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The advantages and disadvantages of a balanced school calendar

Dissertation
Author: Kenneth L. Oppel
Abstract:
A qualitative study was conducted to augment the information regarding the advantages and disadvantages of year-round education (YRE). School corporations across the United States are seeking innovative methods to increase student achievement. The researcher sought to determine if YRE is a practical alternative to improve student achievement. The researcher hypothesized the following beliefs: (1) The researcher hypothesized that YRE increases student achievement due to a positive remediation correlation based on the fact that a school corporation offers intersession and enrichment throughout the year-round school calendar. (2) The researcher hypothesized that a comparison can be made between the Lanesville Community School Corporation students who attend school based on year-round calendar and similar school corporations who attend school based on a traditional calendar. The results of the hypotheses were mixed and validated through qualitative statistical analysis. The Lanesville Community School Corporation for the most part increased student achievement in various measurable areas. However, when the researcher compared the Lanesville Community School Corporation (balanced calendar) statistical data to five rural Indiana school corporations that operate on a traditional school calendar (similar demographics), the increased student achievement levels were not as obvious.

Balanced Calendar vii CONTENTS Abstract…………………………………………………………………………………iii Acknowledgements………………………………………………………………..….…v Chapter I Introduction………………………………………………………………….1 Chapter II Literature Review……………………..…………………………………….10 Chapter III Methodology………………………………….……………………………38 Chapter IV Findings……………………………………………………………………41 Chapter V Discussion of Findings………………………………….………………….84 References……………………………………………………………………………...97 Biography….………………………………………………………………………….103

Balanced Calendar 1 Chapter I Introduction The Problem

Public educators continue to seek innovative methods to improve education in the United States. In order to accomplish this task, the federal and state governments have significantly increased educational spending. Nationwide, educational spending increased 53.5 percent in the past 20 years to a national average of $7,557 per pupil, according to a report released by the American Legislative Exchange Council (Berg, 2004). In the past 20 years, Vermont increased its educational spending by 87.2 percent, New Hampshire by 83 percent, and Maine increased educational spending by 108.1 percent according to American Legislative Exchange Council (Berg, 2004). In the city of Detroit, educational spending increased from $2,766 (1983-84 school year) to $3,998 (1988-89 school year), a 44.5 percent increase in educational spending (Hutchinson, 1991). With increased educational funding, governmental officials hope that the long term benefit of increased funding and innovative teaching methods will boost student achievement in the classroom. The federal government responded to educational concerns of the public on January 8, 2002, when President George Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This new law requires all public schools in the United States to improve student achievement or face possible federal sanctions (Indiana Department of Education, 2005). Since the passage of NCLB, almost every state legislature within the United States has passed educational legislation mandating that public school corporations in their states increase student test scores. Prior to NCLB, the Indiana General Assembly enacted Public Law 146, Public Law

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193 and Public Law 221 (Indiana state statutes, 1999), to improve standards, assessment, school improvement, and accountability in the public classroom. To promulgate NCLB, the Indiana General Assembly has mandated that a public school failing to increase ISTEP (Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress) scores over a two-year period, may find the school corporation placed on the state School Improvement List. If an Indiana school corporation fails to improve, the Indiana Department of Education has the authority to assess various sanctions, such as reduction in state funds (Hooper & Hupp, 2004). The State of Indiana also has the authority to take over local control of the school corporation by removing the power of the local governmental entity and placing that authority within the Indiana Department of Education (Haoper & Hupp, 2004). Citizens and government officials throughout Indiana believe that increasing the state and federal educational budgets is not the ultimate answer to improving overall student achievement in the public classrooms. As a result of increased education spending in Indiana, Harrison County property owners now disburse 68 percent of their real property tax statements to the local public school corporations (Stepro, 2006). One response of some Indiana school districts to the criticism of increased spending is to experiment with non-traditional educational methods. One promising non-traditional educational proposal to advance student achievement is a school corporation adoption of a year-round school calendar (P. Partenheimer, personal communication, June 2, 2006). Each school year, public school corporations throughout the United States must decide when the school year will resume, conclude, and when the school corporation will implement student vacation days. For example, many school corporations in Indiana now start school in early

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August compared to thirty years ago when many Indiana public school corporations started the school year after Labor Day (M. Schneider, personal communication, May 15, 2006). In Benton County, Indiana, the School Board has mandated that its school system open as close to August 15 as possible, and all semester tests should be completed by winter break (Metzger, 2000). Many West Virginian school corporations have additional vacation days in the school calendar for the hunting season in late November (Metzger, 2000). Schools in North Carolina must have a school calendar that consists of 220 days, which 180 days must be instructional (Metzger, 2000). With many states, including Indiana, requiring additional student days or instructional hours, school corporations are forced to start school prior to Labor Day to allow time for the traditional summer break and to end the school year before Memorial Day (M. Schneider, personal communication, May 15, 2006). If a school corporation starts the school year at a later date, students and faculty members will get out of school at a later date. A later starting date can have a potentially negative effect on summer employment for students and teachers (M. Schneider, personal communication, May 15, 2006). For example, if a school corporation completes the school year in June, some teachers may have the problem of scheduling summer college courses that are necessary to enhance skills, increase pay or maintain licenses (M. Schneider, personal communication, May 15, 2006, Weaver, 1992). Finally, a later school corporation starting date may affect family vacation time because many parents schedule vacation time during the traditional summer school break months of June, July,

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and early August (Gee, 1997; M. Schneider, personal communication, May 15, 2006; Weaver, 1992). The subject of YRE (year-round education) has been debated by educators since its inception in Bluffton, Indiana, in 1904. Year-round education was put into operation in Bluffton to extend the capacity of the school and to elevate student achievement (Bemis, 1999). Supporters and detractors of a year-round calendar disagree on the negative and positive statistics concerning the implementation of YRE. This study will examine whether breaks (intersession) and remediation for students when school is not in session increase the achievement scores of students. The study will also examine if an YRE calendar improves attendance, ISTEP scores, graduation rates, and the percentage of high school graduates pursuing a college education.

Rationale

The literature in favor of YRE leads the educational community to believe that the traditional school calendar which most public school corporations in the United States implement is outdated and fails to address the modern educational needs of our students. In Indiana, for the most part, public and private school corporations base their school calendar on the Agrarian Society philosophy. This viewpoint assumes that the majority of Indiana families work on the farm and the parents require their children to remain home during the summer school vacation to work on the family farm (Lawson, 2002).

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The United States has progressed from an education based on a one-room school house to an educational system that provides every child in the United States the opportunity to attend a public school and receive a first-rate education. The literature in favor of YRE advocates that an YRE calendar improves student test scores, increases the graduation rate, increases student attendance, and lowers the drop-out rate (Inger, 1994). YRE supporters also believe students whose first language is not English would benefit from the movement toward a year-round school calendar because of less interruption in the classroom (Morton, 1996; Barber, 1996). Therefore, this study will examine data concerning YRE and whether the data supports an educational move towards YRE, or is YRE just another “here today, gone tomorrow” movement in public education.

Assumptions and Limitations

This study will research the advantages and disadvantages of YRE by reviewing YRE literature such as journal and magazine articles published within the past twenty years and individual case studies that are less than twenty years old concerning year-round school corporations in the United States and abroad. Finally, the study will examine a public school corporation educational record that is listed on the Indiana Department of Education’s Web site. The author will not interview students, teachers, or parents for this project. Specifically, the study will examine the following items: 1. Attendance rate. 2. ISTEP (Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress) overall scores.

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3. Graduates pursuing a college education rate. 4. Graduation rate. This study will examine the Lanesville Community School Corporation’s official school data that is listed on the Indiana Department of Education’s Web site. Each public school in Indiana must verify that their school data is accurate and justified when it is reported to the Indiana Department of Education (Indiana Department of Education, 2006). The study will evaluate the overall ISTEP scores, graduates pursuing a college education, attendance figures, and the graduation statistics of the Lanesville senior classes four years prior to the adoption of the Lanesville year-round calendar. The study then will compare the overall ISTEP scores, the percentage of graduates pursuing a college education, attendance figures, and graduation statistics of the Lanesville senior classes that have attended and graduated based on a year-round calendar. Finally, the study will attempt to determine if the year-round calendar adopted by the Lanesville Community School Corporation increased overall student achievement based on ISTEP scores and graduation statistics. The study will also attempt to determine if the year-round calendar increased attendance and the number of Lanesville graduates pursuing a college education. The purpose of this study was limited to a small southern Indiana school corporation due to the recent adoption of a year-round calendar which will allow the researched areas to be compared to Indiana school corporations operating on a traditional school calendar, with similar demographics.

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Terms

There are several terms which the reader should be familiar when studying the advantages and disadvantages of year-round education: • Extended school year- An increase in school days from the normal 180 school days to as many as 240 school days (McGlynn, 2002). • GQE- Graduation Qualification Exam- The Indiana General Assembly’s state-wide testing program for all students enrolled in Indiana public schools. Indiana students begin taking this mandated state exam during their sophomore year to qualify for a high school diploma. If a student fails any part of this test during the student’s sophomore year, the student can once a year re-take the exam, including the student’s senior year. (Public Law 193, Indiana General Assembly, 1992). • Intersession- Extended breaks during the non-traditional school calendar where students may receive remediation and enrichment from the teacher(s). Intersession classes may range from one-half to a full day and last for one or two weeks depending on the adopted school calendar (Kneese, 2000; Weaver, 1992). • ISTEP- Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress- The Indiana General Assembly’s mandated state wide testing program for all students enrolled in Indiana public schools for grades 3-10 (Public Law 221, Indiana General Assembly, 1999). • Multi-track calendar- This calendar divides students into groups, for example, three of the four student groups are always attending school. The group of

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students not in school during this time (vacation) may request enrichment classes or remediation to help improve academic performance (McGlynn, 2002). • Remediation- When a school corporation provides additional instructional learning to students who have been identified by teachers as those who are in the need of extra assistance (P. Partenheimer, personal communication, June 2, 2006). • Single-track calendar (Balanced Calendar) - This calendar provides a more continuous period of instruction. Students usually attend 180 school days. Faculty and students follow the same schedule. Rescheduled vacations are called intersession. During intersession, students may attend remediation based on teacher recommendation. The most common types of single-track calendars are 45 school days and 15 intersession days, 60 school days and 20 intersession days, or 90 school days and 30 intersession days. (P. Partenheimer, personal communication, June 2, 2006; Typical Year-Round, n. d.) • Traditional school calendar- The most widely accepted nine-month school calendar (McMillen, 2001, p. 69). In the United States, the traditional school calendar includes starting school in August, a one-or two-week break at Christmas, a one-week break at the end of March or early April (spring break), and the conclusion of the school year at the end of May or early June (M. Schneider, personal communication, May 15, 2006). • Year-round education (YRE) - A school year that provides learning that is more continuous by dividing the long summer vacation into shorter, more frequent

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intersessions. Students in a year-round program attend the same classes and receive the same amount of instruction as students on a nine-month calendar (usually 180 days). The year-round calendar is organized into instructional blocks and vacation periods that are evenly distributed across 12 months (McMillen, 2001, p. 68). Hypotheses

1. The researcher hypothesized that YRE increases student achievement due to a positive remediation correlation based on the fact that a school corporation offers intersession and enrichment throughout the year-round school calendar. The study will measure achievement by examining the following issues: (a.) overall ISTEP scores, (b.) percentage of graduates pursuing a college education, (c.) attendance statistics (d.) graduation rate. 2. The researcher hypothesized that a comparison can be made between the Lanesville Community School Corporation students who attend school based on year-round calendar and similar school corporations who attend school based on a traditional calendar. The following issues will be examined: (a.) overall ISTEP scores, (b.) graduation rate, (c.) attendance statistics, (d.) graduates pursuing a college education. Once more, the study focused on information identified on the Indiana Department of Education’s Web site because of the legitimacy of the educational data that all school corporations in Indiana must report.

Balanced Calendar 10 Chapter II Literature Review

Assumptions and Limitations of the Review

As stated in chapter one, the review of literature concerning YRE necessitates the use of diverse resources. Parents, politicians, and educators continue to seek innovative methods to increase student achievement. The substance of such debates revolves around the issue to change the traditional school calendar to a year-round calendar. The arrangement of the YRE literature review encompasses the combination of case studies, traditional research, dissertations, and various journal and literature articles. These professional pieces of writing and research illustrate the divisions concerning YRE amongst teachers, administrators, students, parents, taxpayers, and politicians. For the most part, YRE literature is not focused on any single point of importance. Rather, a vast segment of the literature explores many aspects of the YRE debate. This study will review the applicable literature and will focus on the following areas: • Background and history of year-round education • The advantages of a year-round calendar • The disadvantages of a year-round calendar • Case study reports • Traditional research reports including, but not limited to, dissertations, Indiana Department of Education public documents, and research papers.

Balanced Calendar 11 Review of the Development of Year-round Education

Charles Balinger (1988), an YRE advocate, stated: If YRE were the traditional school calendar and had been so for 100 years or more, and if someone came along to suggest a “new” calendar wherein students were to be educated for only nine (or ten) months each year with another (two or) three months from organized instruction, would the (North) American public allow, or even consider, such a calendar? (SD 35 Langley, p.6, 2003). YRE supporters such as Charles Balinger advocate that if the educational calendars were already based on a year-round calendar philosophy, the public would be offended to think about switching to a school calendar that takes off three continuous months a year. Researchers have complained that the traditional, agrarian-based school calendar doesn’t fit with the way children learn (White, 1999). Karl Alexander, a professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University believes “It’s the straightjacket of the calendar” (White, 1999). He believes that school corporations must include more flexibility into their school calendars. Providing more flexibility in a school calendar will allow children to learn at a different pace because not all children learn at the same rate (White, 1999). As stated in chapter one, Indiana public and private school corporations base their school calendar on the agrarian society philosophy. This viewpoint assumes that the majority of Indiana families work on the farm and the parents require their children to remain home during the summer school vacation to work on the family farm (Lawson, 2002). However, in 2006, the majority of Americans do not own or work on farm (A. Sauerheber, personal communication, December 5, 2006). Yet, Indiana, like most states, continues to operate their public schools on

Balanced Calendar 12 the agrarian calendar. Most public schools in the United States have a calendar that consists of 180 days. In comparison, the average U.S. school year in 1935-36 was 173 days (Kauffman, 2002). Only seven days have been added to the traditional school calendar in the past seventy years. The issue of when school calendars should begin, end, and when the vacation dates should be scheduled continues to be debated by educators, parents, and politicians. For example, most schools in Indiana start around August 15. The majority of school calendars in West Virginia extend Thanksgiving break for hunting season (Metzker, 2002). Aroostaook County high schools in Maine provide a three-week vacation for the potato harvest (Metzker, 2002).

Support for Year-round Education

It is very common for both parents to be employed year round. According to the United States Census Bureau, 52.1 percent of American families have both the husband and the wife in the labor force (United States Census, 2005). Due to the ever-increasing number of both parents working, recent opinion polls sustain the need for schools to augment the number of school days (Metzker, 2002). Increasing the number of school days will help parents who are in the need of child care services. The YRE literature asserted that studies suggest high parental approval for year-round calendars because of a positive change in their children’s attitudes (Flagg, 1999). The literature indicates that children’s attitudes changed for the positive because of more frequent breaks in the year-round calendar (Inger, 1994). In one year-round school study, the research indicated that teachers become more accustomed to the year-round teaching concept as they gain experience in a year-round calendar school

Balanced Calendar 13 (Kneese, 2000). Furthermore, many states are demanding that school corporations improve test scores. To accomplish this enormous assignment, some schools are starting the school day at a later time. Theoretically, the later starting time will allow students to get more sleep (Metzker, 2002). Some school districts have adopted a four-day school week (Metzker, 2002). Whereas other school corporations have added instructional and intersession days to the school calendar in the attempt to increase student achievement (Metzker, 2002; Spieth, 2006). The literature supporting YRE asserts that the student dropout rate decreases and student attendance increases (S D 35 Langley, p.11, 2003). The Jefferson County, Colorado School District had a three percent decline in the drop out rate once a year-round calendar was implemented (S D 35 Langley, p.11, 2003). A four year study of the Oxnard Unified School District in California revealed that its attendance rate improved once the year-round calendar started (SD 35 Langley, p.11, 2003). The suggestion that student attendance improves in a year-round calendar school corporation is due to the lack of student burnout and that intersession helps student achievement, will be discussed later in the literature review. Lastly, YRE supporters believe a school corporation’s operational costs for summer school are reduced because remediation during intersession aids student achievement during the regular school year, thus avoiding the need for summer classes (SD 35 Langley, p.12, 2003). This belief that a school corporation’s operational costs for summer school are reduced is based on the philosophy that YRE reduces the number of repeating grades or courses (SD 35 Langley, p.12, 2003).

Balanced Calendar 14 The Lanesville Community School Corporation spends an estimated $22,000 on intercession (P. Partenheimer, personal communication, January 22, 2007). However, the Lanesville Community Schools receive $16,000 in reimbursement from the state of Indiana (P. Partenheimer, personal communication, January 22, 2007). Intercession expenses are very similar to the operating costs of past summer school programs (P. Partenheimer, personal communication, January 22, 2007). Furthermore, intercession allows more Lanesville students to seek remediation during the school year, which immediately effects student achievement (P. Partenheimer, personal communication, January 22, 2007). The addition of instructional days or intersession is the heart of the YRE philosophy. Supporters of YRE adamantly assert that the addition of classroom instruction and intersession during the school calendar will naturally elevate student achievement in our nation’s public schools. Review Concerning the School Construction Advantages of YRE

The subject of YRE has been debated by educators since its inception in Bluffton, Indiana, in 1904 (Bemis, 1999). Year-round education was put into operation in Bluffton to extend the capacity of the school and to elevate student achievement (Bemis, 1999). Today, supporters of YRE continue to state the 1904 belief that YRE will increase student achievement and, if necessary, expand the capacity of a school. For example, school corporations save thousands, if not millions, of dollars in construction costs due to the year-round use of the school facilities (Flagg, 1999; Inger, 1994; McGlynn, 2002). YRE supporters believe that without switching to a year-round multi-track calendar,

Balanced Calendar 15 school corporations must appeal to the local community for permission to construct sometimes costly school facilities to alleviate overcrowding. Several studies suggest that a multi-track system will alleviate student overcrowding within a school corporation and advance student performance in the classroom (Flagg, 1999; Gregory, 1994; Kneese, 2000; McGlynn, 2002). In fact, Indiana school corporations are required by Indiana Code 6-1.1-19-8-d, section 2 to conduct a public hearing on why YRE is not feasible for any particular school corporation (Indiana Department of Education, 2007). The issue of YRE is so significant to the state of Indiana, that individual Indiana school corporation’s must hold an YRE public hearing before any Indiana public school corporation can seek permission from Indiana state government for a proposed building or renovation project (M. Schneider, personal communication, July 20, 2006).

Literature Review of School Systems Changing to YRE

The review of the literature found that starting in the 2006-07 school year, the state Board of Education in Hawaii voted to implement the “1-3-2” school calendar (Vorsino, 2005). The “1-3-2” calendar promotes a one-week fall break, three-week Christmas break, and a two-week spring break (Vorsino, 2005). A Hawaii Department of Education survey found that the “1-3-2” calendar received an 80 percent “popular” or “acceptable” rating from respondents (Vorsino, 2005). The least favored school calendar alternative was the traditional school calendar (Vorsino, 2005). In Tennessee, the Williamson County schools (2006-07school calendar) and the Metro Nashville schools (2007-08 school calendar) are discussing the option of adopting a year-round calendar ("Enhancing School," 2005). The proposed year-round calendar would create four

Balanced Calendar 16 nine-week school session, with one-week breaks in October and November. Spring break would consist of a two-week vacation, and the summer vacation would last eight weeks ("Enhancing School," 2005). The Nashville and Hawaiian school systems reflect a major obstacle any school system has when the decision has been made to accept the YRE philosophy. School corporations must examine issues such as student, parental, community, and teacher concerns. A school corporation must also consider maintenance and financial issues before adopting a year-round calendar. Once a school system decides to adopt a year-round calendar; the school system then must make a judgment to adopt a single-track or multi-track calendar.

Literature Review of the Types of YRE Calendars

The literature indicates (Flagg, 1999; Gregory, 1994; Kneese, 2000; McGlynn, 2002) a single-track calendar consists of 180 days during which students attend school for 45 or 60 days; then students have 15 or 20 days off respectively. Numerous school districts implement a single-track system to improve students’ academic performance by offering courses during intersession (break). For example, intersession in the Lanesville Community Schools consists of one week, three hour a day instruction after each grading period (Spieth, 2006). Parents may also request their children attend intersession with students who are having academia tribulations in their regular coursework (Spieth, 2006). As stated earlier, the literature indicates the purpose of a multi-track system is to alleviate student overcrowding within a school corporation and advance student performance in the classroom (Flagg, 1999; Gregory, 1994; Kneese, 2000; McGlynn, 2002).

Balanced Calendar 17 A multi-track calendar divides students into four groups and three out of the four student groups are always attending school. The group of students not in school during this time (vacation) may request or be recommended for enrichment classes or remediation to help academic performance (McGlynn, 2002). Year-round supporters stress it makes common sense for public and private schools to adopt a year-round calendar. Once a year-round calendar has approval from a school district, teachers will spend less time reviewing material that students may have forgotten during summer vacation (Flagg, 1999; Gregory, 1994; Inger, 1994). Molly Carroll, president of the Illinois Association for Year-Round Education, states, “The selling point is that year-round education eliminates the long summer of forgetting” (Flagg, 1999).

YRE Literature Concerning Student Achievement

According to YRE supporters, school districts across the United States are switching from a traditional school calendar to a year-round calendar believing that the year-round calendar improves student test scores and overall student achievement. In 1987, 360,000 students were enrolled in year-round schools (McCabe, 2004). Today, the National Association for Year-Round Education (NAYRE) reports that 2.3 million students attended year-round schools in the 2002-03 school year (McCabe, 2004). As stated in chapter one, NAYRE, (National Association Year-Round Education) the leading educational organization that supports YRE, defines year-round schooling: A school year to provide learning that is more continuous by dividing the long summer vacation into shorter, more frequent breaks. Students in a year-round program attend the same classes and receive the same amount of instruction as students on a

Balanced Calendar 18 nine-month calendar (usually 180 days). The year-round calendar is organized into instructional blocks and vacation periods that are evenly distributed across 12 months (McMillen, 2001, p. 68). In the discussion paper “It’s About Time,” this study stated: We have found that there is little or no negative impact on either academic or non-academic outcomes. On the contrary, there is increasing evidence that many students benefit academically when a school changes to a year-round calendar. Moreover, the benefits accrue to at-risk students and those who are not, to those who have the opportunity to attend intersession and to those who do not, to those who are in single-track as well as multi-track schools, and to elementary as well as secondary students (SD 35 Langley, p.10, 2003). Furthermore, Kneese (2000) found that when measuring 58 areas of educational topics, students in the year-round schools achieved at higher level than students 83 percent of the time in traditional calendar schools (SD 35 Langley, p.11, 2003). The Jefferson County, Colorado, school system did a two-year pilot program based on the philosophy of adopting a year-round calendar. White (1985) found that the drop-out rate for secondary students declined during the two-year test period (SD 35 Langley, p.4, 2003). In another YRE study, researchers studied the Advanced Placement Index (API) scores of the California public schools. The researchers discovered that the schools on balanced calendars outperformed schools on the traditional calendar (S D 35 Langley, p.11, 2003).The multi-track year-round schools on three-track and five-track calendars improved their API scores in 2000 compared to the 1999 school year (SD 35 Langley, p.11, 2003).

Full document contains 113 pages
Abstract: A qualitative study was conducted to augment the information regarding the advantages and disadvantages of year-round education (YRE). School corporations across the United States are seeking innovative methods to increase student achievement. The researcher sought to determine if YRE is a practical alternative to improve student achievement. The researcher hypothesized the following beliefs: (1) The researcher hypothesized that YRE increases student achievement due to a positive remediation correlation based on the fact that a school corporation offers intersession and enrichment throughout the year-round school calendar. (2) The researcher hypothesized that a comparison can be made between the Lanesville Community School Corporation students who attend school based on year-round calendar and similar school corporations who attend school based on a traditional calendar. The results of the hypotheses were mixed and validated through qualitative statistical analysis. The Lanesville Community School Corporation for the most part increased student achievement in various measurable areas. However, when the researcher compared the Lanesville Community School Corporation (balanced calendar) statistical data to five rural Indiana school corporations that operate on a traditional school calendar (similar demographics), the increased student achievement levels were not as obvious.