Niedrich: Year round schools are the way to go

By By Anastasia Niedrich

By Anastasia Niedrich

On Jan. 22, Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. delivered the 2008 State of the State address. In his address, the governor spoke of Utah’s need to “aspire to reach higher” in education and other areas.

Gov. Huntsman addressed several problem areas of our state’s education system, including unqualified or bad teachers remaining in schools, the inefficient non-use of education resources throughout the summer months, inadequate teacher compensation, a growing teacher shortage, a lack of options for students to “remediate or accelerate their studies,” and “way too many standardized tests, with little information flowing back.”

Based on my personal educational experiences, I agree with the governor. Utah does have education problems in these and other areas.

I am an “Air Force brat,” and I have attended schools in numerous countries and countless states, including Utah. Throughout several moves in and out of Utah, I’ve been educated in Utah schools in Orem, Provo, Murray, West Valley City and Salt Lake City. I can safely say that my K-12 educational experience in Utah overall was the worst of any state I’ve lived in except Nevada. And Utah only beats my Las Vegas, Nevada high school experience because the Nevada high school that I attended had horrific overcrowding (2,000 desk spaces but 4,000 students) and frequent gang fights.

This is not to say that all Utah schools are bad or that even all of the ones I attended were bad, but the majority of them were worse than all the other schools I’ve attended but the one in Las Vegas. That’s not saying much for Utah.

My complaints with my K-12 educational experience in Utah include the problems that Gov. Huntsman mentioned, especially the lack of opportunities to accelerate my studies until I had almost graduated high school. I’m sure I’m not alone in my discontent with Utah’s K-12 education system. I bet that many of you feel the same way I do.

I believe, if nothing else, a year-round school schedule with opportunities for acceleration would have made all the difference for me and my educational experience in Utah.

Although study results reveal conflict as to whether students’ test scores significantly improve in year-round schools versus traditional nine-month schools, many parents and students I’ve spoken to still prefer the year-round schedule. I know that I would have preferred a year-round schedule when I was a K-12 student.

I was the type of student that was outright bored during the school year. And then, when school let out for the summer, I became so much more bored that I used to go to used bookstores to buy higher-grade textbooks and read them during the summer just to keep my mind from wasting away. While I’m sure most students did not go out and buy books to read them during the summer like I did, I’m sure many others feel equally as bored and as though their education goes to waste if not kept up during the summer.

In addition to the summer boredom factor, many parents (especially single parents) find it impossible to afford commercial child care for their children for the whole summer while they are at work. They need their earnings to pay bills, not for day care.

Though family members can often help with child care responsibilities, that only lasts for so long. Many parents I’ve spoken to say that they find it easier to afford two weeks of day care during a few months each year when it is spread out-as their children’s school days off are in a year-round schedule-than in the traditional summer system. Increased day care affordability makes for fewer children that are neglected or left to fend for themselves.

Further, in many year-round school systems, teachers are better-compensated and usually have smaller, more manageable class sizes since fewer students are using the same number of facilities at the same time (on differing track timing systems)-which leads some of those teachers to stick around longer within those systems.

Switching Utah’s K-12 public schools over to year-round schedules is certainly not a cure-all, and certainly not a perfect system, but it is one creative idea that Gov. Huntsman suggested that the legislature is considering and may improve Utah’s currently less-than-perfect education system.

Whether or not all Utah public schools switch over to year-round schedules or make other big changes, I am excited that such possibilities are being considered now, like never before. There are over 80 new education bills and proposals that the Legislature is considering right now, one of which would puts Utah’s schools on the year-round schedule. Utah is in pretty great shape economically and otherwise to make education reforms and achieve success for K-12 students in Utah in the opportunity areas that Gov. Huntsman identified and beyond. Our future generation, our current students, depend on it.

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SOURCES REFERENCED OR USED HEREIN:

http://www.utah.gov/governor/news/2008/news_01_22_08.html

http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:cseJidvJZ4wJ:www.governor.utah.gov/dea/ERG/ERG2003/24.K-12EduChallenges.PDF+utah+K-12+education+spending&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=5&gl=us&client=firefox-a

http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/site/c.kjJXJ5MPIwE/b.2075763/k.AE1D/Key_lessons_What_research_says_about_reorganizing_school_schedules.htm http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/site/c.kjJXJ5MPIwE/b.2086551/k.9967/Making_time_What_research_says_about_reorganizing_school_schedules.htm

http://www.google.com/search?q=year+round+versus+traditional+school+schedules+better+tests+scores+benefits&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

www.le.utah.gov

http://www.le.utah.gov/search.jsp?Sess=2008GS&String=education&Submit=Find