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Year-round elementary schools have been a fiscal necessity in our fast-growing school district for years now. But a new study shows students in year-round schools are scoring lower on standardized tests than those in the traditional nine-month schools.
A survey of standardized test scores last year found that Clark County students in nine-month elementary schools scored 10-percent higher than students who attend year-round schools.
That begs the question: do school schedules significantly influence academic achievement? That's what a study group of 15 parents and school administrators are now trying to determine.
The group was organized by District Superintendent Walt Ruffles to evaluate the effects of school schedules on finances, student achievement and even family life. Of Clark County's 206 elementary schools, 82 are currently on year-round schedules -- that's about 70,000 students.
After several years of being on a year-round schedule, the principal of Lee Antonello Elementary in North Las Vegas fought hard to move to a nine-month calendar three years ago. And despite the increase in enrollment, Lee Antonello reached high-achieving status on its standardized tests.
The principal says in a survey of her parents, more than 90-percent opted for the traditional school year --- and that has translated into higher attendance rates and increased parental involvement.
"Increased parent involvement means increased student learning and that means better test scores. So here in this community, our scores have gone up significantly since we've been on a 9-month schedule," said Principal Linda Reese.
But school district officials point out that many year-round schools are also successful -- and that test results alone don't take into account important factors. Some schools have larger at-risk and transient populations, which typically score lower on tests.
Other schools have more experienced administrators and smaller staff turnover -- which can also influence student test results.
The study group will meet again Friday morning to finalize its recommendations for the superintendent, who will then present his own proposal to the school board.
While these findings could lead credence to a fear of fewer year-round schools in Clark County, that is not likely and the reason is --- funding. If you were to move those 70,000 year round students to nine-month schools today --- the district would need 15 more campuses.
So it will likely be dollars that decide just how many schools will operate year-round.