Why are American Public Schools Starting Earlier and Earlier Every Year?

August 5, 2018

In recent years, a growing number of public schools all over the United States are beginning to abandon the typical schedule of starting after Labor Day in September and ending in June, instead starting earlier in the Summer, before Labor day. While the average high school student will likely bemoan this change because he/she will get less summer free time, there are a number of reasons suggesting that a shorter summer break may bring great benefits to education, as well as other vacations.

 

Photo: Austin Pacheco on Unsplash 

 

Changing times demand changing schools.

This archetypal 180 day school year starting after Labor Day originated in the early 20th century when, according to Kenneth Gold of the College of Staten Island/CUNY, there were concerns that "too much schooling" in the summer was detrimental to both students and teachers. The rationale for this belief was that many rural students needed to work in the fields during the summer and the profession of school teaching wasn't nearly as respectable as it is today. However, in the present day, agricultural activity is minimal among primary and secondary school students and therefore starting school earlier is necessary to tackle today's educational issues, such as standardized testing. Many state tests, such as the M-STEP in Michigan, take place during the spring months of March through May. Starting school earlier than Labor Day helps teachers prepare students for these tests so that they can achieve the highest scores they can and, by extension, be as ready for post-secondary (collegiate) education as possible.

 

Less summer doesn't necessarily mean less vacation in general

If you are one of many young people complaining that less summer vacation means less break from school, don't worry, you are likely incorrect. Many city school districts are cutting summer break and starting school earlier in favor of adding more short breaks throughout the school year, or even adding on to current breaks such as the ones for Thanksgiving or Christmas. For example, when the school district in Cobb County, Georgia commenced the 2017-2018 school year on July 31st (remarkably early even for early start schools), they announced that there were more school board-approved breaks later on in the year, which would allow students to go on vacation during off-seasons, when tourist destinations like Disneyland are less crowded (embed link). Therefore, if you live under a school district that is decreasing summer vacation, it may make up for your tragic loss with more vacations during school.

 

The public school system in the United States is designed to advocate for a student’s needs, both in giving education and giving breaks from education. By starting school years earlier, many school districts nationwide are seeking to not only improve the academic performance of students, they are also trying to make sure that students get the rest and relaxation at the right times, so that they can come back to school readier than ever to learn.

 

Tuhin Chakraborty is an 18 year old freshman at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. He is considering studying History and Political Science there. His favorite book is Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert. Tuhin believes that success is gaining the respect of everyone who knows you. He steps up for Civic Engagement: getting young people involved in politics and community action.

 

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