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School All Year?

Now that summer is over and exhausted parents have sent their kids back to school, an ongoing question arises once again: should kids go to school all year? New research has found that students in "year-round" schools don't learn more than their peers in traditional nine-month schools. And if kids go to school full-time, they won't have enough chances to get DIRTY!

Sociologist Paul von Hippel found that, over a full year, math and reading test scores improved about the same amount for children in year-round schools as they did for students whose schools followed a traditional nine-month calendar. He says, "We found that students in year-round schools learn more during the summer, when others are on vacation, but they seem to learn less than other children during the rest of the year."

The problem with year-round schools may be that they don't actually add more school days to the 180 typically required, von Hippel says. Instead of a three-month summer vacation, year-round schools typically have several breaks of three to four weeks spread throughout the year. The total number of school days and vacation days remains unchanged, but they are distributed more evenly over the calendar. Although school districts often adopt year-round schedules to help alleviate overcrowding, some educators have claimed that eliminating the long summer vacation will provide academic benefits for students, but von Hippel says, "The results don't support that claim." But since one of the big pushes for year-round schooling comes from the increasing numbers of employed mothers, who can't take 3 months of vacation every summer, this is a change that may take place anyway.

A little dirt never hurt?in fact, it's GOOD for kids. But in today?s super-clean world, vaccinations, anti-bacterial soaps, and airtight doors and windows are keeping dirt and disease-causing germs at bay. While staying germ-free can prevent the spread of disease and infections, leading a cleanlier lifestyle may be responsible for an increase in allergies among children. And if kids go to school year-round, they?ll have even LESS chance to get down and dirty.

Allergist Marc McMorris says, "We've developed a cleanlier lifestyle, and our bodies no longer need to fight germs as much as they did in the past. As a result, the immune system has shifted away from fighting infection to developing more allergic tendencies."

Plus today's family is smaller, which lessens children's exposure to germs and infections. Families with three or more children?which were more common 20 or 30 years ago?kids tend to have fewer allergies because more children mean more germs and greater exposure to bacteria and viruses. McMorris says, "The natural immune system does not have as much to do as it did 50 years ago because we?ve increased our efforts to protect our children from dirt and germs."

A new study shows that reducing class sizes in the early grades of elementary school could be among the most cost-effective ways to reduce costs for health care and medical intervention. The study was prompted by previous findings that small class sizes increase high school graduation rates, especially among low-income students, and that people with higher levels of education are less likely to need Medicaid or Medicare before age 65.

The researchers estimate that reducing class sizes would mean an additional 72,000 to 140,000 students would graduate high school each year, producing net savings of $14 billion to $24 billion.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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