Judge Extended Year Scientifically

Weeks ahead of other youngsters in Marshall County, students in Cameron schools already have begun the new school year. After most of their peers have begun summer vacation next year, the Cameron scholars will remain in class for a few weeks.

It is part of an innovative program implemented by Cameron Elementary School Principal Wendy Clutter and Cameron High Principal Jack Cain. They believe an extended school year helps students achieve more.

The trial already has been in place for one year, and preliminary indications are that it is helping. Once students, parents and school staff got used to the longer school year, many seemed to like it.

A key reason why proponents of extended school calendars, even year-round classes, believe they are beneficial is information retention. Often, teachers working in conventional nine months-plus environments have to spend weeks each fall refreshing students on information they were taught the previous year. Extended calendars mean youngsters have less time during the summer to forget what they have learned.

But not all researchers are convinced extended calendars are helpful. New studies indicate simply spreading classes out for longer, compared to actually holding school more days each year, may not bear much fruit.

Common sense seems to favor the extended calendar strategy – but that isn’t good enough. Too often, what seems to make sense doesn’t hold up under scientific examination.

Cain, Clutter and other Marshall County school adminstrators and teachers have been gathering solid data during the past year and will continue to do so to determine just what effects the experiment has had on student achievement. Once enough time has elapsed – and two years probably is not enough – to provide valid data, the decision on whether to continue the program can be made. At that time, the chips should be allowed to fall where they may in terms of whether the idea should be expanded to other schools.