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Can Year-round Schools Boost Student Learning in W.Va.?

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Are year-round schools the answer to improving academic achievement in West Virginia?

That’s the question raised in a PBS NewsHour story featuring Charleston’s Piedmont Elementary about their year-round, or balanced, calendar.

Parents Brian and Laura Cooper said they were skeptical about the balanced calendar at first.

“It sounded to me like the kids were in school constantly,” Laura Cooper said, “with maybe just three-day weekends here and there.”

“I thought the kids wouldn’t like it,” Brian Cooper added. “I thought, man, I would have hated to be in school all year round, I would have missed summer, hanging out with my friends.”

http://video.ideastations.org/video/2365320424/

But the Coopers soon grew to love the balanced calendar, with its three week breaks in fall, winter and spring, and one month off for summer break. They can vacation in the off-season, and their kids seem more excited to go to school.

“They never get that feeling of, ah, I’m so sick of being in school, because they get so many breaks,” Brian Cooper said.

Principal Beth Sturgill says the calendar means less time for re-teaching at beginning of year, and more stability for at-risk students. It’s also easier to make up snow days.

Piedmont also offers “Intersession” - an extra week during each break of review and enrichment activities.

Duke researcher Harris Cooper (no relation to Brian and Laura Cooper) says balanced calendars are no panacea. The impact can be “positive but not great overall,” with lower-income students and students with disabilities benefiting the most.

“What’s most important is how they fill the time while they’re in school,” Harris Cooper said.

West Virginia has a new law mandating 180 days of school and allowing more flexibility in setting calendar, but no additional schools have adopted the balanced calendar.

Christine Campbell of the American Federation of Teachers is not sold on the idea. She said sports could become difficult when school districts adopt different calendars.

She said balanced calendars also make it hard for service personnel and teachers to have summer jobs, which she says is a necessity in a state that ranks 47th in teacher pay.


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