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Health Equity: Year-Round Schooling

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What the CPSTF Found

About The Systematic Review

The CPSTF finding is based on evidence from a meta-analysis published in 2003 (Cooper et al., 47 studies, search period January 1965–March 2002) combined with more recent evidence (6 studies, search period March 2002–August 2016).

Of the 47 studies from the meta-analysis, 23 specified whether the calendar was single- or multi-track. In combination, 18 studies evaluated single-track year-round calendars and 11 evaluated multi-track year-round calendars. One study (Graves 2010) is counted twice because it evaluated both single- and multi-track programs, and another study (Wu et al., 2010) is not included because it evaluated both single- and multi-track programs together.

The systematic review was conducted on behalf of the CPSTF by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and in research, practice, and policy related to promoting health equity.

Context

Students may lose the equivalent of two months of grade-level learning over a summer break (Cooper et al., 1996). This loss is greater among economically disadvantaged students. Schools may be able to address this problem by shortening the summer break and redistributing vacations and breaks throughout the school year.

Summary of Results

Detailed results from the systematic review are available in the CPSTF Finding and Rationale Statement.

Cooper et al. meta-analysis

  • Studies of single-track year-round calendars showed small and consistent improvements in standardized achievement test scores (15 studies)
  • Studies of multi-track year-round calendars showed inconsistent results for standardized achievement test scores (8 studies)
  • There was no significant difference of effect between studies that did and did not include intersession programs

Evidence from the updated search

  • Studies of single-track year-round calendar reported mixed findings (3 studies). The role of intersession in single-track programs was not clear.
  • Studies of multi-track year-round calendar reported mostly negative outcomes (3 studies).

Summary of Economic Evidence

An economic review of this intervention was not conducted because the CPSTF did not have enough information to determine if the intervention works.

Applicability

Applicability of single-track and multi-track year-round schools across different settings and populations was not assessed because the CPSTF did not have enough information to determine if these interventions work.

Evidence Gaps

Additional research and evaluation are needed to answer the following questions and fill existing gaps in the evidence base.

  • Is there an optimal spacing of school days and breaks for purposes of learning?
  • Does optimal spacing match a particular calendar design?
  • Single-track calendars
    • Are single-track calendars effective in the absence of intersession programs? Does the intersession account for the benefit of single-track calendars?
  • Multi-track calendars
    • How is track placement achieved and how can equity be assured?

Study Characteristics

  • Outcomes included student scores on standardized tests administered at national or state levels.
  • All studies were conducted in the United States.
  • In the Cooper et al. meta-analysis, year-round schooling was implemented in elementary (23 studies) and secondary (9 studies) schools in urban (18 studies), suburban (6 studies), and rural (5 studies) school districts.
  • In studies from the updated search, year-round schooling was implemented in elementary schools (3 studies), high schools (1 study), and a combination of elementary, middle and high schools (2 studies). Three studies evaluated interventions in mixed urban/suburban or rural (3 studies) settings, and 3 studies did not report this information.

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