It’s time for the United States to join the rest of the world. When schools reopen for in-person learning, American children should go to school year-round.

Like daylight saving time, the agrarian school year has passed its prime. As a percentage of the population, few children are needed to help on the farm for three months.

There are fewer summer jobs for teens. Flipping hamburgers increasingly is a job adults fill. Resorts dependent on underpaid teens for grilling and lifeguarding don’t justify insufficient education. Yes, children need a good work ethic, but building businesses on child labor is not a good look for us.

Our children need to learn more in this complicated world, and they get out of the habit of learning and lose momentum over the summer. They need a break, but not for three months. Look how many now are eager to go back to school and their friends.

American children are falling behind their counterparts who go to school on Saturdays and all summer.

American children now rank 38th out of 71 top industrialized countries in scores on tests in mathematics and 24th in science. Twenty years ago American high school and college students were number one in the world in both subjects.

Only 34 percent of U.S.-born American citizens have a four-year college degree. With millions of Americans encumbered with huge debt for those degrees and with millions of parents out of work, it seems likely that percentage will decline except for engineering and science majors.

The only formal education millions of Americans will get is what they learn in grade and high school and maybe trade school. We have a duty to make education as comprehensive as we can.

With education in complete turmoil because of COVID-19, now is the best time to discuss what is wrong with our education system and decide to fix it. Now, with millions of students struggling with inadequate online courses, with others not even able to do that and with most of them unable to continue school until the end of summer, if then, now is when we should plan what comes next. Who knows how virulent the second wave of the coronavirus will be.

Millions of parents would be ecstatic with year-round schools. They would no longer have to scramble during the summer to find affordable activities or day care.

Vacations could be staggered. Camps would have to adjust to different schedules. Perhaps schools and camps could work in tandem. Few families take three-month vacations.

Teacher union opposition could be overcome with planning, if teachers were paid fairly. Professional development shouldn’t take three months.

Many schools in hot summer climates would have to be air conditioned. Low-income children who only get fed at school could eat well for 12 months, not just nine.

While we are at it, high school students should not have to start at 7:30 a.m. They are too tired. Starting later and ending later in the afternoon would mean fewer car accidents, fewer students getting in trouble during long, unsupervised afternoons. Sports would just have to adjust. Elementary school children should start earlier than 9 a.m. Most of them are up and ready to go long before then and their parents need to get to work.

Because of the virus, many educators and policy makers are making plans to extend the school year next year. Some Michigan schools have been experimenting with six-week vacations, down from 10. A school in Virginia hopes to go year-round. And about 5,500 out of 133,000 schools nationwide already are almost year-round.

But states would have to act to make year-round schooling happen and, not surprisingly, lobbyists for special interests would fight it tooth and nail. We have a lot of child exploitation in this country. And educating our children better would cost money, a daunting factor when COVID-19 has massacred state and local budgets.

In America we always say, “Our children are our future.” Do we really believe that?

Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at amcfeatters@nationalpress.com.

Copyright 2020 Tribune Content Agency.

(25) comments

procommunity

We were number one twenty years ago,so now we need to take summer away from both teachers and students? 44% of teachers leave the first 5 years and you want to take away one of the top reasons people go into this line of work? Fun Fact, why don't you take a closer look at the disipline policies or rather lack of disipline being forced down the throat of teachers, where we spend most of the instructional time doing classroom management and forced to use flawed practices like "only using positive reinforcement" to curb problem behvaiors. Gone is punitive because according to the experts "punishment doesn't work" claiming their is high recovery of behavior, well guess what there is escalation in problem behavior with "positive reinforcement too." You want these people in a burn out job to further burn out? Whomever wrote this has not been in an actual public school classroom in years! What we need is parent involvement and education to be valued! Look at any successful kid and you will find parents that navigate that kids educational landscape. We need to teach people that education is the most valuable asset you can give your child!

francesca_easa

You make a good point. Thanks for another perspective. I have a lot of teacher friends and they are some of the most can do folks in the world. They are also fortunate to teach in communities with a ton of parent support. That does make a world of difference.

francesca_easa

I agree with the editorial. I believe schools in Falls Church, VA did a similar format. 10 weeks of lessons, with 3 weeks off in between and the entire month of July off. Families needing activities in between the 10 weeks of learning could sign their children up for classes they may not normally do such as orienteering, home economics, farming or performing arts. As the writer stated, it would allow vacation times in each season and not just summer. And with longer daylight periods in summer, there is still time to hit the pool or enjoy other recreational activities after class.

sevenstones1000

“Twenty years ago American high school and college students were number one in the world in both subjects.“

Is that because America had year round school then?

hayduke2

No, it was because of a profession that was allowed to make it's own decisions locally. Once politicians and others starting dictating curriculum, focus , etc. things became perscribed into a one size fits all.

Greg F

It’s because of the rampant dumbing down of education that is the single agenda to keep people voting against their better interests. People like DeVoss allowed to run things and does everything she can to wreck public education and make things harder for students to wrangle her idiotic rules and policies that will tangle them with a lifetime of school debt for college. Indentured servitude is the GOP way. Let them dumb and in debt.

DickD

It would be a great idea for schools team up with businesses, where a student worked for a business and went to school for three months, alternating the time in three months increments. It would make the class room education more interesting and meaningful. It would also give the business a better employee who will be more productive and ready to work once out of school.

joelp77440

"It’s time for year-round education in the US." Ummmmm -No! Studies have been inconclusive to its academic benefits- NEA. Summer camps, vacations, spending two weeks with Uncle Bob and building forts out in the woods; those are the things I remember from my youth. My school memories are something I try not to think about.

hayduke2

You would still be able to do those things joel... Year round school provides regular breaks at different times and makes sense. Will there be significant kinks to work out, sure but the rewards would be significant.

hayduke2

joelp - as an aside, my experience is children love the anticipation of a summer "off". After about 3 weeks, that becomes boredom and they are looking for organization and structure.

Dwasserba

I'm Team Joel. I needed the whole summer to even sorta kinda want to look at new pencil boxes etc. My "school friends" and "summer friends" were the same. What's to miss. There still are small towns like this.

joelp77440

What kid is looking for organization and structure in the summer??? I didn't my children don't. The only structure they want is Ninja camp, horseback riding, the beach and any YMCA camp they feel they have interest in. Summer is for adventure, winter is for boring old classrooms.

hayduke2

Come on man - you defeat your claim when you listed the ORGANIZED and STRUCTURED things they want.l

Greg F

Good for you Joel...how about a science camp instead? Ninja camp....oy!

Greg F

What studies? Done by republicans or DeVoss? Countries that have year round education are kicking our azzes all over the world. Why do our top scientists now all come from elsewhere? They don’t find sports as part of “education” and hold students accountable and spread more reasonable breaks over the year vs one giant brain drain summer off.

normalperson

The smartest editorial printed in this paper. Of course parents are going to complain that they can't have there vacation. Think about the future of your child so they don't become stupid as the parents that complain.

Francine

"their vacation" ... not there. School systems are under-staffed and undercompensated now to get the job done, and the pressure on teachers is enough to drive some of them to leave the profession. Pushing something that isn't working right into a year-round venture is just mindless. Fix the problems, then think about it. I don't favor it at all.

hayduke2

Sorry, I do favor it. Time to utilize the resources year round.

Dwasserba

I learned things in summer when my vacation coordinated with cousins' elsewhere. Picking strawberries on their farm with them in school just would not be the same.

Greg F

It’s been time for decades. People won’t do anything good for themselves....especially with the GOP agenda to dumb down its constituents...see the latest chapter involving DeVoss.

franklin3

As an only child in a family without the funds for summer camp or vacations of more than a day or two I would have welcomed the opportunity to go to school in the summer. There were and are many kids who would benefit from the chance to go to school in the summer even if not five days a week. But the vast majority of parents would never accept it.

llrowse

Yet, they’re having a fit about the present situation. It would be interesting to know how many parents would be in favor of making up the time this summer.

Dwasserba

I've wondered how many will decide homeschooling works for them.

public-tertiary

It might be an interesting experiment to make it available but not mandatory. It might take only a couple of years before some parents realized that their kids were falling behind. Kinda like how kids who play the same sport year round are better at it than those who don’t.

DickD

Living in a rural area, our school took us to a private lake for swimming and we would hitch hike to go swimming when the didn't. Before the mid summer we could swim in the stream going down through town. The water wasn't too cold after the snow melted, but the stream would dry up in mid summer. Summer was great in a rural community. Playing in the hay fields, hunting, swimming, playing games.

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