Attention, students: Summer vacation is canceled!
Not really, but if President Obama has his way, the American school year for grades K-12 will be prolonged by 20 days, which is the equivalent of an entire month of school. Under this proposal, known as year-round education, the month of July will no longer be a time for students to sleep in, swim and procrastinate on summer reading assignments. July will be an additional month for students to complete homework, take tests and hit the snooze buttons on their alarm clocks.
In an interview with NBC in September, the president formally announced his plan to extend the school year in the United States. In support of this proposition, Obama said, "We can no longer afford an academic calendar where America was a nation of farmers who needed their children at home plowing the land at the end of each day. That calendar may have once made sense, but today, it puts us at a competitive disadvantage. Our children spend over a month less in school than children in South Korea. That is no way to prepare them for the 21st century economy."
On average, American students spend 180 days in school, which is low compared to other developed nations. Japan has the longest school year in the world, with 243 days of rigorous academic work. Not far behind is South Korea (220 days), followed by Israel (216 days) and Luxembourg (216 days). The Netherlands, Scotland and Thailand have all adopted the 200-day school year that Obama wishes to implement. Although an extended school year may be unpopular among students, both Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are devoted to a cause they believe is necessary for the success of the future leaders of the United States. Obama hopes to have 10 percent of American students, 5 million individuals, on a year-round education plan by 2012.
Though many education advocates support Obama's proposal, many parents, students and administrators are opposed to it. In a poll taken at Immaculata Academy, 90 percent of students opposed the idea of an extended school year. Students value their summer vacation as a time to unwind from 10 months of stress from academics and rest their brains for another school year.
Immaculata senior Katie Szwejbka said, "I don't agree with this proposal because if you don't give students a break, you're not only taking away their childhood, you could also be pushing them to a mental breaking point."
Critics of Obama's plan have said that school costs would increase exponentially if the school year is lengthened. The need to cover additional expenses associated with teachers' salaries and school utility bills could cause the government to raise taxes, which would place a financial burden on Americans in an already tumultuous economy.
Others say Obama should lengthen the school day rather than the school year, but advocates of the plan to extend the school year believe that increasing the number of hours in a school day would lower students' ability to retain information.
Two teachers at Immaculata Academy chimed in with their thoughts on Obama's proposal for an extended school year.
"A longer school year would allow for elaboration on particular topics, but the proposal will only be successful if students buy into the program," said Edward Bogdan, a science teacher of 13 years.
Jo Ann Wiatrowski, an English and French teacher for 28 years, agrees that year-round school "would allow students to retain more information and investigate topics more deeply" but also believes "that students with high stress levels deserve a break."
Katlyn Grasso is a senior at Immaculata Academy.