Study Finds Year-Round School Calendar Has No Academic Benefit

Kevin Bessler | December 9, 2022

(The Center Square) – Dozens of Illinois schools have gone to a year-round calendar, but a study suggests there are drawbacks.  

Year-round school is not a new idea. The idea was first adopted around 1970 in suburban districts like Valley View, Illinois, and Hayward, California, where enrollments were surging as families left nearby cities. 

Some states, Washington and South Carolina, are considering year-round school calendars to recoup learning loss due to remote learning being imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paul T. von Hippel of the University of Texas at Austin and Jennifer Graves of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid conducted research on nearly one thousand schools nationwide and found that “balanced” calendars fail to raise academic achievement, and significantly complicate life for working parents and teachers. 

In prior research, von Hippel set out to determine how the different calendars affected summer learning. In a 2015 book chapter, he compared student learning in reading and math at 30 schools that used year-round calendars and 116 schools in the same counties that used traditional calendars, with a focus on students in kindergarten and first grade. Students at schools with year-round calendars did learn more during the summer months of June, July, and August, but students at schools with traditional nine-month calendars learned more from September through May.

“There is also this idea that somehow year-round calendars stress, and the literature suggests the opposite, that actually by putting different students on different schedules, year-round schedules cause stress in families where different children are attending schools on different calendars,” von Hippel told The Center Square. 

According to the Illinois Department of Education, Rock Island is the only school district in the state to go entirely to a year-round calendar. The Peoria School District recently considered a balanced calendar, but dropped the idea after it sparked protests from both parents and staff. 

Von Hippel said there are other drawbacks to the year-round school calendar. 

“There are studies showing that property values decline near schools that adopt the year-round calendar, and that mothers of school age children have challenges reentering the workforce when their kids are on different schedules,” said von Hippel. 

A decade ago in Chicago, some schools that used year-round calendars scrapped the idea after parents complained that having two different calendars made it difficult to plan their lives. The Chicago Teachers Union joined in and demanded the end of practice as one condition for ending its 2012 strike.