The Old-Fashioned School Year Ought to Be Enough — Give Summer Back to Kids

Written by Michael Cummings on August 4, 2017

Forgive me this rant.

It’s August 3 as I write this. Not long ago, kids across the nation would breathe sighs of relief knowing they had roughly another month before school started. Not so anymore:

First came the summer camp promotion from the YMCA of Metro Atlanta, crashing like a brick into my inbox June 17.
“Six more weeks of summer,” the subject line taunted. “Make ’em fun!”
Didn’t the fine people at the YMCA know that the summer solstice had not yet arrived? And still, here they were, telling me and my 4-year-old that we had only six more weeks of summer?!
But, going by the school calendar, they were right. My son starts pre-kindergarten today at our neighborhood school. That’s right — August 5. It’s the same for children in cities and towns across the country, including in Phoenix, Oklahoma City, Indianapolis and Monterey, California. Lots of schools join them the following week and all throughout August.

My children start August 16 and 17, and if you’re a parent of school-age children, chances are you’re starting in the next couple weeks as well. Why the change? From the same article (emphasis mine):

An earlier start date gives teachers more instructional time before statewide assessment tests in the spring. Several experts agreed that this is one of the biggest factors pushing calendars back.
[Look at your local district, and witness how administrators and politicians take statewide assessments too seriously, and teachers and students simply endure them].
• Beginning in August allows students to complete the first semester before the December holiday break, rather than taking tests and turning in big projects after two weeks off. Teachers don’t have to spend time reviewing material in January when they should be starting new lessons. Those were some of the reasons given by the Los Angeles Unified School District when it moved up its start date in 2012. [Then cut off some instruction, and finish up before the Holidays. This isn’t difficult.]
• Starting early allows for a fall break in September or October and a winter break around February, in addition to breaks around Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Teachers are happier and kids behave better when they have more breaks throughout the year, said Rebecca Kaye, the Atlanta Public Schools policy and governance adviser, who makes the yearly calendar. “Learning is hard work, and teaching is hard work, and people need breaks,” Kaye said. “We have gotten feedback from our employees that they need that time.” [Funny how this “need” was not an issue a couple decades ago. Now it’s a civil right.]
• When you start after Labor Day and end school in June, that last month is simply not taken as seriously. “That end of the year is perceived as being time that is sometimes not used to the maximum value,” Kaye said. And in fact, when Atlanta schools ended in June, a lot of kids simply didn’t show up after Memorial Day. “Even though we were having school after Memorial Day, people had it in their minds that school ended. It may seem ridiculous, but that’s what happened.” [Where is the magic in ending after Memorial Day? Moving the calendar window changes nothing. Kids and adults alike see the end to a school year – whether May, June, or July – and act the same way.]
• Many graduating students and staff members take summer courses at colleges and universities. Ending school around Memorial Day creates fewer conflicts for them. [Then let the colleges and universities change their dates. Summer course schedules are always abbreviated so there is built-in flexibility.]

We’re told our worldwide rank in education has been near the bottom for decades, yet we excel in virtually all economic categories like manufacturing, technology, and medicine. On average, we spend ~$11,000 per student per year, with leftists clamoring for more, yet we’re told we see no measurable uptick in our performance. Could it be what we’re doing in education to prepare our children for adulthood is not only not working, but actually counterproductive?

Final question: With $550 in school fees that my wife and I had to cough up for three children, will someone explain what my taxes are paying for? Would expensive, idiotic departments with positions like Senior Manager of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion be the cause?

End the US Department of Education ($68 billion budget), stop the worthless spending that makes politicians and administrators feel better about themselves, and bring back the school year that starts after Labor Day and ends before Memorial Day.

photo credit: Aurimas Adomavicius Kids and Water via photopin (license)

Share if you think kids ought to be given a REAL summer and break from school.

Michael Cummings
Michael A. Cummings has a Bachelors in Business Management from St. John's University in Collegeville, MN, and a Masters in Rhetoric & Composition from Northern Arizona University. He has worked as a department store Loss Prevention Officer, bank auditor, textbook store manager, Chinese food delivery man, and technology salesman. Cummings wrote position pieces for the 2010 Trevor Drown for US Senate (AR) and 2012 Joe Coors for Congress (CO) campaigns.