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Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation.

Harvard College. Admissions & Financial Aid
“Families should allow for “down-time” during vacations, weekends, and during the week at mealtimes or at any other break in the action. The fabric of family life is already under assault from the demands of parents’ increasingly stressful jobs. Parents, some of whom experienced the first wave of fast-lane childhoods themselves, are often distressed by how little uninterrupted free time they have to devote to their children. Bring summer back. Summer need not be totally consumed by highly structured programs, such as summer schools, travel programs, or athletic camps. While such activities can be wonderful in many ways, they can also add to stress by assembling “super peers” who set nearly impossible standards. Activities in which one can develop at one’s own pace can be much more pleasant and helpful. An old-fashioned summer job that provides a contrast to the school year or allows students to meet others of differing backgrounds, ages, and life experiences is often invaluable in providing psychological downtime and a window on future possibilities. Students need ample free time to reflect, to recreate (i.e. to “re-create” themselves without the driving pressure to achieve as an influence), and to gather strength for the school year ahead.  Choose a high school (or a college) not simply by “brand name” or reputation but because it is the best fit. A school with a slower pace or a different academic or extracurricular focus can be a better match for certain students in the long run.”

“Aaah, summer – that long anticipated stretch of lazy, lingering days, free of responsibility and rife with possibility. It’s a time to hunt for insects, master handstands, practice swimming strokes, conquer trees, explore nooks and crannies, and make new friends.”
Darrell Hammond

Summary of Current States with Laws Curtailing Early-August School Start Dates

The majority of states set the school year to run July 1 through June 30 and grant the power to set the school year to the school board or school administrator. Roughly a quarter of the states have changed school start date laws to curtail early-August school start dates or to create regional school calendars.

Opinion Pieces by Education Experts

Education experts weigh in on the negative impact of early-August school start dates.


Later School Year Start is Better for Students and State Economy

The Houston Chronicle

This piece by former Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott and Texas economist Ray Perryman explores the negative impact of early-August school start dates on the economy, tax revenues and denying families a long, satisfying summer.

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The Whiteboard Jungle: Later in the Day, Not Earlier in the Summer

Los Angeles Times/Glendale News Press

Brian Crosby, an author, educator and newspaper columnist addresses the school start date issue.  He is a national board-certified teacher and has taught high school English for over 26 years. He is co-chair of the English Department at Hoover High School in Glendale, California.  Crosby has also written two books about teaching and the education system.

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Keep End-of-August Start Day for Schools by former Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott

Appeared in numerous papers across the state

Former Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott outlines the benefits of a September – May school calendar and says earlier start dates do not translate into academic excellence.

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Academic Gains Aren’t Made with Calendars

The Des Moines Register

Veteran teacher and coach explains academic success is due to teachers and the tools they are given, not the configuration of the school calendar.

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Agrarian Calendar Claims Debunked

Opponents of traditional school calendars try to disparage the traditional school calendar by calling it a “calendar of yesteryear” or an agrarian calendar.  Anyone who grew up with farm land near knows agrarian school calendars have a long break in the fall for harvest and a long break in the spring for planting.  Both the pieces below shed historic light on the school calendar we call “traditional”.

Reconstructing Summer Vacation – CUNY Education Professor Sets Record Straight

Summary of a book written on the history of summer vacation.  The calendar we refer to today as the “traditional school calendar” was introduced during urbanization.  Gives good talking points to counter the claim that the traditional calendar is no longer needed because we are no longer an agriculturally based economy.

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The Truth Behind Summer Break – Joseph Coohill

Provides quick, entertaining read and audio about how summer vacation from school came to be.  Explains the public health movement and the importance of outdoor play as an essential component of development formed the school calendar we now call the traditional school calendar as a way to form “fully rounded adults.”

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04 Exams Before or After the Winter Break

Exams Before or After the Winter Break?

When semester exams are administered is a matter of personal preference, not academic benefit. While not much research exists specifically on when it is best academically to administer end-of-semester exams, The Spacing Effect is a psychological phenomenon that teaches how to store information in long term memory instead of short term and supports presenting material, having a break – such as winter break, review and then testing for best long term retention chances.

The Impact of Taking Breaks on Learning and Memory by David Gilden, Ph.D., UT Austin

Copy of presentation made by Dr. Gilden to the Texas House Education Committee.  Presentation explains why giving exams after the winter break is a better measure of retained knowledge.

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Why Taking Exams After Winter Break is Best for Students – What the Experts Say

The title says it all!  This piece is a summary of research supporting giving exams after the winter break is the best educational choice if our educational goal is retention and not regurgitation.

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State Specific Research on the Impact of Later School Start Dates on Academics


Summary of SOL Test Scores and School Start Date Study Summary

January 2015 study by Dr. James McMillian, Ph.D., Professor of Foundations of Education in the School of Education at Virginia Commonwealth University, found no relationship between school start dates and academic performance. The study is available here.

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SOL Test Scores and School Calendar/Teaching Days for Virginia School Divisions Receiving Waivers to Begin the School Year Prior to Labor Day

This January 2015 report showed a preponderance of the evidence suggests there is no relationship between school start dates and student achievement based on state test scores.

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State Task Force Reports focused on the School Calendar Debate


Many states have studied or are in the process of studying the  impact of the school start date on families, students, teachers and the economy.  As the reports posted below show, early-August school start dates fail to provide any academic benefit, reduce time teachers and students have for summer learning opportunities and negatively impact the economy – meaning less money for our teachers, students and public schools.


Task Force to Study a Post-Labor Day Start Date for Maryland Public Schools

Task Force to Study a Post-Labor Day Start Date for Maryland Public Schools was published in June of 2014 by the task force convened to study the school start date issue. The group found there was no academic benefit to starting the school year prior to Labor Day.


Uniform Regional School Calendar Task Force Final Report

This task force was asked to make recommendations to the legislature regarding state law requiring school districts create regional school calendars to ensure calendar coordination between K-12 and vocational and technical schools. This report doesn’t address when the school year should begin but does address issues anyone considering regional calendar coordination should consider.

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North Carolina

No Modification to North Carolina’s School Calendar Law Satisfies Multiple Competing Interests.

Program Evaluation Division, North Carolina General Assembly.
This report was part of “The Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee’s 2015-17 Work plan directed the Program Evaluation Division to examine the effects of the state law designating when public schools in North Carolina start and end the school year.” The report found law change was needed but recommended the legislature consider flexibility for low-performing schools to try modified calendars to increase instructional time and thus academic success.

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Report of the Task Force on School Calendars and the Tourism Industry

The task force was created to study the impact of school calendars on the tourism industry and suggested significant hardships. The report also outlined concerns of educators yet offered no recommendations.

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Testimony of William H. Cunningham, Chair of the School Start Date Task Force, to the Texas House Committee on Public Education

Task Force found no academic reason to begin the school year in early to mid-August. Testimony discussed migrant students, end-of-semester testing and other issues the task force deemed important to the debate.

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Senate Concurrent Resolution #20: School Start Task Force

Recommendation to the 147th General Assembly. June 20, 2014.
The task force recommendations found a “post Labor Day start would be minimally disruptive to the educational system, while potentially delivering substantial economic benefits to many Delawareans.”

Research regarding the Length of the School Year

Research clearly shows the length of the school year does not impact academic success.

Student success is due to talented teachers, involved parents and hardworking students.

Review of Successful, Safe and Healthy Students by the National Education Policy Center, October 2010

Section three of the report reviews the topic of expanded learning time, the claims made by those promoting the longer school year concept and what the research really shows. This piece is short, to the point and an easy read. This piece also reviews research that showed increasing the length of the school day for instruction was the second-least cost-effective of four interventions aimed at increasing student achievement (the others being cross-age tutoring, computer-assisted instruction, and reducing class size.)

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Not Enough Bang for the 2 Million Bucks: Project LIFT Drops Extra Days at 2 Schools

March 24, 2017
Project LIFT’s $2 million-a-year experiment with a longer school calendar will come to an end next year after an internal study found no measurable benefits to giving students 19 extra days of class.

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The Apollo 20 Project

A project that claimed additional instructional time and subject specific tutoring would increase academic performance.  Project review showed additional instructional time made no difference but tutoring helped students excel.

The Apollo 20 Project launched in the Houston Independent School District in 2010 and was touted as a way to increase academic achievement of highly disadvantaged students.  The district asked the legislature for special permission to begin the school year two weeks before the set 4th Monday in August school start date law.  The rational given was students in this program would receive two weeks’ additional instruction and this, paired with other program strategies would increase academic success.  Program review found no mention of the earlier start date helping academic success but suggested the intensive tutoring be expanded.

HISD’s Apollo 20 Program Should Expand Tutoring, According to Rice Review

Houston Education Research Consortium Research (Rice University Review)

Review Questions Staying Power of Gains in HISD Apollo Program (The Houston Chronicle)

On the Clock. Rethinking the Way Schools Use Time

This Education Sector Report focuses on how school administrators are looking at the amount of time students spend in school as a tool in raising academic scores.  This think-tank report exams what the research shows, costs and complications of extending time, what matters most and ends with the recommendations of the researcher/policy analyst

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Education Commission of the States – Cost Per Day for Extending the School Year

This 2008 data compilation shows how much it would cost each state to add one day of school to the required school year.  It also provides data as to how many days of instruction were required by state at the time of the report.

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Time for a Change: The Promise of Extended-Time Schools for Promoting Student Achievement

This 2005 report examines how extended-time schools use additional time, impact of more time on learning, how extended-time schools structure staffing, financing opportunities and challenges, reactions of students, parents, and teachers to extended-time schools and other characteristics of successful schools.

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John Loche Foundation – Better instruction, Not More Time

This 2007 piece examined the education fad of a longer school day and year that was proposed in North Carolina.  The key findings outlined in the report are; (1) There is no consistent relationship between instructional time in mathematics and a nation’s average score on an international mathematics test, (2) no statistically significant correlation between instructional time in math, science, reading, and civics and test scores on international assessments of those subjects and (3) it would cost taxpayers as much as an additional $656,500 per year to implement a longer school day at a typical North Carolina elementary school, (4) schools offering alternative schedules should be up to the decision of parents.

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Impact of Summer Work Experience on Teens

Impact of Summer Work Experience on Teens

Early-August school start dates often make students less desirable by employers looking for seasonal help.  Yet, volumes of reports exist on the value of summer work experiences for teens. Most reach the same conclusions, summer work experiences translate into increased academic success for students, increase the likelihood students will graduate from high school and increase non-cognitive skills such as responsibility, positive work habits, time management, motivation and self-confidence.  

The Lasting Benefits of Early Work Experience

In this 30 year longitudinal study, Drs. Ruhm and Baum found “clear evidence that part-time work by young adults – both during senior year of high school, and during the summer months-translates to future career benefits that include higher hourly wages, increased annual earnings and less time spent out of work.”

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Grow Your Money: The Hunt is On for Summer Jobs

This ABS-CBN News report discusses three main benefits of summer jobs for high school and college students – experience of “work for compensation, an experience that may help the high school student decide what course to take in college, or aid the college student decide between a nine-to-five job or life as an entrepreneur later on.  A second benefit is gaining new friends and learning to work with other people of a different age and with different backgrounds and interests.  Third, the student earns some money, which is a good opportunity to get him or her on the road to savings.”

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Teens Should Have a Summer Jobs, the Less Glamorous the Better

Article discusses the value of summer jobs when applying to college.  Harvard Graduate School of Education researcher, Richard Weissbourd, discusses the benefits of summer employment for teens.  According to Weissbourd, “the lessons (of a summer job) are huge.  You see how hard people work, how rude and unthinking people can be to them. It’s a real lesson in how to treat people.  According to Susan Warner, an independent college counselor in New York City says, “Colleges will forever find holding a job more attractive, and far sexier than going to Costa Rica to build houses and surf in the afternoon.”

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Stanford Researcher Asks: What is a Summer Job Worth?

Associate director of the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at the Stanford Graduate School of Education presents “new evidence regarding the impact of large-scale summer youth employment programs on high school attendance and academic achievement in the following school year.  Although not explicitly focused on bolstering school attendance or academic success, summer youth employment may lead to improvements in school attendance and other educational outcomes.” The piece continues by citing increased non-cognitive skills such as responsibility, positive work habits, motivation, time management, determination and self-confidence may be fostered by summer work experiences.  (Additional article on the study: http://news.stanford.edu/2015/09/01/summer-job-benefit-090115/)

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Expanding Economic Opportunity for Youth through Summer Jobs. New Skills at Work

JP Morgan Chase & Co.  “Every summer, millions of young people across the United States look forward to getting their first job – an important early work experience that can put them on the path to a meaningful career….The benefits of summer jobs are well-documented – they contribute to short and long-term employment success, increase the likelihood students will graduate from high school and pave the way to a successful progression into adulthood.”

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Effects of High School Work Experience a Decade Later: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey

“Existing research on the effects of in-school employment has shown that such work has positive early effects on employment and earnings.  This study extends that body of research and finds that the beneficial effects of in-school work, notably higher levels of labor force attachment and earnings, are readily measured even after a dozen years and that the negative effects often ascribed to in-school work are not supported by the actual work histories.” Teen who worked had “reduced unemployment rates, greater labor force attachment, and earnings gains.”

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Youth Employment in the Hospitality Sector

“This report reveals that the hospitality industry provides valuable employment opportunities which support learning opportunities for young people.  Thomas Dilworth, Policy Analyst said, “If education is the ticket to a rewarding career, the hospitality industry apparently helps pay the fare.” He also encouraged policy leaders to study how the hospitality sector provides entry level employment while encouraging continued education.

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Understanding Drop-Out Issues and the Impact of Aligning K-12 and Higher Education Calendars

Classification of Drop-Outs

National Dropout Prevention Center

According to the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network at Clemson University, students drop-out of high school based on three general criteria; they are pushed out, pulled out or falling out.  A student pushed out faced a situation within the school environment that lead to consequences ultimately resulting in the student no longer being in school.  A “pulled out” student suffers from factors inside of them that divert them from completing school.  And a falling out student occurs when a student doesn’t show significant academic progress in schoolwork and becomes apathetic or disillusioned with school.

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Reasons Why Students Dropout

According to the November 2013 report, “Understanding Why Students Drop Out of High School, According to Their Own Reports,” the highest ranking factors for drop outs are out-of-school enticements like jobs and family.  Most recent data shows the top reasons for youth dropping out of school are: missed too many school days, thought it would be easier to get a GED, was getting poor grades/failing school and didn’t like school.  (Providing a reason for students to attend tutoring, attend school and stay in school through advanced certificate programs would go a long way in reducing the drop out problem.)

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Graduation Rates Get Boost Through Summer Learning

National Dropout Prevention Center

“Summer programs are a great anti-retention tool, and we know that there is a strong correlation between being retained in grade and not graduating. Anything that magnetizes a child to school certainly will help,” says Sandy Addis of the National Dropout Prevention Center.  (A full 12-week summer vacation will provide sufficient time for meaningful summer remediation programs while also allowing kids the down time needed to refuel for the upcoming year. Tying future career goals to school attendance and success will also motivate many students to stay in school and take advantage of tutoring programs offered.)

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Dual Enrollment Can Increase Student Motivation

According to the U.S. Department of Education paper on Dual Enrollment classes, “Students who took Dual Enrollment were more likely to earn a high school diploma, to enroll in college in general and at a 4-year institution in particular, and to enroll in college full time than peers who did not participate in Dual Enrollment.”

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Dual Enrollment Benefits High School Students Beyond Those Who Are More Academically Advanced

The U.S. Department of Education piece continued by saying “Dual Enrollment is believed to help low‐achieving students meet high academic standards. For example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Early College High School Initiative (ECHSI) specifically targets students who are traditionally underserved in college and often begin the ECHS academically below grade level. Not only do the vast majority of ECHS students earn at least 30 college credits by the time they graduate high school, they were found to have outperformed their peers in matched comparison districts on state assessments in math and English (AIR/SRI, 2009)”

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What We Know About Dual Enrollment

Columbia University

Community College Research Center. Teachers College, Columbia University

This piece examines dual enrollment and reviews what research tells us on the issue.  Summarizing, “dual enrollment may improve outcomes for students in career-technical pathways, may lead to improved college outcomes and may have greater benefits for groups that struggle in college.” The research also found that students taking dual enrollment classes on a college campus benefited much more than students who took dual enrollment classes on their high school campus.

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Year-Round/Balanced School Calendars

Year-round school calendars have been around in some shape or fashion for at least 30 years.  If they really accomplished all they claim, everyone would be following a year-round or balanced school calendar. A quick Google search shows us the calendar experiment isn’t lasting –  schools try the balanced or year-round calendar only to drop it and return to a traditional calendar a few years later – citing no increased academic performance and increased non-instructional costs.

Year-Round School Doesn’t Solve the 2 Big Problems with Summer Vacation

Business Insider

September 5, 2016
“According to recent research, however, the trend is misguided. Year-round school doesn’t help with the effects of inequality or erase the summer setback all kids tend to experience. In the worst cases, it actually hurts kids’ education.”

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Year-Round Schools Don’t Boost Learning

Science Daily

This 2007 Science Daily article reviews research by Ohio State University Professor and research statistician in sociology Paul von Hipple.  Thus research clearly showed that students attending schools with year-round school calendars did not learn more than their peers attending schools following a traditional nine-month calendar.

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Section Four: Time for School: Its Duration and Allocation

School Reform Proposals; The Research Evidence

This 2002 research review found “small marginal increases (10-15%) in the time allocated to schooling show no appreciable gains in student achievement.  Alternative calendars on which the typical 180 days of schooling are offered (e.g., year-round calendars) show no increased benefits for student learning over the traditional 9-months-on/3 months-off calendar.  Summer programs for at-risk students are probably effective, though more research is needed.”

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For additional research or information please contact:
Tina Bruno, Executive Director, The Coalition for a Traditional School Year
210-559-5277 or via email at tina@schoolyearcoalition.org