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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Concept 6 and Busing to Relieve Overcrowding: Structural Inequality in California Schools


About 6% of California’s students attend schools that operate on a multi-track calendar known as Concept 6. On this calendar, three tracks rotate throughout the school year, with two tracks in session at any given time and a third on vacation. This results in the school year being broken up into separate blocks by two two-month long vacations, which occur at different times for different tracks. This calendar provides for the maximum enrollment given a school’s existing space. However, students who attend schools operating on the Concept 6 calendar suffer several clear disadvantages. These schools remain large, even with the implementation of this calendar. Students at Concept 6 schools also lose instructional time, since they have fewer days of school compared to other students, fewer nights for teachers to assign homework, and delays due to the need to review material at the beginning of each block of instruction. Furthermore, because of uneven distribution of curriculum across the different tracks, students have limited access to courses (including Advanced Placement courses) and specialized programs; the ill-timed breaks mean students have less access to extra-curricular activities. Students in Concept 6 schools have poorer academic performance than their peers in other schools. Likewise, busing seeks to address the negative effects of overcrowding, but creates inequities of its own. Students who are bused to school due to overcrowding suffer several disadvantages, including reduced parental involvement, an incentive to skip kindergarten (to avoid having to ride the bus), limited access to after-school programs, and poorer academic performance. Overall, students who attend schools on the Concept 6 calendar, as well as students who are bused to relieve overcrowding, receive a significantly lower quality education than that provided to the overwhelming majority of students in California.

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