School Calendars and Academic Achievement

Authored by: Harris Cooper , Geoffrey Borman , Ron Fairchild

Handbook of Research on Schools, Schooling, and Human Development

Print publication date:  May  2010
Online publication date:  June  2010

Print ISBN: 9780805859485
eBook ISBN: 9780203874844
Adobe ISBN: 9781135283872


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Contrary to popular mythology, the standard 9-month school calendar is not the result of an agrarian economy in early America. In fact, summers played a critical role in the early years of U.S. public education when young students living in both urban and rural communities frequently attended school during the summer months. During the 19th century, it was common for public schools in America to include summer terms, and many schools were closed during the spring and fall (Gold, 2002). This arrangement reflected a true agrarian calendar, as it freed children in rural communities to assist with planting and harvesting. However, as compulsory public education grew during the late 1800s and families became more mobile, often moving from rural to urban communities, state and county officials gradually began an effort to standardize the school calendar to the 180-day, nine-month school year that remains prevalent to this day.

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