There is insufficient evidence to suggest that increased learning time is an effective approach for promoting the academic outcomes of all students in all settings.
IES, National Center for Educational Evaluation and Regional Assistance—U.S. Department of Education.
More Time IN School = Less Time to BE a Family.
Remember the above sentence, because corporations are again demanding kids punch in earlier and out later in school. There is little proof that this will help a child learn better, but it makes for continuing propaganda to charge public schools, and children and teachers, as failing. We are told something must be done urgently and, if not, we are led to believe the whole country will implode! We’ve heard this all before. In fact, we have heard it for 32 years–since A Nation at Risk.
Never mind that Wall Street hit a record high last week—go figure. Is it me, or should the corporations get on their knees and thank teachers for at least part of their successful run?
The Rochester city school district is just one of many which is considering extending the school day, adding 300 hours to the schedule. Look for it in special education too. Why? They want to boost achievement to make schools more globally competitive. If these services aren’t about really assisting children by individualizing, or helping parents, more questions need to be asked. And don’t believe extra time will be for playing an instrument or acting in a play, no. You know as well as I do, extra time will be used to browbeat students into higher test scores. Read the fine lines.
To be sure, America needs better public schools. Resources, good buildings, and credentialed teachers are all necessary, especially for the poor, but please…don’t fall for the belief that the country and its corporations are doing badly due to students! We do not need to lengthen the school day to make America stronger or to beat out other countries. That is an indecent argument.
Maybe it would be beneficial to have after-school and summer programs—if they are for enrichment and parents want and need them. In our poor urban areas, after-school programs that focus on students can be helpful. And if good instructional designers knew how to design a year-round school schedule, with plenty of well-planned breaks coordinated with a parent’s work schedule, that might be creative. Thus far, it hasn’t worked. But mandatory lengthening of the school day or year with justification being the improvement of the country should be questioned.
What does this do to the American family?
Instead of funding lengthening of the school day, a huge expense, why not use such funding to lower class sizes early, in K-3rd grade, where we know it will make a difference? Give children more personalized learning with a real teacher.
American students already 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) and Hong (1,o13). 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).
When you hear that these countries do better than the U.S. remember, America teaches everyone! Other countries separate the higher functioning students from those who don’t do well in school, and many of these countries do not include, in their testing regimen, students with disabilities, as we do.
Parents should not be sucked into believing their students need more time in school. Your five year old will never be five again. Watching a teenager mature as you count the months to high school graduation is bittersweet. Your adult daughter or son will one day have their own family, and while it all evolves into a glorious circle of life (thank you Lion King), it is never the same. Every day is different. For most of us, good memories are what make life meaningful.
But if you have few good memories because your kid was in school until six p.m. even on weekends (yes, they are exploring that as well) what will that leave you? Students are already overdosing on unnecessary homework–often causing strife in the family! What, we must ask, is the point of having a family with that kind of set-up? And, more importantly, what memories will your child have? How will your family enjoy leisure time together? THIS is the stuff of life!
Children, we are led to believe, must sit at their desks, take Ritalin and Adderall for control, denied recess, and even P.E. in some places, and work hard all day so they can make a better country that will beat out the economies of other countries. Really? Who falls for this talk anymore?
And you thought workhouses were just in Dickens’s novels!
Practically speaking, here are some findings by the American Institutes for Research:
- Increased learning time programs improved literacy and math achievement when instruction was led by certified teachers, though the effects were small.
- Effects varied by type of instruction. Programs that used a traditional instruction style improved literacy and math achievement. Programs that used an experiential learning instruction style improved student social-emotional skills. In both cases the effects were small.
- Increased learning time improved the literacy achievement of students performing below standards and the social-emotional skills of students with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
So, how long should children attend school? Will students do better on tests in basic subjects if they get two more hours a day to study? Most likely they will get better scores. If test-prepping is ALL you do all day it stands to reason test scores will be higher. But even if your child gets great scores, unfortunately, they won’t get to be a kid, and parents won’t get to enjoy their children. And the psychiatric bills down the road might not be too cool either.
So, as the clock strikes midnight tonight think about how it seems to have just struck midnight for 2014, then ask yourselves, how much rigorous schooling does my child really need and what will my memories be next year at this time?
Happy New Year! Have a little glass of champagne to celebrate, then go hug your kids! And remember, they won’t be kids forever.