Neighbors on Front Porch Forum have begun to discuss why “Calendar 2.0” should not be adopted, and I have received dozens of private emails from people who oppose Calendar 2.0 and who support the national traditional calendar, which works to promote summer enrichment, employment, and rejuvenation. Calendar 2.0 would reduce summer by three weeks, and it is a not a tool that will magically provide “a World-Class Education System” and improve standardized test scores.
The Vermont Save Our Summer Coalition — “S.O.S.” is a group of educators, business owners, and parents who are organizing to promote the current school calendar and oppose Calendar 2.0. The group has a Facebook page by that name, and Coalition members may craft a petition based on the public forums are scheduled by the Champlain Valley Superintendent’s Association for October. The Coalition has published a letter in several local papers (including the June 27 issue of the Shelburne News) with the Top Ten reasons to oppose Calendar 2.0. This letter is linked from the group’s Facebook page, along with relevant research and articles that show how the calendar proposal does not meet intended objectives and has negative outcomes for students, educators, and the community. Please join the Coalition! If you have trouble finding the group’s page or article or wish to work on the Coalition’s petition, then I invite you to contact me personally by email, firstname.lastname@example.org, and I can connect you other people. Another group of concerned parents may compose a separate petition or organize a protest.
First, let us look to the experiences of schools around the country that have extended the school year in similar ways with the same objective of “improving quality education.” Educational policy research shows that extending the school year did not help close the gap for disadvantaged students who regressed in their academic learning over the summer. Furthermore, current research on the “summer slide” does not propose Calendar 2.0-style strategies to remedy this problem, rather they recommend “camp-like” summer learning programs to reduce summer regression. That is, they recommend the programs we have in place right now!
Second, the extended vacation times during the school year will burden families and educators. Parents whose children have an extra three weeks of vacation during the Winter season will have to figure out what to do with their kids. During the summer, weather-dependent infrastructure for camps and summer school is already in place. In the winter, staff and educators would have to do advance planning during regular teaching days to put together new programs, and these options would be limited and expensive. Such new programs would not have use of facilities available in the summer, nor to the high school and college students who usually fill summer positions. People who earn more than $75,000 per year — “people in the 1%” — may choose to take extended vacations in December and the Spring. However, many parents would struggle to pay for childcare, which research shows tends to be of poor quality and expensive, though the Champlain Valley has it loads better than the rest of the nation.
Third, summer in Vermont is special because our winter is so long, and missing out on summer wastes both unique opportunities that summer offers as well as classroom learning time. Little classroom learning happens once the Vermont summer starts. The 2012-13 school year ended on June 14, 2013. Yet, starting when the weather warmed, my three kids reported that they had “earned” movies or had eaten ice cream in class. In fact, many schools use the beginning of summer to plan outdoor activities for students, such as warm-weather field trips or Shelburne Community School’s Jog-a-Thon — both of which currently require advanced planning and volunteers. Thus, if the school year ends later, there will be more time wasted in school on nationally-standardized, learning objectives that often require them to sit and focus, when children want to be outside enjoying summer.
Moreover, if Calendar 2.0 had been implemented, then this school year would have started Aug. 20 when many children were enjoying the warm weather, not wanting to have to sit and pay attention. By the end of August, we feel the weather become cooler, and my kids are now feeling ready for school to start and are anticipating the school-season routines.
Caitlin Waddick, Shelburne