Depending on where you live in the US, "back to school" means any time from late July through after Labor Day (2023)

Depending on where you live in the US, "back to school" means any time from late July through after Labor Day (1)

About 70% of the 46.7 million US public school students have already returned to school, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis. Depending on where you grew up or where you currently live, your reaction might be, "Sounds good," "Already?" or "What took you so long?"

How did we do it

The Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to determine when US public schools begin classes. We collected school start dates for the 2023-24 school year from a nationally representative stratified random sample of 1,573 districts.

To create this dataset, we started with a stratified random sample of 1,500 public school districts that we usedAnalysis of the 2023 centerschool district mission statements (this analysis includes only “regular” public school districts and their corresponding districts; excluding institutions such as charter schools and state special schools). This sample was drawn from a comprehensive list of public school districts maintained by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). For more information on previous sample selection,read the methodologyfor this analysis.

We then supplement this layered swatch in several ways:

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  • A region no longer exists and has been removed from the dataset.
  • Since school districts in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York are not classified as “regular local districts” but as “component districts,” they were omitted from the original sample. Therefore, we sampled an additional 72 regions from these regions and added them to the original sample.
  • Also added are the isolated districts of Hawaii and Washington, neither of which were originally selected, so that at least one district from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia is represented.

Data were weighted to account for the probability of each constituent being selected in the primary and secondary samples. It was then calibrated so that both the weighted number of districts and the weighted number of students matched the sum of all eligible districts on the NCES list.

After these adjustments, we obtained a sample of 1,573 regions. For each, we manually searched their website for the 2023-24 calendar. If we couldn't find a calendar (or a working website), we called the regional office. Ultimately, we found start dates for 1,551 regions. The rest were coded as “no data”.

In most cases, districts have set a single reopening date for all schools. For the different start dates, we use the date of the largest series. In the few cases where we were unable to reliably determine this, we were guided by the closest calendar reopening date.

In some areas, some schools may utilize a “year-round” calendar rather than a “traditional” calendar (late summer/early fall through late spring/early summer). In these cases, we used the start date from traditional calendars because they were more comparable to the date in the vast majority of US school districts. From the 2017-18 academic year, only approx.In 3% of public schools, free hours were in effect throughout the year— according to a national survey of US Department of Education teachers and principals.

Student enrollment data comes from the NCES database for the 2021-22 school year. In addition, each region was coded as belonging to one of theNine geographic divisions of the United States Census Bureaufor regional analysis.

Some, but not all, US school districts offer preschool classes. Student weights in each sample district include preschoolers where applicable, but start dates are based on grades K-12.

Information about the laws and policies that govern each state's start date was sourced from:United States Committee on Education, a not-for-profit research organization serving education policymakers across the country.

For most middle and high school students in the US, the school year is about 180 days, spread over about 10 months, with long summer vacations. However, our analysis of more than 1,500 public school districts shows that there are significant regional variations over such a broad period. (Analysis includes only "ordinary" public school districts and corresponding districts; institutions such as charter schools and state special schools are omitted.)

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For example, school tends to start earlier in southern areas than it generally does in northern areas. More than two-thirds of students in the US Census Bureau's East-South Central division – Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee – returned to school in the week beginning Aug. 7. They joined another 19% of students who started classes earlier. In the South Midwest (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas), 94% of students returned to school between August 7th and 18th.

However, in six New England states, almost no one goes back to school before the week of August 28th. And students from the Mid-Atlantic states – New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania – return even later: about three-quarters will do so.” The case was not decided until after Labor Day, which this year falls on September 4.

Untilcdistricts, districts in states further south sometimes start classes earlier than those further north. For example, in the expanded South Atlantic segment, counties sampled in the southernmost states (Florida and Georgia) have start date patterns similar to those in the Middle East region, while in the northernmost jurisdictions of the segment (Maryland, Delaware, and DC ) these are more similar to those of the Southeast region. resemble areas in the northern areas.

Some countries stand out from the general trends in their region in other ways. For example, in the Midwest region, approximately two thirds of public school students start classes between August 14th and 25th. However, Minnesota lawrequires schools to start after Labor Dayin most cases, and the vast majority of sampled areas in Minnesota will return after the holidays.

In the Census Bureau's eight-state mountain district, which stretches from the Canadian border to the Mexican border, nearly half of public school students return to school between Aug. 14 and Aug. 25. However, nearly all sample districts in Arizona and New Mexico, the two southernmost states in this segment, start one to three weeks in advance.

Why are the start dates so different?

While these geographic differences are quite obvious, the reasons for them are less clear. State laws certainly play a role: according to data from 16 states, by law or regulation if you have to go to school in 16 statesUnited States Committee on Educationand individual state education agencies. But even in those states, the rules are pretty flexible — they only require you to start studying before or after a certain date, and exemptions for individual districts are not uncommon.

Contrary to popular belief, the school calendarit is nota remnant of the country's agricultural past. Indeed, in the early 20th century, agricultural schools normally held summer and winter sessions, with children working on farms in spring and autumn, helping with planting and harvesting. Municipal schools, on the other hand, operated almost all year round, although many children attended them sporadically or only during part of the year.

In the years around 1880-1920,the calendars of urban and rural schools coincidedto the pattern we know today, influenced by factors such as pressure from education reformers, the high costs of keeping schools open all year round,one-room schools for age educationand lower attendance at county schools during the summer months (especially as family vacations increase in popularity).

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Another possible explanation for the traditional calendar and regional grouping of start dates is:"network effect",where a given standard becomes more useful as it becomes more widely used. For example, it is easier for a school district to hire teachers from neighboring districts if those districts have similar programs.

Class start dates may change further in the future due to climate change. Some education experts predict warmer temperatures may continueforce districts to adjust start dates or times, especially in places like the Southwest, if schools cannot upgrade air conditioning systems or provide other amenities.

Note: This is an update to a post originally published on August 14, 2019.



Depending on where you live in the US, "back to school" means any time from late July through after Labor Day (4)

Drewa DeSilvera is a senior author at the Pew Research Center.


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What time of year do Americans go back to school? ›

While many U.S. schools embrace a 180-day academic calendar, the first day of classes at K-12 districts can stretch from mid-July to early September, depending on the city or state, climate or even whether teachers and students are at risk for burnout.

Why do Americans go back to school in August? ›

Also, they may want to have a certain holidays off. Three reasons, 1) Schools in the US are tending to start in August rather than September because there are more school breaks now than in the past, and a school year needs to have 180 teaching days. To get that many teaching days in school has to start earlier.

How much time of our lives do we spend at school? ›

105,120 waking hours = 13.36 percent of waking hours are spent in school by age 18. That means 86.64 percent of chil- dren's time is spent out of school, mainly at home. Q. Once I can show that children spend most of their waking hours at home, how can I persuade parents to use this time to teach important things?

What time do you leave school in America? ›

In the U.S., a typical day of high school starts at about 7:30 a.m. and ends around 3:00 p.m., Monday to Friday. Extracurricular activities are typically scheduled in the afternoons and early evenings during the school week; however, some extracurricular activities may also be scheduled on weekends.

What day do Americans go back to school after summer? ›

Summer break is a long break for students and usually starts in late May or early June and ends in late August or early September, depending on the school district. This break can vary in length, with some districts offering as many as three months off.

What month does school start and end in the US? ›

The academic year typically runs from August or early September until the end of May or early June, depending on the length of the year and number of the holiday, vacation, and snow days occurring during the year.

Is school out for summer in USA? ›

Schools typically schedule a 10- to 11-week break beginning between May and June and ending between August and September. * When a federal holiday falls on a Saturday, it is usually observed on the preceding Friday.

How did kids get to school back in the day? ›

Some children really did walk 5 miles to school

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, there was no public or school transportation across most of the United States. In rural areas, schools were meant to serve children who lived within a four- or five-mile radius—what was considered “walking distance” back then.

Do Americans get a day off of school? ›

School holidays

K-12 public schools generally observe local, state, and federal holidays, plus additional days off around Thanksgiving, the period from before Christmas until after New Year's Day, a spring break (usually a week in April) and sometimes a winter break (a week in February or March).

How long is a school day in America? ›

Not including after-school programs, in normal times most American children spend about six hours per day in school – fewer in lower grades and more in higher ones.

How long is school in America? ›

Prior to higher education, American students attend primary and secondary school for a combined total of 12 years. These years are referred to as the first through twelfth grades.

In which location do kids spend most of the time? ›

Answer. kids spent 3: 00 pm to 5:30 am( depends) which is 15 hour and 30 min and they spent 1 hour at playing outside so it 14 hours approx so if it included night then kids spent most time at home or if it is only for day then they spent most time at school.

Do American schools go back in August? ›

School Holidays in the USA – 2021

*All dates are subject to errors and changes. Schools typically schedule a 1-week break during March or April, with the peak during the final 2 weeks of March. Schools typically schedule a 10- to 11-week break beginning between May and June and ending between August and September.

What month does school start in Ohio? ›

August marks the start of the new school year and some students are back in the classroom as early as Aug. 15. Below, you'll find a list of start dates for the school districts in central Ohio.

What month does school start in Michigan? ›

The first day of school is on the horizon, with more than a dozen metro Detroit school districts opening for the first day of school in August, before the traditional start after Labor Day.

Why does the American school year start in fall? ›

The school year actually dates back to when the farming schedule took precedence over everything else—yes, even school. Farming can only be done in the spring, summer, and fall. Families needed the kids around to help, so their schooling took place in the colder months when nothing could be planted or harvested.


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