How sequencing of instruction weeks and breaks affects different types of students


How sequencing of instruction weeks and breaks affects different types of students
Different researchers have noted a phenomenon of “the summer of forgetting”: during the summer
break students forget what they have learned in the previous school year. Furthermore, this is documented
to impact students from different socio-economic backgrounds in different ways. Barbara Heyns (1987)
showed that achievement among different socio-economic and ethnic groups diverges more over the
summer than during the school year. Alexander et al. 

(2007) argue that while the overall cumulative
achievement accruals in the 9th Grade primarily reflect learning during the school year, the difference in
achievement between students of the same age is partly explained by the different summer experience of
students from different socio-economic backgrounds. Yet, the learning loss is unequal across subject areas.
Mathematical skills appear to be more “democratic” with children experiencing an average decrease in
mathematics equivalent to one month of instruction with little differences among students from different
socio-economic background. In other academic areas, and especially regarding language skills, the summer
break works to the relative advantage of children from more advantaged socio-economic backgrounds who
accumulate more learning gains (Heyns, 1987; Alexander, Entwisle and Olsen, 2001; Downey, 

Hippel and
Hughes, 2008). Smith and Brewer (2007, in OECD, 2012a) even identified the cumulative effect of
summer learning differences as the primary cause of widening achievement gaps between disadvantaged
and more advantaged students.
Organising instruction over a longer period of weeks
In the United States, one attempt to reduce the negative impact of the long summer break is the
organisation of year-round schools, where the same number of classes is distributed more evenly across a
twelve month period, i.e. with a significantly shorter summer break (Funkhouser et al., 1995). In 2000,
over two million, or approximately 4% of all students, attended year-round schools (National Association
of Year Round Education, 2000). However, the meta-analysis of Cooper et al. (2003) showed that the
modified school calendar had almost no effect on performance without introducing other quantitative or
qualitative changes.

1 McMullen and Rouse (2012) replicated these findings and conclude that year-round
schools have no significant influence over the school performance of the average student, or over students
from different ethnic and racial backgrounds. However, the introduction of year-round schools in Wake
County, North Carolina, increased infrastructural capacity by 20-33% meaning that for every four schools
operating on a year-round calendar one complex of school premises less is needed (McMullen and
Rouse, 2012). Funkhouser et al. (1995) also note that year-round schools have been promoted as a way to
save on school infrastructure. It could be argued that year-round schools keep the same school results while
decreasing costs and, therefore, increase efficiency

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