In calling for a longer school day, President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan cite the lagging US performance in international tests. “Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas. Not with Malia and Sasha, not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom,” said President Obama
The president wants schools to add time to classes, to stay open late and to let kids in on weekends so they have a safe place to go. (I once attended a conference highlighting cities that decided it was idiotic to keep school buildings closed for the summers, holidays and on weekends. They use the schools as community centers when classes are not in session. )
“Our school calendar is based upon the agrarian economy and not too many of our kids are working the fields today,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
The AP notes that while it is true that kids in many other countries have more school days, it’s not true they all spend more time in school. Kids in the U.S. spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the U.S. on math and science tests — Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days).
However, many schools report success after extending the time students spend in core classes. The AP story cites searcher Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution, who looked at scores in countries that added math instruction time. Scores rose significantly, especially in countries that added minutes to the day, rather than days to the year. “Ten minutes sounds trivial to a school day, but don’t forget, these math periods in the U.S. average 45 minutes,” Loveless said. “Percentage-wise, that’s a pretty healthy increase.”
The premise of KIPP charter schools is that their kids are behind, so their day iso three hours longer than the typical school day. They go to school every other Saturday and for three weeks in the summer.
I would be delighted to see a longer school day. How about you?