Richmond Times-Dispatch

Year-round school? Concept’s time is now

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EDITOR, TIMES-DISPATCH:

I commend Gov. Ralph Northam and Education Secretary Atif Qarni for raising the idea of year-round school to address the negative impact of COVID-19 on the academic performanc­e of Virginia students.

When I was Virginia’s secretary of education in the early 1990s, I, too, raised the need to restructur­e and extend our education calendar to accommodat­e year-round school. Based on the pushback to that idea, I thought witness protection was my best option.

The concept of year-round school is an idea whose time has come. The rational for three months off in the summer to free students to tend crops in an agrarian economy still is irrelevant.

Additional­ly, students forget what they have learned when they are away from instructio­n for extended periods. Studies have shown that it is more effective for students to take shorter breaks throughout the year than a three-month summer break.

Year-round school will result in better educationa­l outcomes. However, to maximize those outcomes, we also must increase the number of days. The United States school year is 180 days while our global competitor­s have school years up to 240 days. Sixty additional days over a K-12 experience results in an additional two years of education. Simply stated, more time on task makes for better academic achievemen­t.

Unfortunat­ely, it has taken a pandemic to demonstrat­e that students need more time in quality learning situations to fulfill their potential, grow Virginia’s economy and become productive members of our workforce. In addition to supporting year-round school, we also must support universal broadband, and increased child care and early childhood education, as essential components to assure that a world-class education is available to every student.

I amback from witness protection and ready to support efforts to make extended year-round schooling in Virginia a reality.

JAMES DYKE.

FORMER VIRGINIA SECRETARY

OF EDUCATION.

RESTON.

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