Before you start throwing tomatoes at me, I’m not talking about sitting in classrooms all summer. I’m talking about a learning plan for every student with customized schedules that enable students to play a lead role in creating their own plan for credit.
And, it’s all allowed by the state education regulations, which no longer require 180 days. A summer job could become a work-study credit. Learning bookkeeping at a car dealership and demonstrating mastery of competencies could earn a math credit. An internship at a graphic arts company could mean an art credit. The possibilities are amazing! Community service, online courses, internships with community professionals — based on New Hampshire education regulations, these can be turned into school credit if certain standards of learning are met.
What if your family prefers winter-long vacations or you have an opportunity for a job at Gunstock? These are possible with year-round school. So, what if students finish their requirements for graduation in fewer than four years? If you’ve earned the required credits, you could stay in high school while earning college credit (dual enrollment), possibly earning an associate’s degree. Or, simply graduate early and begin work, military service, travel or post-graduate training.
Studies show that low-income students lose ground over the summer because they have few enriching learning opportunities. Year-round school could have a great impact on this significant education problem.
What about teachers? Most teacher contracts pay for time, for working 180 days per school year. In the not-too-distant future, these time-based contracts will, in large part, go away. More and more, compensation will be based the ability to bring students to mastery of required competencies. Student learning will play a larger role in how teachers are paid and teachers’ work schedules. Some teachers will want year-round work opportunities. Others might want winters off instead of summers. Some might prefer part-time positions. So, just as it will be a customized learning experiences for students, schedules can also be customized for our educators.
Lastly, we’re paying for school buildings and educator benefits all year long, both expensive cost items, yet, primarily, we only employ teachers for 9-10 months of the year. While year-round learning is about doing the right thing for students, there can be some major efficiencies for our taxpayers if we go to year-round school. So, let’s start the conversation.
Fred Bramante is the past chairman and member of the NH State Board of Education. Fred speaks and consults on education redesign to regional, state and national organizations.
As seen in the July 24, 2014 issue of the Hippo.