Can Students Attend Online School Year-Round?

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Image of a young female student on a multi colored hammock working on her laptop during the summer break taking a class for Connections Academy.

When summer approaches, educators across America often feel  concern for students who are facing 8-12 weeks without structured learning over the long summer break.

A recent study found that students in 1st- 8th grades lose on average 17%-34% of a prior year’s learning over their summer break. That learning loss can have a snowball effect. By the time an elementary school child reaches middle school, they may have lost the equivalent of two years of learning due to summer learning loss. The need to relearn skills at the start of the school year has many families starting to ask the question: should school be year-round?

Why aren’t most schools held year-round?

The school calendar found across the U.S. has been around since the 1800s, when the mostly agricultural-based society needed children home to help out around the family farm. School buildings were also uncomfortable in the hot summer months as there was no air conditioning.

While those practical reasons don’t exist universally in today’s society, the school calendar stuck. People are used to having a long summer break to rest and recharge and for families to take vacations and spend more time together. 

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What is Year-Round Schooling?

Year-round school does not mean students go to school every day of the year. There are a few ways that students can keep learning over the summer while still enjoying a summer break.

The first is for school districts to change their school calendars to follow a year-round schooling schedule. Currently, just 4% of school districts in the United States follow a year-round school schedule, which typically includes four nine-week marking periods with three-week breaks between marking periods and a five-week break in the summer.

The other way for students to attend year-round school is to enroll in a summer school program.  Where schools with a year-round school calendar offer continuous learning as part of their core curriculum, summer school programs are focused on specific subjects or courses taken over the summer. Summer school courses are just like regular school courses but condensed into a shorter timeframe – typically a six-week semester instead of an 18-week semester.

It’s easy to confuse year-round school, summer school programs, and dual enrollment programs. Year-round school and summer school extend learning into what is traditionally considered summer vacation. Dual enrollment is where a high school student is enrolled in both high school and college classes at the same time, including during summer breaks.  

The Benefits of Year-Round School

The long summer break is such a part of the traditional school system that K-12 families may resist any move to attend school over the summer. But advocates for year-round school cite the many benefits of learning throughout the summer, including:

Avoid summer learning loss.

Attending school over the summer reduces summer learning loss. With year-round school or summer school programs, students can still enjoy a summer break; it is just shorter, which means less time for students to forget what they have learned during the regular school year.

Online summer school programs frequently offer hundreds of course options ranging from core subjects to enrichment classes to help students keep their skills sharp over the summer. Students can also take credit recovery courses to catch up on missed classes or explore new subjects that they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to during the regular school year.

With online summer school, students can complete their coursework at a time convenient for them, creating less of an impact on their family’s summer plans. 

Close the achievement gap.

When students continue their learning over the summer, teachers spend less time on reviewing lessons from the previous grade level at the start of the school year, which allows them to teach more content. Students also tend to stay engaged with learning over the summer, maintaining and advancing their skills. Year-round school and online summer school classes are good options to close the achievement gap between students in  traditional schools compared to those in year-round schools. 

Just enough time to recharge.

Summer vacations are viewed as a time to rest and recharge for kids after a long school year. But 12 weeks is a long time to rest and recharge. But the shorter, more frequent breaks offered by year-round school helps students recharge throughout the year, which can be better for their overall health and well-being.

Students enrolled in online summer school programs can complete their coursework at a convenient time, giving them opportunities to incorporate relaxation and family fun time into their summer learning schedules. 

Maintain daily routines.

A key benefit of year-round school or summer school is maintaining a consistent routine throughout the summer. Children thrive when they follow a daily routine and know what to expect each day. Going to school over the summer helps students maintain a routine familiar to them from the school year and keeps their study skills sharp.

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Online Summer School Courses

Students from kindergarten through high school can take a variety of online courses over the summer through the Pearson Online Academy summer school program, including:

  • Credit recovery courses. If students are missing a graduation requirement or need to make up a class, taking it over the summer is a good option to get back on track without disrupting the regular school year schedule.
  • Core classes. Middle and high school students can take online summer language arts and math classes that introduce essential grade level skills to prepare students for advancing in those subjects in the upcoming school year. High school students can also take advantage of honors and Advanced Placement®* courses to get ahead in their learning and improve their GPA.
  • Enrichment courses. Students can learn a new language or explore a new subject that interests them. Students will be excited to learn over the summer with engaging courses on different subjects they might not be able to take during the regular school year.

Attending school over the summer can be a valuable and worthwhile experience for students who want to continue strengthening and developing their learning skills and keep their study skills sharp. Learn more about Pearson Online Academy’s summer school program and check out their full course list and how to enroll.

*Advanced Placement® is a registered trademark of the College Board. Used with permission. 

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