March 6, 2018.
The Tennessee legislature recently voted into law a bill mandating that all public and charter high schools in the state transition to a year-round calendar. The new law, drafted in a bi-partisan committee by state Senators Todd Gardenhire (Republican) and Thelma Harper (Democrat), passed the General Assembly by a vote of 27-14. Governor Bill Haslam (Republican) signed the bill into law on March 6.
The new law, which goes into effect on July 1, 2019, is intended to improve student academic achievement. At a press conference following signing the bill into law, Governor Haslam said, “As test scores become more important for colleges and employers, we must evolve to meet these changing needs. We listened to the professionals regarding this proposal. They know what is best for students and we believe that this new calendar promotes what is best for the state of Tennessee, our families, and our young people.”
Studies have shown that long breaks from school are known to cause a decline of academic skills and knowledge: this is most severe at the summer break. “If your child doesn’t have a long break, it helps prevent summer learning loss,” says Carol Lloyd, the President of Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS). “Summer learning loss is a major issue for kids. All children — no matter their economic level — experience a slide in math and reading levels over the summer months.”
“If the American summer is not structured, it’s almost too long,” Lloyd continued. “A lot of kids don’t have enough to do during the summer — they get bored.”
Though it may seem fun, a summer break can often lead to boredom. Year-round school eliminates the need to fill 10 weeks of vacation with activities to keep your child interested and engaged.
“The shorter, more intense bursts of instruction along with more short-term breaks throughout the school year is another benefit of year-round school,” says Dr. Matthew Lynch, an education activist and the dean of the school of education, psychology, and interdisciplinary studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
While the public has largely supported the calendar change (82% of parents of with school age children approve of the new law), some view the measure unfavorably. Of the 848 MNPS sophomore students surveyed (their senior year would be the first year-round calendar), only 4% think the new law is a good idea.