While many students around the country still have weeks left of vacation, the school year began today in Rockdale County, Ga. The early start is part of a trend in pockets of the country, as summer breaks get shorter.
Schools are under pressure to raise test scores, and experts say a shorter break can help kids retain what they've learned in the previous year. But parents are split over whether that's worth sacrificing their childrens' summers.
Rockdale County, 20 miles east of Atlanta, is one of a handful of school systems that are opening up in July. And an early August start date is now common in Georgia. The trade-off for the short summer break comes in the form of two week-long breaks through out the year.
There are no definitive studies on whether shortened summers or year-round schools improve learning. But in Rockdale, which has had short summers for 3 years, it seems to be working. For the first time, this year all schools in the system met testing requirements set out in the federal No Child Left Behind act.
Still, a grass-roots movement is growing around the country, aimed at regaining summers. Driven by parents who value family time — and a tourism industry that balks at the idea of a shortened vacation season — some states have passed laws mandating a late-summer start. Texas, Florida and South Carolina are among the states to mandate the later start.
And in Georgia, a group called Georgians Need Summers has tried unsuccessfully to pass a similar law. Its members have vowed to try again next year.