Shorter summers short teen’s chances to earn money

Do shorter summers hurt the ability of teens to earn college money from such jobs as lifeguarding and camp counselors? (AP Images)

Do shorter summers hurt the ability of teens to earn college money from such jobs as lifeguards and camp counselors? (AP Images)

As a parent in a metro district that returns to school Aug. 1 under a “balanced calendar,” I read this Sunday AJC essay by Roswell parent Vicki Griffin with a personal interest.

While Griffin wrote the column to address the issue of lobbyist fees, she mentions her son’s experience in protesting his school district’s dwindling summer breaks.

That is a growing issue as more systems move to modified year-round or balanced calendars in which students have shorter summers and more breaks throughout the school year. Some states have essentially blocked short summers by legislating that school cannot start earlier than late August.

In fact, North Carolina passed a law that specifies school start dates: Start date no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26 and end date no later than the Friday closest to June 11 (unless a weather related calendar waiver has been approved, year-round school, charter school or cooperative innovative high school.) If waiver is approved the start date can be no earlier than the Monday closest to August 19.

I wanted to share the piece because we’ve talked more on the blog about the impact of these schedules and shorter summers on working parents rather than on working students.

I recently had a conversation with a teen in my community who lost an opportunity to work as a camp counselor in North Carolina this summer because she couldn’t stay on through the third week of August.  She had to be back home to start school Aug. 1.

Do shorter summers cut short chances for good summer jobs?

Take a look at this excerpt from Griffin’s column:

Before my eldest son was old enough to drive, he spent his first summer working as a lifeguard at a Roswell neighborhood pool. He appreciated that because it was a summer job, he could work as many hours as offered without it interfering with his classes or grades at Lassiter High School. He was adamant that he was going to save as much of what he earned as possible, so he’d have it for college. He knew that as a single working mom, I would be unable to help him as much as I would have liked. And every summer throughout high school he did just that, salting away his earnings with nothing spent on anything frivolous.

He supplemented what he made with swimming lessons and pool party duties whenever opportunities arose. He worked as soon as the neighborhood pools opened for the season, but his summer work was cut shorter every year due to the ever earlier school start dates in Cobb County.

He saw his younger brother, a competition-level swimmer who regularly made the county’s state swim team, unable to attend scholarship camps or visit with family because for him, summer was over and school began right after the state swim meets. He also realized he was losing thousands of dollars that would be needed for college and couldn’t understand why the school board, at that time, was more interested in shrinking his summer break than they were with responding positively to their constituents’ concerns.

Under pressure from parents who felt powerless, state representatives stepped in with proposed legislation that would have limited how early the school year could begin in Georgia. Committees were formed and hearings were held under the Gold Dome. My son felt so strongly about this issue that he spoke before the education subcommittee considering the bill.

The bill wasn’t passed, citing forfeiture of local control, but it was a valuable lesson in civics for my sons.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

142 comments Add your comment

Beck

March 25th, 2013
5:47 am

Summers aren’t “shorter” in the South, they just start earlier. School ends before Memorial Day and then starts somewhere in the neighborhood of early August from year to year. In other places they start in late June and go until late August or Labor Day. It’s the same amount of time.

I’ve been teaching for 16 years and it has been this way for at LEAST the last 15 of them. I’m wondering if someone didn’t “fiddle” with the dates in the column. Can we just not consider this settled and get ON with things?

d

March 25th, 2013
6:20 am

Beck is right – earlier start to summer, earlier end to summer does not equate shorter summer. That being said, I, like many of my peers, didn’t worry about a summer job – during both my junior and senior years, I worked two jobs actually. One job put gas in my car and provided $70 a month to cover my insurance. The second was an unpaid internship 3 days a week that I did for course credit. Several of my friends also worked during the school year, and we all did fine. It is a matter of discipline knowing how to manage school and work.

mountain man

March 25th, 2013
6:29 am

Beck – you are wrong. Yes summers start a little earlier- when I attended school went through June 6, about a week or a week and a half longer in the spring. But we did not go back until after labor day – say aroung September 6 – that is over 12 weeks. Now some schools start BEFORE August 1. Those weeks whittled off the summer break then become the week-long “fall break” and week-long “winter break”, in addition to Christmas break and Spring break. The only ones who LOVE the new “balanced” calendar are the teachers – it gives them a break in the year. Working parents hate it the worst, because they have to try to find day care for their kids or else burn vacation to take care of them – there is a lady in our office who constantly complains about her vacation being used for child care.

mountain man

March 25th, 2013
6:39 am

Yes, earning money is ONE MORE reason that shorter summer breaks are not a good idea. Research has also shown that the old saw about students “forgetting” less is not true either – that both longer and shorter summers result in the same student learning outcomes. So the only “positive” from shorter summers is for the teachers – they like it better (most, that is).

mountain man

March 25th, 2013
6:52 am

“Can we just not consider this settled and get ON with things?”

Cobb County thought had it settled, until the majority voted in candidates who campaigned on the plank theat they would change back to the traditional calendar – and they won. Then when they fulfilled their campaign promise, teachers lambasted them.

AP Teacher

March 25th, 2013
7:04 am

Maureen,

DeKalb county employees get contracts today with DAILY rates instead of salary rates forcing teachers to run to an HR page to check how much they make. Anything worth investigating here? Does anyone know why DCSS is doing this?

Mother of 2

March 25th, 2013
7:22 am

I’m not sure if the summer is actually shorter for kids these days. My kids have had the same amount of time off k-12. Up north and in the Midwest, the summer started in mid to late June and ended Labor Day. In the south, it started in late May and ended early to mid August. We have a different break than their cousins, so visiting family required better organization on my part.

I know that some camp schedules don’t follow our summer schedule, and I know that newer families sometimes have trouble adjusting to the summer schedule, but I think that it’s not that hard to figure out. My kids managed to find jobs and take a family vacation. If sports scouts aren’t available when your son or daughter is on summer vacation, your coach should be able to help creat a video. Sometimes you just have to adapt.

Funny

March 25th, 2013
7:28 am

What happened to the school calendar all about education and learning? We are getting to far off the real issue here with the idea that teens needs a longer summer to earn money.

jerry eads

March 25th, 2013
7:31 am

Many years ago when I worked in Virginia their legislature passed what has always been known as the “Kings Dominion law” – preventing school districts from opening before Labor Day. The lobbying pressure, of course, came from the very monied amusement park interests to ensure them cheap student labor at the peak of summer vacation traffic. It would be interesting to review the effects of that law to ponder the benefits of such a change in practice in Georgia.

I also wonder how much might be saved in school operating costs by not trying to cool buildings in August – - -

This is Mrs. Norman Maine

March 25th, 2013
7:34 am

The summer calendar is SHORTER. We got off the 1st week of June and went back the last week of August. It was 12 weeks long. They have to make the summers shorter now to make up for all the breaks they get during the school year, “teacher workdays” etc.

Pardon My Blog

March 25th, 2013
8:11 am

When we changed to a semester system as opposed to the old quarter system, the feeling was that the end of the first semester had to occur prior to “holiday” break (pc for Christmas holiday) because the students would forget what they learned and not do well on finals, hence starting earlier in August(prior to Labor Day). Then those in education who think they the answer have gradually been starting sooner and sooner and giving more breaks during the fall semester. This seems to be a push toward year round school.

When you think about the cost of utilities alone by starting school during one of the hottest months in the South one would think that common sense would prevail. Then there are summer jobs for teens not to mention time for families to be able to enjoy some vacation time, summer learning camps, and summer sports (such as competitive swimming). Has anyone noticed the student absent rate during the first three weeks of school?

I feel this is a factor driving more parents to home school (putting some kids at a disadvantage) so that they can have some flexibility with their schedule. I know the argument out there is that there are some disadvantaged youth that really need this but this is not a one size fits all country. Perhaps the churches or other organizations can offer a choice for this group but there has to be some flexibility.

Bottomline, starting August 1 is a joke and will not increase learning in the classroom.

South Georgia Retiree

March 25th, 2013
8:12 am

Well, 180 instructional days and 190 teacher days used to be the standard calendar. Each system would set its own calendar and was free to do whatever it wanted with the calendar as long as this standard was met. Now, however, in these days of lack of state funds, Georgia has waived this requirement, and there are many systems with less than 180 school days and also less teacher days to work and plan. In fact, the last figure I saw was that 121 school systems have fewer than 180 instructional days now. This is all to say that there are many variations of the school calendar, and no one can be sure from year-to-year what the beginning and ending dates of school will be.

Concerned DeKalb Mom

March 25th, 2013
8:12 am

If School Boards were interested in lengthening the school year–that means increasing teacher time with students, to say 200 days vs. the current 180 (or less if state grants you a waiver)–then the changes in start/end time would have more merit academically. But simply adding a week here and a week there time off does not seem to do anything other than cause strife in a community and increase the teacher vs. parent conflict. It certainly isn’t improving academic achievement district-wide for anyone, I don’t think.

Grob Hahn

March 25th, 2013
8:23 am

As if there really were scads of jobs for teenagers out there. There aren’t. Why? Because we don’t have any sort of cheap labor shortage. These kids are competing with grown “immigrants” willing to work under the table for peanuts. Few communities have non-chain businesses concerned with the people they serve. Most don’t want a 3 month part timer no matter what kind of tax incentives are available.
Grobbbbbbbbb

Maureen Downey

March 25th, 2013
8:26 am

@Beck, I am referring to the move to modified year around calendars in which kids do have a shorter summer in exchange for breaks in the fall and winter, on top of the standard spring break, Christmas and Thanksgiving weeks. In my school system, kids have six weeks off throughout the year, counting all breaks.
Maureen

What's Best for Kids?

March 25th, 2013
8:32 am

It’s no skin off my nose as a working parent. Daycares and camps adjust to the needs of the parents. My daycare allows me flex time as a teacher; we get the YMCA to watch the school age child when we have teacher work days.
A flexible schedule is in the best interest of learning. Six or eight weeks on and one week off. Nine weeks on, two weeks off. Research shows that there is a lot of reteaching going on at the beginning of the year when students have a longer break.
I believe that sick days went down for both teachers and students when Cobb moved to a modified schedule.
Daycares will adjust; students will figure out a way to earn money.

WilieJo

March 25th, 2013
8:45 am

Continuing fiddling with the school calendar is bad for everyone. Businesses can’t adjust. Parents don’t know what to expect and families are disrupted. School systems need to settle on a calendar and stay on it.

indigo

March 25th, 2013
8:46 am

When I was in school, many years ago, we got out for the summer at the end of May and did not start back until after Labor Day.

I have yet to hear any logical explanation as to why this is still not the rule.

William Casey

March 25th, 2013
8:47 am

I taught 1975-2006 and teachers never had any say concerning the school calendar. I for one didn’t like the “extra weeks off” during the school year. It was tough enough getting students back into a work routine after the inevitable Christmas and Spring breaks.

homeschooler

March 25th, 2013
8:47 am

I couldn’t care less how long summer break is but if it is only going to be 8 weeks those 8 weeks need to be July and August. These kids get out in May and on into June the mornings are chilly, it doesn’t even feel like summer yet (It’s NOT summer as summer doesn’t start until June 21st). Then they go back when it is scortchng hot. The pool is closed during the day (ours is anyway because our lifeguards are students.) White Water closes during the hottest weeks of the year. Summer break needs to be in the summer. Not one month in the spring and one month in the summer. I’ve heard the reason for letting out mid-May is that once the CRCTs are over the schools get nothing done. Don’t know if that is true. Now that I have one child in school I realize I like the breaks during the year. My perfect schedule would be a 10 week summer from mid-June thru Labor Day with a few breaks throughout the year.
I don’t know about the teens and their job oportunities. I think studies of student performance need to dictate the decided on school calender but they need to STOP going to school in August.

catlady

March 25th, 2013
8:48 am

mountain man: you frequently get on here and blithely state what “teachers think” usually in a disparaging way. Well, I can tell you I know of NO teachers who like the “balanced calendar” or the subhuman early August starts. In 40 years and with hundreds of colleagues, I have never heard a ONE say they are for it.

It seems to me that so much of our school calendar is dictated by the high school, and particularly the football program.

And of course, I have stated before, I am NOT in favor of students working during high school unless there is a terrible family need. Parents should be providing what is needed for their children, IMHO. “The kids” will have plenty of opportunity for work in their lives after schooling.

catlady

March 25th, 2013
8:55 am

AP teacher: you are lucky to have daily rates on yours! For at least a decade, we have been given BLANK contracts to sign! And this, even after the ATTORNEY HIRED BY THE SCHOOL SYSTEM TO DISCUSS STAYING OUT OF LEGAL TROUBLE TOLD US NEVER TO SIGN A BLANK CONTRACT!!!!

catlady

March 25th, 2013
8:57 am

One other thing: I have always disputed the idea that “students will forget” over the Christmas break, over the summer break. If the student has learned to MASTERY they will not forget! The problem is, here in Georgia we are told to “expose” the students to this or that, which is NOT MASTERY!

Metro Coach

March 25th, 2013
9:00 am

As someone who works in a school system, I wish the calender began after Labor Day and August was included in Summer Break. It would save millions in electricity costs by not having the A/C running (and inevitably breaking down) during the hottest month of the year. Not to mention putting kids 3 to a seat on a blazing hot bus on an August afternoon.

Metro Coach

March 25th, 2013
9:01 am

And I’m firmly behind getting rid of Fall and Winter breaks, as well as holidays like Columbus day (since, you know, Columbus didn’t really discover America).

Teachers don't decide the calendar

March 25th, 2013
9:01 am

Moutain Man, it is cleary obvious to all here that you don’t like teachers (we get it). Your lack of knowledge about what teachers do and how little power we have is astounding. Teachers in Ga. by and large have little voice and no power. I’m sorry you were damaged in your youth by some “mean” teacher, but move on and say us the constant tirades.

mathmom

March 25th, 2013
9:02 am

Many school systems changed their calendars so that first semester would end before Christmas break, thereby helping students with their semester exams – kids tended to forget a lot of material over the holidays. High schools on block schedules of various kinds need to finish first semester in time for the EOCTs, which are given in December.

skipper

March 25th, 2013
9:03 am

Too much time is spent on the “cure of the day” and not enough on plain old common sense. Summer break is as good for a kid as a “balanced” school year. Many just want the baby-sitting services. School should be out Memorial Day, and start back after Labor Day, or at least the very end of August. If we spent more time letting the teachers teach and control discipline, and less time with politically-correct self-esteem issues and test-teaching, it would (amazingly) all be fine. Of course there will be those who disagree. Thats fine…..there is some bozo that will justify and re-enforce the virtues of jumping out of a three-story building.You could have school 365 days a year, and with the old Dekalb Board it would not make one iota of difference. Summers should be for work, vacations, etc.

Mountain Man

March 25th, 2013
9:07 am

“What happened to the school calendar all about education and learning?”

Have you not heard the research that says it does not matter what the length of the summer is? There is NO educational advantage to a shorter summer. Education and learning have NOTHING to do with the calendar, so WHY did we change from the traditional 12-week summer off calendar?

Maureen Downey

March 25th, 2013
9:09 am

@What’s best, The problem becomes if you want your older kids to go to an overnight camp that draws beyond metro Atlanta. Many sleep-away camps in the South get kids from all over and their dates align with the more traditional summer schedules. That is also true for those sports camps that are held on college campuses by visiting coaches. Many of them are the first week of August.
Maureen

Mountain Man

March 25th, 2013
9:09 am

” thereby helping students with their semester exams – kids tended to forget a lot of material over the holidays”

If they forget it over the holidays, they never learned it to begin with.

Dr. Proud Black Man

March 25th, 2013
9:10 am

“Do shorter summers cut short chances for good summer jobs?”

Irrelevant where I live. Most, if not all, of the traditional jobs for teens are now occupied by adults.

Mountain Man

March 25th, 2013
9:14 am

“Moutain Man, it is cleary obvious to all here that you don’t like teachers (we get it).”

I like teachers just fine – as a matter of fact, I am usually the one supporting teachers against the real villains of education: the administrators. I am repeating what I have heard teachers saying on this blog – that they like and need a break during the school year to “decompress”. I have not heard ANY parents saying they liked the balanced calendar – in fact, most DISLIKE it for various reasons. The initial thought was that it would improve learning by allowing less time for students to “forget” what they learned. Well, if they REALLY learned it, they would not forget. I haven’t forgotten my multiplication tables and it has been 45 years at least since I learned them. Research has substantialted that educational outcomes are not increased.

Mountain Man

March 25th, 2013
9:17 am

“Well, I can tell you I know of NO teachers who like the “balanced calendar” or the subhuman early August starts. In 40 years and with hundreds of colleagues, I have never heard a ONE say they are for it.”

Then where are all the teachers that have been on this blog posting that they like the balanced calendar for the breaks it gives them? If is is not the teachers, then who has been pusing the balanced calendar? It certainly wasn’t the parents.

Gail

March 25th, 2013
9:20 am

Having a job is a different type of learning, but it is still learning.
Also part of the reason kids need to work in the summer is that college has gotten so expensive. Even with the Zell Miller Scholarship it cost my children almost $10K a year for fees, room and board. UGAs website suggests a $13,604 cost above tuition for this year. In this difficult job market, I feel certain that the job experience that my children had during the summers helped them both have well paying (major related) jobs lined up before graduating college

indigo

March 25th, 2013
9:21 am

Dr. Proud Black Man

I’ve asked you many times just what is it you’re “proud” of. I never get an answer. So, I’ll just guess you’re proud of being Black.

Since I know you are a fair man, you won’t mind me being proud of being White.

And you won’t mind someone else being proud of being Asian-American.

And you won’t mind someone else being proud of being bi-racial.

And you won’t mind someone else being proud of being multi-racial.

If fact, since every human has a heritage, we can all, worldwide, go around being “proud” of whatever our heritage is.

Unless, of course, you think this would be silly and the only heritage worth being “proud” of is Black.

mathmom

March 25th, 2013
9:33 am

Mountain Man – I never said the students really learned the material! I was just noting the original justification for the early start of the school year. The EOCTs, which, of course, measure nothing but cost the taxpayers millions of dollars, have made it even more difficult for schools to go back to the traditional Labor Day to Memorial Day, or thereabouts, schedule.

Mountain Man

March 25th, 2013
9:34 am

I would say Dr. Proud Black Man is proud of having a doctorate degree. I congratulate you, Dr. PBM – I only have a Bachelor’s. Anyone who can stick it out and get a doctorate has a right to be proud!

Astropig

March 25th, 2013
9:35 am

A couple of notes-

Gail-Brilliant point.A lot of learning goes on during breaks. I helped my dad wire houses in the summer from elementary school through high school because we needed the extra money. I learned a LOT about house building in those years.I applied that knowledge and added a business degree and well…I don’t have to wire houses any more,I’ll tell you that.Sometimes a break from the formal learning routine can be a positive.

Proud-Tip o’ the hat to you.You manage to play the race card before we even get to read your poorly worded,nonsensical posts. Saves me the trouble of trying to figure out what you’re getting at.

Mountain-I enjoy your sticking a pin in the self important blowhards that have time to get on here and complain about totin’ that bale ,but can’t be bothered to get a job that pays them their inflated perceived worth.Keep up the good work. You’re right-most of the inanities and injustices are perpetrated by administrators.But most administrators are just former teachers that moved up the food chain a bit.

Mountain Man

March 25th, 2013
9:38 am

“The EOCTs, which, of course, measure nothing but cost the taxpayers millions of dollars, have made it even more difficult for schools to go back to the traditional Labor Day to Memorial Day, or thereabouts, schedule.”

Because you want to give them before Christmas break with the semester system, right?

I never have understood why we went BACK to the semester system after switching to the quarter system. Even in colleges. Now we have Maymester, and other such crap for those wanting to attend college all year round. If you break the year into four quarters, you get a 12 week summer, with plenty of time off during the year AND the EOCT’s fall before Christmas break. What advantages are there to the semester system?

Colonel Jack

March 25th, 2013
9:40 am

The argument that “students will forget” over the Christmas break is, of course, bulldookey. They won’t forget.

Where I grew up (Chicago), we started school the week of Labor Day (usually that Wednesday) and the school year – 200 days, mark you – was ended in mid June.

Nobody has yet given a good explanation (one that holds water) for why we don’t do that here.

After all, as has been pointed out, August is the hottest, most humid month of the year. School systems that insist on starting in early August have NO right to complain about the resulting high utility bills that this generates.

skipper

March 25th, 2013
9:41 am

@Mountain Man,
We agree on that….the quarter system (when you and I went to UGA….I think that is where you went) was a heck of a lot more sensable than the cluster that is the semester system.

RJ

March 25th, 2013
9:47 am

Students shouldn’t have to worry about summer jobs. I know they want to make the extra money, but my oldest didn’t get her first job until the end of her senior year. I wanted her to focus on school, not work. Summer jobs are great, but as many have stated, many of those jobs are being taken by adults due to the economy. I don’t care one way or another about the calendar. I will say that most teachers in my school are burned out and would appreciate a break, however it’s so much work trying to get kids back on track after the smallest break. With no adminstrative support, I’d rather keep the current schedule.

@indigo, just like you, @DPBM has a right to have whatever name he chooses. He doesn’t owe you an explanation. Frankly, even if he gave you one, you wouldn’t understand.

Mountain Man

March 25th, 2013
9:48 am

You are right, Skipper. UGA Class of 1980. Go Dawgs!

3schoolkids

March 25th, 2013
9:48 am

I have to wonder if the rise in heat stroke cases in school activities can also be attributed to the earlier school start dates. I remember marching around in a paved parking lot for band camp in the late 70’s and early 80’s and nobody dropped from the heat. We started school the week before Labor Day. I am also curious as to how the heat impacts the spread of illness, Strep always seems to spread like wildfire in the first 3 weeks of the school year. While I have no problem with the shorter break, I do believe it is craziness to have kids going back to school the first week of August (and before that in some districts). While it might be a problem for students wanting to work out of state for summer, the summer entertainment venues, camps and rec departments arrange their summer schedules around the earlier start in Georgia. Parents and students might need to be more creative in figuring out summer work (garage sales/selling stuff on ebay, growing fruit/veggies for the farmers market, house cleaning, pet sitting, car washing and yard work for neighbors). It is a perfect opportunity to teach your kids how to start their own business.

wishbone

March 25th, 2013
9:49 am

I taught from 1976-2011 and can honestly say that there used to be three great reasons for teaching, June, July and August. Kidding aside. We used to end around Memorial Day and begin the last week in August. The first semester did not end until the week after Christmas break and someone said, hey, we need to get 90 school days in before Christmas break and so, the football season was lengthened, and we started school earlier and earlier. Student performance did not imporve due to the move. It the student mastered the material, then they would remember the material and the students who were not going to learn, then it did not matter to them. Many teachers that I know despise the balanced calendar act as wel as the staff development charade.

skipper

March 25th, 2013
9:50 am

me too………a good time was had by all.

Looking for the truth

March 25th, 2013
9:53 am

I’ll be happy to go back to the “old” calendars if: 1) parents stop complaining about projects and other assignments that need to be completed over the holiday, and, 2) if the parents will make their child study for the exams which will need to be administered when the kids come back. As it stands now, the winter break is a true break – no assignments or anything to encumber the time with parents and family.

Mountain Man

March 25th, 2013
9:55 am

Looking for the truth – those things would also go away if they went back to the quarter system.

Mountain Man

March 25th, 2013
9:57 am

I think they make these changes hoping that one will turn out to be the “silver bullet” that will vastly improve educational outcomes without having to address any REAL issues such as attendance, discipline, or social promotion. Same way with the “cluster” that block scheduling made.