” type programs for supplemental income, but many year-round schools replace those with remedial courses during break periods.

Bridge: Your bill would provide $2 million to help schools upgrade facilities for summer months, probably by adding air conditioning. Two million isn’t going to go far. Would districts pay part of the tab too?

Schor: It’s possible. While I originally had $10 million in the budget, the Governor was willing to recommend $2 million for the current year. My hope is that these dollars allow for 4 or 5 schools to receive funding now, and more dollars are budgeted for future years. I expect many schools to apply in the first year, and I hope that the schools that don’t receive dollars during the first round of funding will be able to get it in future years. Additionally, the bill has a cap of $750,000 per school. If the cost is more than that, the school district may have to pay the rest.

Bridge: What’s been the reaction to this proposal by parents, teachers, and principals?

Schor: I have heard mostly support. Teachers love it because they will have refreshed students and won’t have to re-teach information. Parents love it because it will better the educational experience of their children. There is ample time for vacations throughout the year, and now this time is also available in low travel cost seasons instead of summer and holiday seasons, when gas and air travel gets expensive. A few teachers and parents have objected (due to schedule conflicts if there are multiple children, summer obligations, etc.) and I have informed them that they can choose not to teach or enroll their children in that school. If Lansing implements this in one of their PK-3 schools and a teacher doesn’t want to be part of it or a parent doesn’t want their child to attend, there would still be 11 other PK-3 schools that they could send their child to. This legislation simply creates an option for school districts, parents, and teachers.

Bridge: Standardized tests show that Michigan’s students are falling behind students in other states. Do you see combatting summer learning loss as a way to turn that around?

Schor: I see combatting summer learning loss as a way to ensure that our children receive the full 180 days of education that the law requires (minimum, not including snow days). Losing a month or two is one factor that contributes to our children being behind other states. But it is only one factor. Combatting summer learning loss alone will not be the one solution that we need to turn around our education system. We need to create many solutions to the problems that we have. But this is surely one way to help our at-risk, priority, and focus schools and children.

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Craig Trombley
Mon, 03/03/2014 - 2:34pm
I am against year round school. This is a bad idea. It should not pass in Michigan. It will hurt the state economy in several ways. Tourism (family vacation times), youth summer employment (4 weeks v 8 weeks), youth summer camp and agriculture. Summer recess give our youth different opportunity to develop needed skills not taught in a classroom. Music, outdoor and general summer camps give campers, older counselors to be mentored by. In addition the added cost to school budgets by requiring year round utility costs. How could you maintain or upgrade your facilities when students are present. Let your Senator or House of Representative know how you feel. BAD FOR MICHIGAN
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 8:38am
Thats why they are focusing on at-risk schools. You know the kids of families that cannot afford to send their kids off to camp for the summer or galavant around the state vacationing.
Steve K
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 8:17am
As a teacher, I like the idea. From a PURELY school related point of view, it has advantages beyond the summer retention loss. More frequent breaks is good because this is the time of year where everyone (teachers and students) have hit the wall. Especially with winter being so vicious this particular year. Plus, teachers would get more time in between terms to reflect on their lesson plans and review what worked and what didn't. Students who don't like school get hard to deal with by mid-October because they know that a longer break doesn't hit until June. Knowing they have breaks more consistently helps. Craig is right about the economic impact about year-round schooling on tourism. Up North would become less active in the summer (hence the reason we can't begin until after Labor Day). But summer would not add to the budgets through air-conditioning costs. You'd be subtracting out heating costs for most of December. Other impacts would be related to sports schedules (if not every high school was on the same calendar), summer sports programs (AAU basketball, travel baseball, travel soccer), and summer employment for some kids (a lot of kids in my school have landscaping jobs). It isn't a simple equation. Advocates on both sides have concerns and justifiable arguments.
Alice Hunt
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 8:45am
I like the idea of more options. Some children and their families would no doubt benefit from having the opportunity to choose such a program. Others would not. Districts could experiment with one such school and allow all children in the district to choose to attend. If there was enough demand, they could then adapt another school building to the program. This is the European plan. Much of the world uses this model. We have held to the summer vacation since the days when most children were needed on the farms during the growing season. Summer camps and tourism developed with summer vacations as the norm and it would be very disruptive to them if this were suddenly to change. Many young people still find valuable experiences during the long summer vacation and it would not be a good idea to deprive them of that opportunity. Choices are good. Let the children and their parents make them.
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 8:52am
Great for kids and learning - after all, isn't that the objective of education?
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 9:18am
A several week break in the middle of winter, doesn't sound very inviting. Michigan winters are long and boring, I'm sure most kids would rather have the summer off. Not everyone can afford a trip to Florida.
William C. Plumpe
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 9:21am
I support the idea. The details need to be worked out but I think it's a good idea. The extended summer vacation situation goes back at least 120 years when Michigan's economy needed the bodies to do farm work. While farm work is still necessary and important much of the work is mechanized and bodies are not needed so much. Maybe there could be schools who did year round and schools who did the traditional particularly in farming communities. But in urban communities where there is little or no need for the extended break I think that year round would work just fine. And tourist dollars spent probably would not change but when and where they were spent would. And it would have the advantage of presenting education as "a full time job" with a lot of vacation time scattered throughout the year. Enough said.
Darryle J. Buchanan
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:08am
The current school calendar was set at a time when students were released to go work the family farm. How many children work on farms? That hasn't been the case for over a hundred years. We are now seeing that the agrarian calendar doesn't work in a technological world. I applaud Rep. Schor's plan to change the way schools operate and address how education really works.
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 11:34am
The current school year was not a result of children working on farms. The high labor times for farming were fall harvest and spring planting, so schools started after harvest and had a break in the spring. Educators of the time thought too much school was stressful and summers were too hot to concentrate. Summers off also were an urban development, as families of business people spent the summers in the country or at a lake, and the wage-earner father joined them on weekends. See this CNN link:
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:35am
As a teacher who has studied abroad and studied foreign education systems, I suggest an emphasis first on academics over extra-curricular activities. If I could see my students more regularly during the academic year we already have, rather than trying to catch up with them between basketball games, ski meets, and play practices, I could address some of these perceived deficits. Also, if more students were remediated more quickly and more regularly, these deficits would not persist as they do. Finally, if my students spent more time in class this time of year, and less time mindlessly completing the MME, which has no impact on their lives, I could also make progress. This effort to change the calendar may be sincere, but it lacks practical insight.
Dean Smith
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 12:36pm
There is a lot of merit to a year round school but it should be flexible for both parents and students. It is a great opportunity for out door education experiences. It calls for a creative curriculum and teaching methods and along with this there could be art and music experiences that are sorely needed by all.
Jonathan Blakey
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 12:44pm
As I mentioned in reply to another article, read the research! Year round schools with no extra days of instruction have mild effects, sometimes. Even well designed summer school programs, which actually increase the days of learning, only show positive effect sizes of .23 as mentioned in "Visible Learning" by John Hattie. This compares to effect sizes of .90 for providing formative evaluation, .73 for providing effective feedback to students, .58 for offering mastery learning programs, etc., etc.. In fact, Hattie points out 97 researched activities that have a bigger impact than summer school. He also shows that summer vacation has negative .09 effect while the retention of students has a negative .16. Doing away with student retentions makes more sense than year round schools and saves money at the same time. The non-rational world continues to steer us in the wrong directions for school reform. I blame many politicians for this since they are more interested in getting re-elected than making informed decisions.
Devon Harper
Mon, 03/10/2014 - 11:54am
Yes Yes Yes!! Our district is considering YRS. I will be attending the 2nd meeting concerning this issue today!! We are going to spend a ton of money on a something that is shown over and over to not even be effective!! Let's spend the money on PROVEN programs!! Well said and thank you for taking the time to comment!!!
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 12:57pm
Michigan should take a lesson from the state of California. California tried year-round schooling. The state is back to the traditional model with an extended summer vacation. The most compelling, logical reason given for a return to the traditional model was that the school systems did not have time to perform maintenance in buildings and remodel old buildings. Is the general public aware that rooms are repainted and school buildings cleaned during breaks and in the summer?
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 3:46pm
"And tourist dollars spent probably would not change but when and where they were spent would." Change yes, but probably not in favor of Michigan, people who are used to going to northern Michigan in the summer are probably not going to be going camping, golf, to the beach etc. in the winter (at least in this state).
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 3:49pm
So, if they pass this, are they going to give those districts more money to run these school year round? My guess is no, so it will drive the districts further toward the financial cliff.
Ken McFarlane
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 5:41pm
So 4 or 5 schools get funding for air conditioning. This is a joke. You can't teach and kids can't learn in buildings that are boiling hot. Nice to see Snyder supporting the cause. Try telling Snyder that Pearson will establish a Heating & AC division, and he'll kick in $50 million.
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:03pm
I would have like to have had Mr. French asked a question about prgram accountability, about perfromance metrics, about specific results this change should deliver. I would like to think that Rep. Schor has considered these issues and incorpotarated them into his legislation and he would have included that in his comments if only asked. We continue to hear more and more about unintended consequences of legislative actions and about programs/legislation are implemented and how the problems they are designed to address persist and even get worse. It seems we see legislation layer upon legislation and the further complicates the efforts of those who are trying to comply with the each peice of legislation. I wonder why legislator such as Rep. Schor never concern themselves with the actual impact of the laws the intiate and fail to include performance accountability in their legislation.
Mark Knapp
Sat, 03/29/2014 - 11:51am
I sent this to the governor 3 years ago. My proposal to change Michigan's school schedule March 13, 2011 at 7:16pm Dear Governer Rick Snyder, I am married to a school teacher and have 3 kids. I understand that there is a concern that students are backsliding in knowledge over the summer and I have a proposal that will fix the problem. The school year can easily be split into 4 quarters. School would start on the 3rd Monday of (Jul,Oct,Jan,Apr) and run for 9 weeks. This would be followed by 4 weeks of non-school. Holidays fall nicely in this new schedule. On Christmas, New Years, MLK, Easter and Independence Day, students would be home with their family. Kids would be in school on Valentine ’s Day and Halloween. "Summer break" would go from about 11 weeks to 4 weeks. "Christmas break" would be called winter break and would change from 2 weeks to 4 weeks. "Easter break" would be called spring break and would go from 1 week to 4 weeks. Fall break would be new. This new schedule keeps students in school the same number of days, but prevents them from backsliding so much in the summer. To keep kids fresh during the 4 week non-school times, students could be given a simple regimen of reading logs and possibly some fun math assignments. The ONLY way this would be successful is if the entire state of Michigan were on the same schedule. To gain public support, this should NOT be called "Year-round-school". This should be titled something positive, like "4 break school year" or "vacation or holiday friendly" school schedule. This would save on heating in the winter as schools could lower their thermostat settings, however, air conditioners would have to be installed in all schools. As it is now, there are weeks where we are losing our children’s attention during the “hot” weeks. Installing air conditioners in all schools would be another plus to this project by improving teacher’s stamina and enable our students to concentrate. Intra-state “summer” tourism would initially fall, but Michigan would more than make up for it with 3 other tourism seasons. This would enable small businesses to benefit from tourism demand that is evened out and is more fluid. i.e. They don’t have to place all their hopes in one season. Also, it will enable small business to compete in areas where they didn’t have economies of scale. i.e. A hotel might be able to survive where one couldn’t before or a hotel might be able to keep employees year round instead of temps during a tourism rush. More snowmobile, skiing, etc. Now a business in the U.P. could plan a year round business if they diversify what they offer and not just try to squeeze a living off of one narrow business. Like anything new, some of the public will resist change, but if presented to them with the right message, the majority will back it. That message must include: * A positive name for the new schedule * More jobs * No more school days added to the school year * 4-4-week breaks, instead of 1 long break * Michigan will be the LEADER in education Thank you for considering this. I am excited at the prospect of improving our student’s development as well as stimulating small business and improving our family’s vacation and holiday time together. Mark Knapp
Carol Kremer
Sun, 08/03/2014 - 7:39am
I live in Ann Arbor and ass a parent of twins going into fifth grade I have seen first hand this summer how much they have forgotten - especially in math. I have been making them do IXL and math worksheets in order to keep up. Over and over they tell me "we learned that at the end of the year but it was so fast and we did not have time to really get it." Teachers are rushing at the end of the year to include all that is required and the kids are not getting enough time to really absorb it and then they are rushing and playing "catch-up" for the first six weeks of the school year. That is not a good learning environment. This is not about supporting the economy (tourism) or quality family vacation and sports time in the summer - this is about quality teaching for our kids. I really don't see how any parent could put state tourism before educating kids. Kids come first.
Fri, 11/21/2014 - 4:25pm
I hate year-round schooling! Like seriously, although people say it's good idea,but I think that's wrong!
Dylan Mathis
Wed, 12/17/2014 - 1:26pm
Why Should Our Students Go through an Extension.Why Do this.