According to John Pfeiffer, Jr., Indiana University of Pennsylvania, “Approximately three million children [in the U.S.] aged 6 through 21 have some form of learning disability and receive special education in school.” Increasingly, schools are trying year-round calendars to reduce learning loss over the summer and provide more instructional time for teachers and students. Students with learning disabilities typically experience more frustration and require more individualized time, and year-round calendars can provide that structure to give these students the opportunity to increase student achievement.
Debate With the Traditional Calendar
Traditional calendars require that students attend school for 180 days, five days a week, on a nine-month calendar where schools are closed for three months over the summer. The year-round calendar includes short intermittent breaks of about three weeks, with a shortened summer. Many educational researchers believe students with learning disabilities who attend year-round schools have more time to master necessary skills than they would on traditional calendars. These students also have more time for remediation as most schools offer intersession classes that can decrease building frustration students might experience as the year progresses.
Summer Learning Loss
Students with learning disabilities are already at a disadvantage when it comes to learning retention, and research shows that a longer summer break only widens the achievement gap for these students. The extended summer break can hinder the retention of knowledge, and as a result, more students fall behind. Studies also show that students with learning disabilities adapt to a year-round calendar because of the consistent daily routine and scheduled breaks.
Not All Calendars Are the Same
Year-round calendars follow a single or multitrack schedule. A single track means all students are on the same vacation and class schedules, while multitrack means students are on varying schedules of vacation and class time. Most schools go by a single-track calendar, but schools looking to reduce class size or deal with overpopulation may have more success with the multitrack calendar as it allows for smaller class size, ideal for students with learning disabilities who may need extra attention.
Too Little Too Late?
Schools transitioning to year-round calendars as a means of intervention may not come up with impressive improvements in the achievement of students with learning disabilities. One study by the North Carolina Department of Education found there is no significant difference in academic performance, in comparison to the traditional calendar, for the largest percentage of students and only a small increase in scores of at-risk students or students with learning disabilities. While year-round calendars can be more beneficial than detrimental to students with learning disabilities, year-round calendars are shown to be ineffective when used solely as an intervention strategy.
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