Ask yourself: do you, as a high school student, or as a parent, go out of your way to actively prevent knowledge-loss (of your student) over your own personal summer breaks? To those who said yes, I believe you, truly, I do. Unfortunately, whether or not you do, the numbers say otherwise, and as a result, teachers still spend most of first quarter reviewing with students, taking up time that could be used for progress. In a study done by University of Columbia-Missouri's Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsay, and Greathouse, it was found that the summer loss was similar to missing one month of the school year. Furthermore, Marcotte and Hansen, from the University of Maryland estimate that an additional 10 days of instruction results in an increase in student performance on state math assessments.
In the same study conducted by University of Columbia-Missouri mentioned earlier, it was also found that middle-class students' reading recognition tests improved over summer while lower-class students' scores decreased. This negative effect was found to increase as students' grade levels did. The picturesque vision of summer masks the reality that for too many children, particularly those of low-income families, languid summers can be educationally detrimental. Research conducted by Johns Hopkins' Alexander, Entwisle, and Olson shows that the primary reason the achievement gap between poor children and their more affluent peers widens over the course of their school careers is the long break in learning over the summer. It's called summer slide. In fact, the research found that the achievement gap at 9th grade traces back to differential summer learning over the elementary years. Finally, of course cost is a problem. The response is to weigh the long-term costs of the summer break against the short-term costs of a longer school year.
In efforts to improve education, the last thing we want is student burnouts. Sure, year-round schooling means virtually no summer break, but the main difference is that it's just structured differently--specifically, it's structured in a way to reduce stress. The most typical scheduling method is the 45-15 plan. This means we attend school for 45 days and then take a 15 day vacation.
The main issue with this topic is not that it's unknown. It's that it is so controversial, people don't even consider it. At the end of the day, it's important to remember that this isn't a debate about whether or not students should have a summer vacation. It's a debate about whether we can do what we should do. In fact it shouldn't even be a debate. It's time for our nation to stop debating and start improving.