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Single-track year-round education for improving academic achievement in US K-12 schools

Additional Info

  • Authors: Dan Fitzpatrick, Jason Burns
  • Published date: 2019-09-24
  • Coordinating group(s): Education
  • Type of document: Review, Plain language summary
  • Title: Single-track year-round education for improving academic achievement in US K-12 schools
  • Library Image: Library Image
  • See the full review: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cl2.1053
  • English:

    PLAIN LANGUAGE SUMMARY

    Single-track year-round education modestly improves average math and reading achievement of K-12 students

    Single-track year-round education (YRE) is linked to higher average achievement in both math and reading, though not overall student proficiency rates. Achievement gains are similar in magnitude to the degree of summer learning loss documented in other studies.

    What is this review about?

    Over the long summer break, students forget some of what they learned during the school year. This “summer learning loss” is especially large for low-income students. One policy aimed at decreasing summer learning loss is year-round education (YRE): re-distributing the usual number of school days so that students have more short breaks during the school year, and a much shorter summer vacation.

    A specific design used to achieve this goal is single-track YRE, which involves placing all students at a given school on the same year-round calendar.

    This review considers evidence on the effect of single-track YRE on academic achievement – test scores and proficiency rates – of K-12 students in math and reading from studies published between 2001 and 2016.

    What is the aim of this review?

    This Campbell systematic review synthesizes the findings from 30 studies that compared the performance of students at schools using single-track year-round calendars to the performance of students at schools using a traditional calendar.

    What studies are included?

    This review includes studies that compare achievement in single-track YRE schools to achievement in traditional-calendar schools. Of a total of 39 studies on the topic, nine reported outcomes in a way that could not be combined with the 30 that this review focuses on. The studies were from 2001-2016 and were all of K-12 schooling in the USA, but varied in school characteristics (state, size, percent minority, percent low-income).

    None of the studies used an experimental design (random assignment); studies were about evenly split between (a) comparing one school to another that is very similar, (b) comparing one school to a nearby school, and (c) comparing students at a school before versus after a switch to a year-round calendar.

    What are the findings of this review?

    Is academic achievement higher at YRE schools?

    Average student achievement was higher in both reading and math at single-track YRE schools, but proficiency rates were no higher in either subject. Compared to a prior meta-analysis of summer learning loss, which found that students typically forget the equivalent of one month’s learning over the summer, this review found the gain from YRE to be slightly more than this in reading and slightly less in math.

    Do some students benefit more from YRE?

    For the most part, no. Low-income and minority students do not see greater benefit from YRE than average students in either reading or math. Elementary and middle school students show about the same gain in reading. However, we find that middle school students’ achievement in math increases more than elementary school students’ from the year-round calendar.

    Do some year-round calendars help students more than others?

    Tentatively, yes: the schools that shortened summers to the fewest weeks had the largest effect on student achievement in both math and reading.

    What do the findings of the review mean?

    Single-track YRE appears to have a benefit to student achievement that is similar in magnitude to the learning loss students experience over the traditional 10-week summer break.

    YRE does not appear to be more helpful for low-income or minority students than for the average student, but might have a larger effect for middle school students than elementary school students in math.

    Schools that shortened summer to the fewest weeks of vacation showed the greatest gain in student achievement. This seems to indicate that most schools can expect an improved student achievement gain from a year-round calendar, equivalent to one month of learning, with a larger improvement from shortening the summer break to 4-6 weeks than from shortening the summer break to 7-8 weeks.

    How up-to-date is this review?

    The review authors searched for studies up to 2016, with electronic searches conducted in July and August 2017.

Select language:

PLAIN LANGUAGE SUMMARY

Single-track year-round education modestly improves average math and reading achievement of K-12 students

Single-track year-round education (YRE) is linked to higher average achievement in both math and reading, though not overall student proficiency rates. Achievement gains are similar in magnitude to the degree of summer learning loss documented in other studies.

What is this review about?

Over the long summer break, students forget some of what they learned during the school year. This “summer learning loss” is especially large for low-income students. One policy aimed at decreasing summer learning loss is year-round education (YRE): re-distributing the usual number of school days so that students have more short breaks during the school year, and a much shorter summer vacation.

A specific design used to achieve this goal is single-track YRE, which involves placing all students at a given school on the same year-round calendar.

This review considers evidence on the effect of single-track YRE on academic achievement – test scores and proficiency rates – of K-12 students in math and reading from studies published between 2001 and 2016.

What is the aim of this review?

This Campbell systematic review synthesizes the findings from 30 studies that compared the performance of students at schools using single-track year-round calendars to the performance of students at schools using a traditional calendar.

What studies are included?

This review includes studies that compare achievement in single-track YRE schools to achievement in traditional-calendar schools. Of a total of 39 studies on the topic, nine reported outcomes in a way that could not be combined with the 30 that this review focuses on. The studies were from 2001-2016 and were all of K-12 schooling in the USA, but varied in school characteristics (state, size, percent minority, percent low-income).

None of the studies used an experimental design (random assignment); studies were about evenly split between (a) comparing one school to another that is very similar, (b) comparing one school to a nearby school, and (c) comparing students at a school before versus after a switch to a year-round calendar.

What are the findings of this review?

Is academic achievement higher at YRE schools?

Average student achievement was higher in both reading and math at single-track YRE schools, but proficiency rates were no higher in either subject. Compared to a prior meta-analysis of summer learning loss, which found that students typically forget the equivalent of one month’s learning over the summer, this review found the gain from YRE to be slightly more than this in reading and slightly less in math.

Do some students benefit more from YRE?

For the most part, no. Low-income and minority students do not see greater benefit from YRE than average students in either reading or math. Elementary and middle school students show about the same gain in reading. However, we find that middle school students’ achievement in math increases more than elementary school students’ from the year-round calendar.

Do some year-round calendars help students more than others?

Tentatively, yes: the schools that shortened summers to the fewest weeks had the largest effect on student achievement in both math and reading.

What do the findings of the review mean?

Single-track YRE appears to have a benefit to student achievement that is similar in magnitude to the learning loss students experience over the traditional 10-week summer break.

YRE does not appear to be more helpful for low-income or minority students than for the average student, but might have a larger effect for middle school students than elementary school students in math.

Schools that shortened summer to the fewest weeks of vacation showed the greatest gain in student achievement. This seems to indicate that most schools can expect an improved student achievement gain from a year-round calendar, equivalent to one month of learning, with a larger improvement from shortening the summer break to 4-6 weeks than from shortening the summer break to 7-8 weeks.

How up-to-date is this review?

The review authors searched for studies up to 2016, with electronic searches conducted in July and August 2017.

Library Image

See the full review

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