The 210 Day School Year is Here

Is cramming all of the information in a 46 chapter Biology book into 36 weeks of school really what’s “best” for America’s students?  As early as the 1940’s top educational researchers were calling for an extension of the school year from 180 days to 210 days.  Since that time we have seen 70 years worth of history we must now teach our students, 70 years of mathematical and scientific discovery, and 70 years worth of new novels; not to even touch technology!  Yet, we are still only educating our students for 180 days.  How can our teachers possibly cram in everything students need to know?  We add more and more into our curriculums yet we never extend the amount of time it takes to solidly deliver the information diversely to all students!  In 1978 a study of retention conducted for the New York Board of Regents reported, “Numerous research studies indicate that long extended summer vacations result in forgetting much that was learned during the regular school year….In order to start a new year effectively, teachers in most elementary schools tend to devote four or more weeks [to] reviewing and reteaching activities.”  Thirty-six weeks minus four remediation weeks brings us down to 32 weeks before testing days, absences, and half days.  Note the charts below, published in 1990, that show just how precarious this situation is:

Days in School

Japan 243   New Zealand 190
West Germany 266-240   Nigeria 190
South Korea 220   British Columbia 185
Israel 216   France 185
Luxembourg 216   Ontario 185
Soviet Union 211   Ireland 184
Netherlands 200   New Brunswick 182
Scotland 200   Quebec 180
Thailand 200   Spain 180
Hong Kong 195   Sweden 180
England/Wales 192   United States 180
Hungary 192   French Belgium 175
Switzerland 191   Flemish Belgium 160
Finland 190      

Student Achievement by Subject Area

(U.S. 12th-Grade Equivalent)

Advanced Algebra Functions/Calculus Geometry
1. Hong Kong 1. Hong Kong 1. Hong Kong
2. Japan 2. Japan 2. Japan
3. Finland 3. England/Wales 3. England/Wales
4. England/Wales 4. Finland 4. Sweden
5. Flemish Belgium 5. Sweden 5. Finland
6. Israel 6. New Zealand 6. New Zealand
7. Sweden 7. Flemish Belgium 7. Flemish Belgium
8. Ontario Scotland 8. Ontario 8. Scotland
9. New Zealand 9. Israel 9. Ontario
10. French Belgium 10. French Belgium 10. French Belgium
11. Scotland 11. Scotland 11. Israel
12. British Columbia 12. United States 12. United States
13. Hungary 13. Thailand 13. Hungary
14. United States 14. Hungary 14. British Columbia

The crisis that we see in mathematics can be seen across the board.  The article containing this information( was written 21 years ago and yet, we are still only educating our children for 180 days.  Yes, that would mean that some juniors and seniors would have to give up their full-time summer jobs.  However, with thousands of adults currently unemployed, it would certainly help our economy to put some of them to work.  Students can now work part-time and even receive high school credits for doing so.  Teachers would be glad to receive an extra month of pay and parents would love to not pay for expensive academic summer camps.  Academic calendars could be adjusted to have three weeks during Christmas, three weeks in July, and a week after each nine week grading period (no Saturday school required).  This would give teachers ample time for preparation and professional development.  With CBT (computer-based testing) teachers and students receive their results instantly, therefore removing the need for prolonged breaks while data is collected and analyzed. 

So, what do you think, is it finally time to give up the notion of a 10 week summer and move to a modified 210 day school year that will only benefit our students or will more time in school make our students drop from 14th out of the top 15 industrialized nations to 15th?


16 thoughts on “The 210 Day School Year is Here

  1. Nancy u says:

    I do agree we are trying to push too much material on our students in the allotted 180 days. However, if teachers were allowed to teach the curriculum and not have to worry about every slice of data that can be contrived, perhaps students would be more open to their core classes and teachers would not feel the need to cram everything into 180 days. Quality not quantity makes a highly effective teacher, as well as a well educated student. To conclude, giving a teacher ample time to prepare is nice, but what about the down time teachers require. I know most of us require the first week or two just to clear our minds and reintroduce ourselves to our families.

  2. Kari says:

    The disappointing thing about this argument, is that we see that the country with the fewest number of school days (Flemish Belgium) is performing well above us (5th, 7th, and 7th). Why don’t we just see what they’re doing and try to mimic it? With our additional 20 days, maybe we could out-do them!

  3. Sandy says:

    I notice Fleming Belgium is ahead of the United States in all categories. They only go 160 days a year! There goes that theory. I don’t think extending the year is the answer. I think bringing discipline to the classroom is. As a teacher it takes so much time away from teaching, when you have to deal with students that are disruptive. The smaller classroom size really helps, but I am an elective teacher. So most of my classes are quite large. The smaller ones seem to do much better.

    • Dedicated Educator says:

      You bring up a good point. Often times students’ absences are approved/excused, extending their holiday break. I seriously doubt that we will see this trend stop; in fact, I would dare say this would happen more frequently as they would no longer have such a long summer break.

  4. Sherry says:

    I completely agree that it is a waste of time to spend four weeks to review content that is already learned. It would be better suited for Florida/US schools to have year round school with shorter breaks every quarter rather than having a ten week break in the summer. Perhaps then the 180 days would be more effective.

  5. Susan Vinson says:

    I am not so sure that the additional school hours really correlate to the increased scores in such a limited range of subjects. This is reaching a “research” conclusion in it’s poorest form. There are so many other possible variables. Since the “desirable” score results illustrated here are in math only- the question would be what actually are the factors causing the increase? I don’t see a one-to one correlation between the length of time in school and these scores- so there must be other factors- and there likely are a myriad of factors. Every teacher knows them: motivation, attendance, attitude, aptitude, quality instruction time and methods, true skill practice, focus on a specific curriculum over time, lack of gaps in instruction, health, nutrition, physical and emotional safety. Where are the studies and correlations for some of these factors?

    I am not against increased time in school- I am against drawing conclusions through faulty logic and specifically against expensive legislation based on faulty logic.

  6. Daina says:

    Very interesting read and I certainly agree that “cramming the curriculum” into 180 days is quite the challenge, if not impossible. As others have stated, focusing so much of our time on data instead of spending that time diving deep into the curriculum and actually having “teachable moments” is, in my opinion, where the problem begins. I am not quite on board with the idea that extending the school year to 210 days would solve the problem. The way I see it, everyone who works on the curriculum/state standards/standardized tests/etc. would simply re-convene to make what should be taught even more rigorous with even more topics. I highly doubt with an extended school year that the “higher ups” would keep the same amount of standards to be covered. Also, the thing that stood out the most to me is the part where “teachers wouldn’t mind an extra month of pay”…. while that is very true, with so many education budget shortfalls already taking place, how would counties possibly come up with enough money to pay every teacher an additional month’s salary? Just my thoughts!

  7. Gail C. Gonzalez says:

    I believe that any change in schedule should be open for discussion. This means a different approach not only to the school year…but the school day as well. Simply giving students more “seat time” in class will not necessarily provide the improvement we are seeking. While I tend to agree that year-round school seems more practical, I would ask that we first look at the mismatch between learning theory and the standard bell schedules (on the secondary level)…as well as time required during the school day (especially on the elementary level) focused on testing outcomes. As dedicated teachers know, true reform requires research, development, and society’s willingness to accept and pay for the required changes.

  8. gg says:

    In these days of budget and salary cuts…….Really? I don’t believe having more time to cram more facts into the minds of students is the answer. Let’s teach students how to think and learn in the time we have them. Our top students are still among the top in the world. It’s those on the bottom that bring our averages down. Those student will not rise to the top with 365 days of school in a year without a shift in what happens at home. Let’s be honest, shall we?

  9. Can we really compare educating the masses like we do in the United States with the way that students are weeded out at different points along the way in foreign countries? Perhaps we should begin filtering students at elementary level, middle and high school so that our universities are truly educating those who are most wanting higher education. Just a thought! Perhaps, then we might truly rank where we really are on the comparison charts.

  10. As a third grade teacher, I am required to offer remediation to struggling learners as well as teach the entire third grade curriculum before the April 16th FCAT testing window opens even though the school year does not officially end until June 8th. Furthermore, as a 20+ year veteran, I am seeing students entering third grade “owning” less and less of the basic knowledge needed in order to succeed with the third grade curriculum. I truly believe that it is not because the teachers in the previous grades are not teaching. Instead, like myself, they have too much to “cover” and they, as well as their students, are not being afforded the time necessary to “uncover” the curriculum. The old adage, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Time is a precious gift that we cannot overlook.

  11. Personally, I think school should be year round. I know many teachers (and parents) would disagree, but there are reasons for this statement. As an educator for over ten years, I have seen many changes in elementary education. Family dynamics and econmic developements play a major part in these changes. Students need statibility in their lives and school is the one place they have this. I would rather have a week or two off every few months but continue to have the students with me all year. It takes quite a few weeks to get children in a routine but if they only had a week or two off every few months, this would cut down on that reteaching time that is done in the beginning of the school year. Therefore, I feel more learning would take place, students would have the stability in their lives that they crave and more time would be spent focusing on their studies. Another factor is that all parents must realize that education is first priority. If children understand this and edcuation in treated as a priority in their lives, I feel the United States scores would increase dramatically.

  12. Harold says:

    I agree with Debbie . . . I am a proponent of a schedule of 10 weeks in school followed by 3 weeks off. Of course this could be adjusted for the traditional times off such as Christmas. There is too much down time for students and teachers that results in too much reteaching concepts. This schedule would not just be at the local level, but at the national level as well.

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