The balanced calendar, a relatively new trend taking place at schools all over the country, is intended to help prevent the phenomenon of "summer brain drain" by keeping students in class throughout the year. This new calendar will compensate for the lack of summer vacation by providing shorter, more frequent breaks throughout the school year to allow students to have a little fun without losing focus. Naturally, since this method strays from traditional ideas about education, it has been met with controversy from students, parents and teachers alike.
Opinions on the Balanced Calendar
According to a recent survey conducted by Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS), 45.3 percent of parents preferred a balanced calendar, 44.3 percent favored the traditional calendar, and 10.4 percent cited no preference. Staff members involved in the survey were also almost evenly split, with a slight majority leaning toward the traditional schedule by a margin of 2.7 percent higher than those who preferred the balanced calendar.
Author Bruce Barry contributed his own opinion on the matter by asking "But is a balanced calendar likely to have a positive impact on student achievement?" He continued by saying that "Educational research on this issue indicates that gains from these calendar shifts fall somewhere between trivial and non-existent." Although research on the efficacy of the balanced calendar hasn't been as definitive, there are studies that cite compelling evidence for the common effects of summer learning loss. Many people believe that when not challenged mentally, students could lose up to three months of learning during the summer months.
An Outsider's View
The split vote among parents and staff between the balanced calendar and the traditional calendar seems to indicate apathy about the issue. This apathy probably stems from the fact that the calendar won't make much of a difference in student learning. Although progressing from traditional teaching methods is certainly important for the development of education, perhaps the balanced calendar is an attempt to fix something that "ain't broke." Improving education may not be an easy task, and after the dismal results of No Child Left Behind, educators are likely grasping at straws to transform the current state of academia.
However, learning loss over the summer can be better combated with more parental attention to the activities of children during this time. Although parents play a huge role in summer learning, it's understood that young students must also have an appreciation for learning that can be nurtured by their instructors. Whether it's a love for reading, educational games or learning tools available on modern electronic devices, teachers can instill a desire to seek out new information during the summer, despite the lack of structure during this period.
All in all, the summer time gives many students the opportunity to travel, play a sport, attend summer camp, and conduct other activities that can be educational in their own way. They may not be in a traditional classroom the entire time, but there are still plenty of important life lessons children can gain from their experiences over the summer. When it comes down to it, the cons outweigh the pros with balanced schedules. What really lies at the root of summer learning loss is a lack of appreciation for learning which is another problem entirely.