Summer slide or summer sanctuary — the school calendar debate.

William Woods EDU

When it comes to something as fundamental as whether schools in Missouri and across America should change length of the school day and/or year, opinions tend to be strong and vary widely.

Some have been making a case for extending school days and year-round-education for a decade or more, claiming that the current system is a 19th century school relic built around the need for a largely agrarian society to maximize the number of family members who could work the farm.

As a recent debate over federal laws and family farm work reminds us, even that aspect of an extended school year can be contentious in a farm-rich state such as Missouri.

Starting in June 2015, two metro Kansas City schools — Winnwood and Crestview elementary schools in the North Kansas City School District — will add 31 days to their academic calendars, in effect becoming the first two schools in Missouri to move toward year-round education.

Elsewhere in the US, states, the US Department of Education and large foundations have backed a three-year-long trial of extended education in 10 school districts scattered across five states that is finishing its second year.

In total, the trial involves 75 schools that enroll about 37,500 students. The effort is being coordinated by state education officials; the National Center on Time and Learning, a nonprofit research and advocacy group; and the Ford Foundation, which invested $3 million a year in grants over the three years.

The districts will use state and federal financing to pay for all of the operating costs, including extra teaching time and coordination with nonprofit groups.

This ongoing debate is gradually shaping how schools like William Woods University approach the challenge of preparing teachers, curriculum and instruction design leaders and school administrators.

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