Will DeKalb’s “Balanced Calendar” Address Summer Learning Loss?

The DeKalb County school board this week voted to adopt a “balanced” calendar. A calendar committee, comprised of parents, educators, and administrators came up with two calendar options for the district. Parents and staff members were then asked to vote online for their preferred option.  About 60% of teachers chose the balanced calendar, compared to 40% of parents. The other option, a traditional calendar, is similar to what the district uses now.

The balanced calendar shortens summer break and adds breaks throughout the year. Lillian Govus, the digital program manager for the DeKalb Schools, says shortening summer break by two weeks should help reduce learning loss that can occur over the summer.

“They talk about what’s called ‘summer brain drain,’ where students lose some of those skills and concepts they learn in the classroom throughout the year,” she says.

DeKalb students will go from an 11-week summer break to one that is nine weeks long. But, the total number of school days won’t change. That will make it harder to see progress, according to Gary Huggins, the CEO of the National Summer Learning Association, a non-profit organization that addresses summer learning loss.

“[Research shows] we have to add learning time to make a difference,” Huggins says, “So, if we’re moving time off around, we’re not actually adding time for kids to learn. And the second issue is nine weeks is still a lot of time with nothing going on.”

Huggins says one way the district could successfully tackle the issue is by offering its own summer program. He says targeting schools with the greatest need and developing programs for them could also be effective.