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Editorial: Done right, pros outweigh cons in longer school year

Albuquerque Public Schools is asking for feedback as it considers extending the school year by 12 days. It’s a statewide initiative the governor signed into law in order to boost N.M.’s improving but still dismal education record. There’s limited funding for the proposal, so APS is asking the public to help identify which schools and students would most benefit.

And while some parents will be upset about curtailing summer vacation time, and students about limiting summer jobs and sports activities, they should consider the gains more than two weeks of school can provide – when done right.

The same goes for teachers, who might have similar misgivings since summer break not only provides opportunities for second careers but also time with their families and a chance to decompress from the stresses of leading a classroom.

But the larger, long-term picture is New Mexico’s K-12 students have improved over the past seven years but are still not doing as well academically as kids in many other states. (It’s important to note a longer school year doesn’t just mean more time in a classroom, but also more opportunities for enrichment activities, engaging educational experiences and individualized help.)

A longer year can pay off. Though a five-year University of New Mexico/Utah State University study found mixed results, the best academic outcomes came when students had the same teacher for the school year and summer. Such data-driven practices must be followed, and parents, students and taxpayers will deserve to know if a longer year resulted in academic gains or just bigger budgets.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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