The confusion of hyphenated school years

We’re ten weeks into the 2011-2012 school year, and my son has settled into Kindergarten. It’s almost time for our first parent-teacher conference and quarterly assessments.

But right now I’d like to bring up a small issue, a pet peeve of mine:

Why do we have hyphenated school years, like 2011-2012? What’s wrong with a school year that mirrors a calendar year? The split school year is arbitrary (in Australia, New Zealand, and Malaysia, the school year usually begins in late January and ends in early December) and cumbersome (depending on the month, it takes a moment to figure out what grade someone is in).

Maybe it has to do with government’s fiscal budgets. Maybe it’s about tradition. Maybe no one questions “the way things have always been.” Maybe “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

I don’t know whether there are any advantages or disadvantages to the split school year vs. the calendar school year. But I do think that a calendar school year would be less confusing for everyone. Only school calendar publishers might complain.

Obviously, this is a low-priority issue, practically a non-issue. It’s just something to think about. Hawaii couldn’t do anything to change the school year unless the whole country changed its school year too. But there’s a growing shift to year-round schools, and college students can already graduate in December, saving a semester’s worth of tuition. Why not shift to a calendar school year?

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