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Balancing US competitiveness, coveted summer vacation at heart of longer school year debate

Longer winter breaks and shorter summer vacations are ideas being tested around the country as school districts debate whether to extend the school year.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne (AHR'-nee) Duncan is pushing this extended school year — and it's an issue that's leading to heated debate.

Proponents say studies show students lose critical knowledge during the summer months away from school. Backers of a longer school year also say the U.S. is losing ground globally to compete.

Critics of the idea want to preserve what many families say is a precious respite from the school calendar — and allow for family vacations, outdoor play and more targeted learning.

A new pilot project will add school hours in districts in five states this year.

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