A Proposal to End An August School Start
There are two major seasons in which the entire mindset and mentality of a student revolves around: the school year and summer vacation. Summer is the long-anticipated period of liberty from the everyday toils of the school year that consume students for the majority of their childhood. Since the school year is such a prominent and important component to a student’s development, decisions regarding it should be carried out in the best of ways. Decisions should be made according to credible research and never based upon assumptions from those who may not even be affected. All change should be made according to the student’s benefit, allowing him or her to have the best experience possible. It is for these reasons that kindergarten through twelfth grade students should begin their school year in September after Labor Day. In contrast to the rising belief that beginning school in August benefits students, these individuals actually experience hindrances, disadvantages, and, for lack of a better word, drawbacks to their education and school experience. In addition, this change is not beneficial to parents, school resources, or the country’s economy. Through credible research and evidence, it is easily proven that school should begin after Labor Day for all kindergarten through twelfth grade students because of the anger surrounding the broken tradition, the inconveniences the change causes for students and parents, the damaging consequences the decision inflicts on the economy and school resources, and the invalid proof that it is a less beneficial form of education.
Traditionally, nearly all kindergarten through twelfth grade students in the United States have begun the school year after Labor Day, with the exception of a few Southern schools that chose to start in August early on in their education systems (Cappe 2). However for the 2015-2016 term, nearly seventy-six school districts in Minnesota alone chose to start classes before the holiday weekend, forcing students to return to school in mid-to-late August (Raguse). Understandably, this decision caused anger from both parents and students, leading to strong opinions and protest. Several states throughout the country, including Georgia, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, and others, have formed protests, programs, and bills in hopes of eliminating an August school start (Janofsky 3). Vivian Jackson, a parent and organizer of the Save Georgia Summers program states that “There is no reason for it. “We don’t want to start school in August and get out in May, we want our summers back” (Janofsky 4). Based on tourism industry polls, sixty-five percent of parents in the United States stand by Jackson in saying that they also would prefer the traditional summer break over an early start date in August (Guest). Sherry Sturner, a parent and leader of the protest in Florida, claims that no one she knows wants to start school in August and that everyone is miserable because of the decision (Janofsky 5). Parents are familiar with a post-Labor start, and now that many school districts have changed their policies, parents are feeling the need to speak up about their opinions. Angry parents and students, combined with protests and bills are reasons enough to make this tradition worthy of continuation. People choose to be heard when they have strong opinions combined with reasoning as to why an aspect of their life is not acceptable. There are very few individuals who protest against the post-Labor Day start, and even those who do do not compare to the amount of complaints heard from the opposing side (Cappe 2). This must be the case for a reason. When such protests are heard from those that are directly involved, it would most likely be in the best interest of anyone who can, to listen. The reasons for keeping this tradition alive do not simply dwell in the nostalgia and sentimental value that parents and students hold. Traditions are kept in place because they have been proven to lead to continuous success and because a change to them would bring along only a slow destruction of what has been standing strong for so many years. In addition to the traditional aspect of the issue, there are many inconveniences for parents and students that arise with the change. Many school districts in the United States have not adopted the pre-Labor Day start. There are also several school districts that have (Raguse). This mix alone creates vexation because of the diversity in schedules. Families and friends who have children in different school districts may be forced to spend less time together because one child has school, while the other is still on summer break. Labor Day weekend has traditionally been a major vacationing weekend, but this tradition is destined to end if some families need to stick around home for school (Banchero). Besides the clash between school districts, there is also conflicts between individual schools. Some private schools have adopted the earlier start, while the districts that they are associated with have not. This can allow for issues with after-school programs and busing for the first two weeks of school (Mulvihill).
Beginning school in August can also be a problem for students who have summer activities during school hours up until Labor Day. Activities such as sports, camps, mission trips, or vacations are valuable to the overall development of students and should not be cut short by an early start to the school year. Students who hold summer jobs would also be aggravated because most will not end work until Labor Day. Sara B. Heller, who is an Assistant Professor of Criminology at Penn Arts and Science conducted a study surrounding summer jobs and crime rates in 2014. By observing that crime rates were lower during the summer work period, it can be seen that the majority of summer jobs last for the entirety of the summer and sometimes after Labor Day as well (Heller 1). Having to begin school in August would cut into work schedules and could also harm a student’s grades if he or she continues the job while attempting to make time for school work (Heller 1). Another drawback that comes with an early start appears in the case of student athletes, who typically experience longer practices in August in order to properly prepare for the season. If school begins during this time, practices such as these would appear more time consuming and may discourage athletes from participating. This issue also arises in the spring when the majority student athletes would still need to return to school daily throughout the month of May because most spring sports seasons last at least through the middle of the month, depending on the success of the team. This inconvenience alone may prevent many students from playing, especially seniors who finish the school year two weeks in advance. The drawbacks and disadvantages of an early school start and end are enough to avoid the change on their own. However, the decision also comes with several other disadvantages to the United States that continue to make the argument more convincing.
The economy of the United States is also impacted by the decision of when to start school. Air conditioning bills are naturally higher for schools who begin in August, which only adds to the money that the average tax payer is forced to pay. Although many think the climate does not change significantly from August to September, this past August was far above normal for temperatures. With twelve states reaching extreme highs and more than five states settling in above one hundred degrees in late August, the summer month was considerably warmer than September (NOAA). For this reason alone, beginning the school year in August is damaging to our school’s resources and our students. One mother from Georgia states that she spent her day getting a note from the doctor because her child could not ride in a school bus when the temperature was ninety degrees. She added that “there’s not a day in August here when the temperature does not reach ninety degrees” (Janofsky 1). Inconvenience for parents and students is not the only downfall in regard to the temperature. Furthermore, student performance is not enhanced when in a hot and uncomfortable atmosphere, such as a classroom filled with students in one hundred degree weather. “State money is directly linked to student performance” and according to Robert Scott, who is a Texas Education Commissioner, “early start dates do not translate into academic excellence” (Ford). When earlier start dates create a less successful learning environment for students, the performance rate decreases, causing loss in state money. No one benefits from state money issues, especially a country that is also losing dollars in tourism. Aside from state money downfalls, a pre-Labor Day start to schools significantly damages the tourism industry in our nation. In 2013, a finance investigator from Maryland named Peter Franchot conducted a survey asking families about travel plans surrounding Labor Day. His survey reports that “8.5% of the 514,680 Maryland families with school aged children would take an extra day or overnight trip” if school began after Labor Day. This alone would bring in seventy-four million in economic activity (Cappe 34). If this type of result could come from Maryland, it would most likely occur in a variety of other states as well. Thomas Noonan, the CEO of Maryland Education, states that “a three month tourist season is stronger than a two-and-a-half month season and a post Labor Day start date is good for revenue, tourism and jobs” (Cappe 36). Because of the added income, the state would receive a post-Labor Day start for schools would increase the economy despite any benefits that supposedly come from starting school earlier.
Despite the benefits a post-Labor Day school start provides, those who wish to change the tradition believe that an August start date can provide a more positive outcome for students. One of the main reasons for an early school start is the belief that student performance and test scores are improved. While it is true that schools who start in August see high test scores from their students, there is no credible evidence pointing towards a pre-Labor Day start as the reason. According to Robert Scott, “academic excellence is a combination of four factors: sound public policy, talented teachers,
involved parents and motivated students,” not early start dates (Ford). Test scores have not been found to be higher in schools that start before Labor Day or after Labor Day, making this argument rather unintelligent. A second argument used by supporters of the pre-Labor Day start, states that an earlier start to the year will allow the semester to end prior to winter break, allowing students to finish finals beforehand. While this argument is a true statement, it does not necessarily list a logical benefit. Once again, there is not evidence that this change increases test scores, and based upon logical conclusions,
students would rather have the option to study over a break than cram hours of studying into a school night when they have other responsibilities as well. It might be best to at least allow students the option to study over a break, even if they choose not to use it. A third and final counterargument to the post-Labor Day start states that there are benefits to finishing the school year in May versus June. This argument can be proven invalid quite easily because there are no provable benefits. The majority of schools are not finished until June, preventing student interaction between other friends they might
have outside of their own school. Summer jobs and activities typically do not start until later in the summer, creating an absence of usual activities that would otherwise be available (Heller 1). Students finding themselves with less to do can often get into trouble, and there is nothing beneficial about that. Studies have shown that summer jobs decrease violence and crime up to forty- three percent and without work, a student may become part of this statistic (Heller 1). Overall, no studies or statistics have proven that starting school in August and finishing in May is more beneficial than a traditional
In conclusion, credible research and studies show that school should begin after Labor Day for all kindergarten through twelfth grade students because of the anger surrounding the broken tradition, the inconveniences the changes causes for students and parents, the damaging s the decision inflicts on the economy and school resources, and the invalid proof of a better method of education. The post-Labor Day start has been successful for schools in the past, and the anger coming from parents and students proves the fact that the pre-Labor Day start does not properly stack up to the tradition.
Inconveniences for parents and students combined with the damages the decision has on the economy and school resources is clearly enough reasoning to justify a traditional start to school because these issues will only increase overtime, as the decision slowly erodes the quality of education students are receiving. Finally, the primary reason for eliminating the pre-Labor Day start lies in this: there is no valid evidence that the earlier start transfers to a better education. All proof of this is invalid and dwells only in the assumptions of those who are not affected by their decision making.
Banchero, Stephanie. “School in August Gets Low Grades.” WSJ. 19 Aug. 2012. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.
Cappe, William. “Task Force-Final Report.” Task Force to Study a Post-Labor Day Start Date for Maryland Public Schools Final Report Annapolis, Maryland June 2014
Task Force to Study a Post-Labor Day Start Date for (2014): n. pag. Marylandpublicschools.org. June 2014. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.
Ford, Craig. “A New School Year Is Starting, But It Should Be Starting Later.” Alhousedems.com. 19 Aug. 2015. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.
Guest, Greta. “Ludington Daily News.” Ludington Daily News. N.p., 8 Nov. 1997. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.
Heller, Sara B. “Summer Jobs Reduce Violence among Disadvantaged Youth.” Sciencemag.org. Dec. 2014. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.
Janofsky, Michael. “New York Times.” As More Schools Open Earlier, Parents Seek to Reclaim Summer (2005): Septstart.com. 6 Aug. 2005. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.
Mulvihill, Jake. “Significant Calendar Change for 2016-17 School Year.” 1 Dec. 2015. E-mail.
Raguse, Lou. “At Least 76 Minnesota Schools Starting Class Early.” Kare11.com. 31 Aug. 2015. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.