45/15 schedule seen as way to help students remember lessonsPublished 9:59am Monday, July 16, 2012
In one of Austin Public Schools’ biggest initiatives, Sumner Elementary School officials first discussed switching to a year-round, 45/15 calendar in summer 2010 as a response to lagging Adequate Yearly Progress scores on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments.
The process took a year to prepare for as Sumner staff got students, parents and community members adjusted. Sumner staff based its research off of schools in Fremont, Neb., Longfellow Elementary School in Rochester, and other schools across the nation.
District officials said in 2010 the switch would help students retain information during summer break and throughout the year, since students would have less time in between classes.
That’s one of several arguments education experts have made for a year-round schedule, but the calendar’s merits are viewed as debatable. As the National Education Association points out, year-round supporters say it helps learning retention, uses school space more efficiently and helps faculty identify students who need extra help — and it gives students help when they need it during the school year. Critics say the year-round calendar harms band and other extracurricular programs scheduled around the normal calendar, creates frustration for parents of students in different schools with different schedules, and they cite a lack of conclusive data on its academic benefits.
It’ll take about three years to effectively measure whether Sumner’s year-round system succeeds in raising student test scores — especially as Minnesota switches from AYP to the Multiple Measurement Ratings system to measure school effectiveness — but Sumner staff have previously reported early, anecdotal benefits. Sumner Principal Sheila Berger told the Austin Public Schools board in January that students’ scores on Scantron Reading tests were up by 31 points compared to the previous year, student suspensions were cut in half, and teachers found students remembered more compared to last summer during initial tests last September.