A Modest Proposal: Change the School Year

Over the past few weeks, the articles on this site have had the constant theme of “Continuous Improvement ≠ Transformational Innovation.”  They looked at how we can “start all over again,” by teaching young children with strategies that wire their brains for success, rather than giving them more and more emphasis on the “basics” of a common core curriculum, and then assessing learning through standardized testing.  Standardized testing is great if you’re looking at “ranking” children according to their performance…but not if the goal is to have every child achieve to their highest potential.

So as we embark on a new year, let’s look to those new technologies that have transformed other industries today.  Certainly the Internet has made online commerce commonplace, sealing the fates of department stores and shopping malls.  Mobile devices have virtually eliminated the compact disc, the cassette and other ways of storing and distributing recorded music.  Services like Uber and Lyft have empowered regular citizens to challenge the sometimes less-than-convenient/clean/comfortable transportation environments provided by cab companies and shuttle services.

Schools, especially in certain parts of the nation, complain about the weather-related delays and cancellations that impact their lesson plans and other important events.  So let’s do something transformational too.

Change the school year.

Rather than September through May,  make it March through November.  Families take their kids out of school for vacation whenever it’s convenient for the family, and with online learning becoming more and more prevalent, why not? It would save on heating bills, school delays and cancellations, and dangerous travel conditions.   The school year could end with a big thanksgiving celebration around, yes, Thanksgiving, and then start up again when all the holidays (including the occasional blizzard or two) are pretty much over.

Sure, the summer is a great time for activities, but the let’s use some research rationale here as well.  The school year was designed when our nation was an agrarian society, and most of the work around the farm was done by members of the family and their many children.  Today, technology has changed things in farming, as it has in other industries.  Other school systems around the world conduct classes all year long.  And, when the barometric pressure is high and the sun is shining, the body is more energized to be productive.  There’s a reason animals hibernate in the winter, and it’s more than just the inability to find food.

Think about it, and map it out on a calendar.  Is it practical?  Probably not.  But if you want to be transformational, something big needs to happen.

Speaking of big, next week, we’ll take a look at the big elephant in the room – the one no one ever blames for the failure of the education system.