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Education Trends: Year-Round Schooling

For most American kids, the end of June means the end of school. But for Teresa Kochuk's two sons, ages 9 and 10, summer isn't one long vacation. After a week off, they and their classmates at the West Lake School, in Apex, NC, will move to the next grade and classes will start right up again. The school operates on a year-round calendar.

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In 1968, only one school in the country held classes through the summer. Last year, 2,681 public and 71 private schools followed a full-year schedule, according to the National Association for Year-Round Education, in San Diego. One reason for the growing popularity is practicality. School overcrowding can be eased by breaking the students into groups that follow rotating schedules with short vacations throughout the year.

Another reason: Children's test scores  -- especially in math  -- slip when they're out of school for the summer, according to studies at the University of Missouri at Columbia. Other research shows that kids' achievement in reading and math improves slightly with year-round education.

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Schooling through the summer may have some disadvantages for parents. Kay Luzier, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher in a Port Orange, FL, school that experimented with a year-round plan, says that it was difficult for families with kids on different schedules: Planning a vacation was all but impossible, and separate childcare arrangements were needed. Other objections came from families who wanted their kids to attend camp or get involved in other activities.

On the plus side, the new arrangement offers flexibility. "The schedule can give families more opportunities to take short vacations," says Luzier, herself a proponent of the change, and a mother of one. And for many parents who wonder how to fill eight or more weeks of their kids' time during the summer months, short breaks can be a godsend.