School Calendar: Are We Having the Right Conversation?

Posted on: Tue, 02/19/2019 - 09:00

The debate over the school calendar has focused on a post-Labor Day versus a pre-Labor Day start date for students. There are passionate arguments on both sides. But are we truly asking the right questions about the school calendar?

American public schools are constantly compared to international competitors when it comes to test scores. There seems to be a fear that America will not be economically competitive in the future if we do not improve the performance of our students on standardized tests. Even the Kirwan Commission looked at educational policy in high-performing countries (based on test scores) to develop its recommendations.

Why has there been no conversation about comparisons to the number of days that students attend school in other countries? In Maryland, our students attend for 180 days. Let’s look at the number of days of instruction in other countries:

  • South Korea
  • China
  • Japan
  • Russia
  • Australia
  • India

220 days
220 days
230 days
210 days
200 days
200 days for grades 1-5 and 220 days for grades 6-8

Logically, it seems that a first step in supporting our students to achieve in a manner comparable to other countries would be to have our students attend school for the same number of days. This could be particularly helpful for our students who live in poverty, since research has clearly demonstrated that the achievement gap increases over summer vacation.

I hope we can redirect the school calendar debate to focus on the length of the school year. At least this issue keeps the focus on what is the best way to support student achievement!

Do you have thoughts on the number of days in our school year? Share them with me on Twitter @FCPSMDSuper. And whether or not you agree with this post, if you enjoyed it, please feel free to share it on Facebook or Twitter.