DESIGNING A BALANCED SCHOOL CALENDAR
Paul Kasky and Shabbi Luthra
Time is one of our most precious and limited resources. An evaluation of the use of this resource is
essential for schools to truly personalize student learning. For centuries, schools around the world have
followed agrarian school calendars. The purpose behind these calendars - to allow children to help their
families during planting or harvest times - is now moot; no one disagrees with its "mootness". This has
opened the conversation anew regarding what type of school calendar would best support student
learning. This includes evaluating the timing and duration of academic terms, vacations, possible
intersession periods, and teacher contracts.
In spring 2012, ASB’s R&D Team studied school year calendars. The study process included the following:
Research on the impact of long summer vacations (defined as any vacation beyond six weeks in
length) on student learning loss.
Research on the effects of various alternative school year schedules on student learning in schools
where alternative calendars have been employed.
Study of various school year calendars, including single-track and multi-track models.
Survey to gather data on the travel habits and vacation preferences of our parent community,
including the types of academic enrichment and remediation opportunities they sought for their
Survey to gather data on our teachers' perceptions of the need for alternative calendar
consideration, including their own travel and vacation preferences, academic needs of students,
and contract and professional development opportunities.
Below are some of the findings of our study and research.
Based on current and recent studies, students experience the equivalent of 2. 6 months of grade-level equivalency loss in math. While students from middle class families actually experience a
slight gain in overall reading performance over a traditional summer break, reading
comprehension decreases after summer vacation (National Center for Summer Learning, Johns
Hopkins University, 2009; Reading Is Fundamental, 2009).