sealPurdue News

July 1997

A longer academic year may boost student achievement

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A copy of the study "Effects of Extended-Year Schooling on the Achievement of Low Socioeconomic Students in Elementary School" is available from Julie Frazier at (765) 494-2947. The study was presented at the American Education Research Association's 1996 annual meeting during a poster session.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Less time off in the summer may translate into greater academic achievement for elementary-school students, says a Purdue University expert on year-round schools.

"When we consider academic achievement, lower-achieving kids lose ground over summer vacation," says Julie Frazier, assistant professor of child development and family studies. "And even though good students improve over summer break, it's not known what additional strides in achievement they might make if they were in school."

Frazier followed the academic achievement of students in an extended-year school, which is a type of year-round school that shortens the summer break by adding mandatory instruction days to the academic calendar. She says there are roughly 100 schools doing so nationwide.

Beginning with kindergarten and following them through first grade, she compared the students' progress to students in a traditional program. Students in both groups were similar except for the difference in academic year, which was 30 days longer in the extended program.

She says the students in the extended-year school outpaced their counterparts in math and reading achievement by the beginning of first grade and maintained their "achievement gap" to the end of that year. Frazier is currently analyzing their progress through third grade.

Concerns that keeping children in school longer would lead to boredom or negative feelings toward school did not materialize. "I saw no evidence of 'burnout' among the kids. In fact, the students in extended-year schools felt slightly more confident of their cognitive skills by summer's end than did the students in the traditional schools," she says.

Frazier is hoping to determine whether it's the additional instruction time or the shortened summer break that proves most beneficial in improving student achievement. "It is possible that improved achievement is more a function of a 'continuous learning schedule,' rather than more learning time," she says.

A continuous schedule also can be accomplished by rearranging the current 180-day school year to replace the long summer break with shorter breaks throughout the year.

In a research project to begin this fall, Frazier will compare the academic achievement of socioeconomically disadvantaged children in a year-round calendar, extended-year calendar and traditional September-to-June school year.
CONTACT: Frazier, (765) 494-2947; e-mail,

Workshops help make classrooms 'gender friendly'

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A Purdue University effort to create a more positive environment for female engineering and science students is attracting the attention of colleges and universities around the country and soon will expand to other disciplines.

Purdue's Classroom Climate Workshops were developed in 1995 to train engineering and science teaching assistants. The workshops use an interactive theater method of presentation and are the brainchild of Emily Wadsworth, assistant director of Women in Engineering Programs at Purdue. They were designed to help improve retention of female engineering students.

Wadsworth surveyed female undergraduate and graduate students in Purdue's Schools of Engineering and Science. Their experiences, combined with documented classroom behavior across all disciplines, were used to identify critical issues of gender inequity.

"We know, for example, that male students interrupt more often and speak longer than female students," Wadsworth says. "Teachers also tend to have more eye contact with male students and call on them more frequently." Because the majority of the faculty and students in those schools are male, many may not be aware of those differences or the effect they can have on women, she says.

In a collaboration with the School of Science and the School of Liberal Arts, scripts were written and graduate students from Purdue's Division of Theatre were enlisted as actors.

During the workshops, the performers act out three different scenarios with a facilitator leading a question-and-answer session after each scene. Participants then split into small discussion groups to talk about what they've seen and learned. So far, 550 teaching assistants have attended the workshops.

"Our post-workshop surveys show that participants are coming away with a new understanding of gender equity issues in the classroom and the importance of treating all students fairly," Wadsworth says.

In the fall of 1998, the workshops will be offered to teaching assistants in all 10 of Purdue's academic schools. Wadsworth's acting troupe also has performed for Midwest colleges and universities, and at national conferences. The workshops are available on video through Purdue's Continuing Education Administration for $150. For more information, call 1-800-359-2968.
CONTACT: Emily Wadsworth, (765) 494-6611; home, (765) 743-2433; e-mail,

Writer: Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723; e-mail;
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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