School Start Date & Calendar Configurations



Indiana state law currently requires 180 student instructional days and establishes that a student instructional day for grades 1 through 6 consists of at least five hours of instructional time. Grades 7- 12 must consist of at least six hours of instructional time. Law says the minimum length for a school term is 9 months. To read the entire law click here
http://www.in.gov/legislative/ic/code/title20/ar30/ch2.html


Below you will find a list of what we have been told are the pros and cons of setting a starting line for the first day of student instruction.  Thoughts come from news articles, House Committee Testimony, Research presented to us and thoughts communicated to us during conversations.  This by no means is an exhaustive listing, but we think it gives a good picture of the debate at hand.


Local Control


  Proponents of a starting line for student instruction say:

  • Parents do not have sufficient input in setting the school calendar.  A January 2009 SurveyUSA poll showed 86 percent of Hoosiers have never been asked for input on the school calendar. 
  • The state pays the largest percentage of the bill for public education and as such the state should require fiscally responsible school calendars to be set. Research shows early-August school start dates increase cooling costs without adding academic benefit.
  • This will ensure the bulk of taxpayer dollars go towards educational programming, classroom supplies and teacher salaries.
  • Federal guidelines require that he State Department of Education issue Adequate Yearly Progress reports early enough that school districts can offer school choice at least 14 days before the start of the school year.  Non-compliance could mean financial fines.  When schools are allowed to begin whenever they want, the state can hardly get the reports out in time.

  Opponents say:

  • Local elected officials are better able to set school calendars that work for their district.
  • School Board members are elected by the people and should have the power to set the school calendar.
  • Each district has vastly different needs and that one school-start date does not fit all. 

Fall Semester Exams


  Proponents say:

  • We have been unable to find research to support the assumption that students perform better academically if the first semester is complete prior to the winter break.  To the contrary, evidence that supports the calendar configuration does not impact academic performance.
  • Academic rankings, Advanced Placement test scores and college entrance exam scores all show when semester exams are given makes no difference on academic outcomes.
  • Long-term learning is enhanced when students have an opportunity to review and study material that they have been presented over a semester in a thoughtful and timely manner.  This is called the “spacing effect” and is well documented in psychology literature.

  Opponents say:

  • A later school start date will preclude the first semester from being completed prior to the Winter Break and students do better if they are able to take exams before the long break.

Teacher’s Continuing Education


  Proponents say:

  • Requiring teachers to complete the vigorous requirements during the school year takes time away from classroom students. A longer summer may make advanced education programs more appealing and certainly would not do harm. 
  • Evidence shows that most colleges and universities pull from many school districts. Colleges and universities cannot be expected to set summer class schedules around several school start and end dates.
  • It is difficult to create advanced learning opportunities for teachers when school start and end dates vary by weeks.
  • Many of our dedicated teachers are currently not certified in the area in which they teach. Federal education law requires certification in areas of teaching for all by the year 2012.
  • Teachers often receive increased pay as advanced degrees are received and we should maximize teachers have to achieve advanced learning.
  • Research shows that students taught by teachers who hold national certification score better on standardized tests.

  Opponents say:

  • Institutions of higher learning should modify their schedules to accommodate teachers’ needs.
  • It is not the school systems responsibility to set a school calendar that works with the summer sessions offered by colleges and universities.

Attendance Lag

  Proponents say:

  • Teachers report high absentee rates when the school year begins in early-August.  Many cite a Texas study that showed absentee rates from the first day of school to September 1 dropped 60 percent after Texas enacted a uniform school start date law.
  • According to Leila Muvidi, Lee County Schools – Florida, "Every year, we get a lot of parents on the week after Labor Day, especially the parents who are coming from up North.  They just assume it's the same thing all over the country."

   Opponents say:

  • Attendance the first few days, or weeks, of school are low regardless of when the school year begins.

 Student Employment

   Proponents say:

  • The majority of students today don’t work for the “fun” of it.  Many work to help with household expenses or to save for higher learning. 
  • The Employment Policies Institute found that students who worked during high school had higher paying jobs upon graduation. 
  • Teachers also report students with part-time jobs are more focused and more appreciative of their education than others.
  • Employers usually don't need students help during vacation time during the school year, as most businesses already have daytime help. So, when the school year begins in early-August, students are losing valuable work experience and often much needed income.

   Opponents say:

  • Student work is a matter of personal choice and the school calendar should not be structured around it.
  • Students are able to work after school, on weekends and during vacation days scheduled in the school year.  Regardless, students still have the same number of days to work.

 Agrarian Calendar

  Proponents say:

  • We couldn’t agree more.  The agrarian calendar, a calendar with mini-breaks and a shorter summer,  was ushered out with urbanization – and is continued to be pushed by those supporting the year-round calendar concept.

   Opponents say:

  • The “traditional calendar” is a calendar of yesteryear and we should not be continuing to use an agrarian calendar in this modern age. 

 Equal Number of Days in the Semesters

   Proponents say:

  • Most schools administer standardized tests in during the spring semester, creating a need for unequal instructional days in the first and second semester.
  • Unequal days in the total semester would not impact Advanced Placement courses as teachers could still use an equal number of days to teach the material and administer the exams.  The “extra” time in the semester could be used for community service projects or other specialized learning.

   Opponents say:

  • Early-August school start dates are necessary to allow the first semester to end prior to the winter break and ensure equal number of days in the semester.
  • Unequal semesters are unfair for students taking single semester advanced placement tests.  Classes would be more difficult for students taking the class during the shorter semester.

 Early-August School Start Dates Necessary to End School Year in May

 Proponents say:

  • A 2009 SurveyUSA public opinion poll showed 54 percent of respondents felt the school year ended at just the right time, while 78 percent wanted the school year to begin no earlier than the last week in August.  Sixty-nine percent want a long summer vacation with traditional holidays scheduled into the school year. 
  •  Indiana  requires 180 days of student instruction.  Between August 24, 2009 and Memorial Day 2010 there are 200 weekdays, plenty of time to schedule 180 days.

  Opponents say:

  • Parents want the school year to end prior to Memorial Day.  This necessitates an early-August school start date.

Early-August School Start Dates Allow More Frequent and Much Needed Breaks During the School Year

   Proponents say:

  • Calendars with many breaks interrupt the flow of learning.
  • University of South Carolina Dean of the College of Education, Les Sternberg, says when breaks occur and when tests are administered is irrelevant to test results.  Sternberg says he knows of no solid data proving that school start dates affect test scores – either for better or worse.
  • There is no evidence year-round school calendars (or balanced calendars as they are commonly referred to today) are better for student achievement, as proponents of year round school calendars claim.  Actually, a study by world renowned education researcher, Dr. Gene V. Glass, found:  “These arguments often rely on data drawn from laboratory experiments where subjects memorize nonsense syllables or perform other non-meaningful tasks.  The relevance of these studies to actual classroom practice is questionable.”
  • News articles report school districts around the country have dropped year round school calendars for two basic reasons – increased non-instructional cost and no increase in academic performance.

   Opponents say:

  • Teachers and students enjoy mini-breaks during the school year.  Frequent small breaks keep them refreshed and prevent student and teacher burnout.
  • More breaks during the school year and a shorter summer break are better for student achievement.

 Early-August School Start Dates Allow More Days to Prepare for Standardized Tests

   Proponents say:

  • Standardized tests are important and do place unbelievable pressure on students, teachers and families.  A cursory review of school calendars in which students return in early August showed the vast majority, if not all, of the school districts ended the first semester prior to the winter break.  Meaning by standardized test time, all students received about the same number of instructional days (half of the instructional time was complete by the end of December). 
  • Early-August school start dates allow for more small holidays during the first semester – eliminating the additional days of preparation for standardized tests.
  • We know early-August school start dates and frequent holidays increase cooling and operational costs for school districts.  Wouldn’t this money be better used to provide small group tutoring for struggling students during the school day…instead of being blown out the window in higher cooling costs?

   Opponents say:

  • With high stakes testing it is important to schedule as many days of instruction before the administration of the test.

 Travel and Tourism

   Proponents say:

  • We have been unable to find research that shows starting school early benefits long term learning.
  • We have found research supporting the need for increased dollars earmarked for education and research touting the benefits of youth work experiences.
  • Early-August school start dates are currently cutting up to three weeks from the August tourism season – meaning taxpayers are shouldering a heavier tax burden.
  • School administrators and teachers are continually reminding elected officials of the need for more educational dollars.  Taxpayers do not want to foot a larger bill.  By pushing back the start of the school year we would be eliminating one of the most expensive cooling months of the school year and increasing tax revenue to the state. 
  • A synchronized September 1 school start date would not only reduce non-instructional costs, but increase tax revenue available for legislators to increase public education funding.
  • Non-tourism related business have difficulty scheduling summer vacations for employees with children during the short summer. 
  • One out of five parents took a trip in the past year let their children miss school to be part of the travel experience. (Source: 1999 TIA Travel Poll)
  • Three out of ten traveling parents who took a child out of school had a postgraduate education. (Source: 1999 TIA Travel Poll)

   Opponents say:

  • School calendars should not be set around the needs of industry. 
  • The early school start date often provides families the opportunity to travel and less expensive and crowed times. 

 We Should Increase the School Year to Compete Globally

   Proponents say:

  • First of all, we should not measure the school year in days, but in hours.
  • On average, annually, US students spend 135 hours studying mathematics while their Japanese counterparts spend 107 hours.  (Source: IEA’s Trends in International Mathematics & Science Study (TIMSS) 2003.   On average, internationally, students spend 123 hours a year in school.
  • While we are offering more classroom hours than most other nations, the age range at which over 90% of students are enrolled in school is 6-16 for US students.  Of nation’s survey, 81 percent had 90 percent of the student population in school for more years than the United States.  Maybe we should be working harder to keep students in school, than fighting to keep early starts or increase the number of days offered.

   Opponents say:

  • We should not be talking about pushing back the school year, but be talking about increasing the number of days our students are in school to compete with other nations – many of which provide more days in school for students than we do in the US.


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