Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Contrasting Experiences of White Students and Students of Color in a Year-Round High School

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Contrasting Experiences of White Students and Students of Color in a Year-Round High School

Article excerpt

This evaluation study centered on a Year-Round Education (YRE) program in an urban high school located in a large metropolitan city. Approximately 50% of the students in the school were "students of color." The primary purpose of the study was to examine factors that might influence students' levels of participation in the intersession programs the YRE program provided. The results suggest that levels of participation in intersessions are likely to vary as a function of students' gender, race, grade level, and level of academic achievement.

The current era of educational reform has presented us with many ideas, instructional strategies, programs, and policies to be considered-some new and some old. A critical question many educational researchers seek to answer is whether the research findings and ideas they advance can make a significant contribution to the effective education of all students. One of the old ideas that has resurfaced and gained momentum in this press for reform is the call for an alternative school calendar. Another reconfigures the traditional nine months of instruction and three months of summer vacation into one of the many different versions of a year-round calendar. Most proponents refer to the various forms that this reconfiguration of the school calendar can take as year-round education (YRE).1

The origin of the year-round calendar dates back to 1904 when a "four quarter schedule" was introduced in Blufton, Indiana. That beginning was followed by a slow, but steady growth in the number of year-round schools nationwide that would last until World War 11, when the need for more person power to support the war effort overshadowed the appeal of more promising school calendars (NAYRE, 1997). Over the past 15 years there has been a mild explosion in the number of year-round schools. This dramatic increase has apparently been fueled by school boards' quests for "new" ways to address the problems of overcrowding in schools and/or apparent declines in students' academic achievement. States, school districts, and individual schools seemingly have been encouraged by the research findings to date, which suggest that a shift to year-round calendars may lead to improvements in student outcomes and cost effectiveness in schools.

The National Association for Year-Round Education (NAYRE, 1997) reports that since the 1985-86 school year, the number of states implementing year-round education schedules has grown from 16 to 39; school districts has grown from 63 to 546; and individual schools has grown from 411 to 2,856. However, it should be quickly noted that California accounts for slightly more than one-half of the year-round schools nationwide (N = 1,498 schools), with Texas and Arizona also converting to year-round schools at disproportionate rates. Nevertheless, it is evident that this dramatic increase in the number of year-round schools extends well beyond that of a regional trend. This retesting of an "old idea" has all of the earmarks of a national trend that bears close watching.

There are two basic configurations of YRE calendars; namely, the "multi-track" and "single-track" calendar. In schools adopting the multi-track plan, subpopulations of students are grouped into different instructional blocks and vacation schedules. At any given point in time, one or more these subpopulations is "off-track" (i.e., on a vacation). In this way, it is possible to accommodate more students in a given building over the course of the full calendar year. The single-track calendar, on the other hand, typically divides the school calendar into four, nine-week instructional blocks, with each block followed by a three-week "intercession" or vacation (NAYRE, 1997).

It is not clear which of these options is most popular. Weaver (1992) suggests that the multi-track schedule is the most popular because the school can increase its enrollment, ease overcrowding, and enjoy cost savings. He further asserts that this is a particularly desirable approach to urban schools in the Southwest where rapid increases in student enrollments are resulting in severe overcrowding. …

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