Longer summer vacations benefit students, faculty

As the 2013-2014 school year enters into its third week, many students are already expressing desires to turn back the clock to summer vacation.  This year’s vacation was exactly one day longer than last year’s, much to the disbelief of students.

But what if summer vacation was shorter?  The way things are going now, it seems this student fear may become a reality.  Unfortunately, a longer academic year would be trouble for both teachers and students.  To put it simply, nine months of school are already enough.  In keeping with the best interests and wellbeing of students and faculty alike, the length of summer vacation should stay the way it is.

According to an article by Fox News, President Obama has long been a strong advocate of extended school years, and for reasons that are certainly agreeable.  The United States Council on Foreign Relations has also given data that shows the U.S. is falling behind in many key areas of education including math and science, both of which are highly valued skills in the modern-day workplace.  A study by the Programme for International Student Assessment shows that the country currently ranks only 31st in mathematics and 23rd in science.

In larger cities such as Chicago, shorter summer vacations have already been instituted in multiple public schools; in some cases, the summer break has been cut to a mere nine weeks, leaving less time for relaxation and more time for studies.  As stated by a recent article in The Chicago Tribune, this is a dramatic change when compared to the past, as breaks have been as long as 12 weeks at a time.

“I believe that both students and teachers benefit from time away from the classroom so that they can ‘recharge’ and better focus on the business of both teaching and learning,” AP Government teacher Michelle Semancik said.  “The summer also gives teachers time to attend workshops to find ways to improve their teaching methods, and gives students time to work, intern, and learn in a real-world environment. However, the length of the break does prove problematic in terms of retention of information. It’s hard to come up with a good solution, but perhaps a slightly shorter summer break with more breaks sprinkled throughout the year would be workable.”

The argument for shorter summer breaks has been gaining heat across the country.  Proponents for the issue often blame poor test scores on so-called ‘summer learning loss,’ while many parents and students argue that long vacations are well-deserved after spending nine months in the classroom.

“I don’t think that students’ breaks should be shortened because it allows them to have a mental break,” junior Molly Kidwell said.  “If we were to be in school for an extended period of time during the year, it may improve scores for some students, but for the majority of the students it would cause them to become apathetic and not work as hard. If they were forced to be in school longer, they may not preform to the best of their ability and thus scores would suffer even more than they already have.”

The problems that go along with lengthening the school year can far outweigh the benefits.  Summer employment has become increasingly popular with students who are not able to work during the school year, many times due to demanding schedules that involve carefully balancing schoolwork and extra-curricular.  Students often use money earned from summer employment to put towards expenses such as college tuition and car insurance.  But if the opportunity for summer employment were to be taken away, students may be left with the sole alternative of taking up work during the school year, an option that is less than ideal.

“Lengthening the school year is not the solution for bad test results from students,” Semancik said.  “Rather, we should re-evaluate our standardized tests and the education of our teachers.”

As for improving the United States’ performance on the global academic stage, there are certainly better alternatives than lengthening the school year.  Students need an ample amount of downtime during the summer.  There’s no doubt they deserve it.

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