"The president, who has a sixth-grader and a third-grader, 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.
"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."
So there are several items here:
- longer school year
- longer school day
- the building staying open longer after the school day ends
- the building being open on weekends presumably with enrichment/fun activities
Data from the article:
"Obama and Duncan say kids in the United States need more school because kids in other nations have more school.
"Young people in other countries are going to school 25, 30 percent longer than our students here," Duncan told the AP. "I want to just level the playing field."
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)." (bold mine)"
The article continues with information about a longer day. This is pertinent to our discussions over the length of day for high schools. While it might seem odd to argue over 5-15 minutes in a day, remember - add them all up and it becomes hours and then days.
"Regardless, there is a strong case for adding time to the school day.
Researcher Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution looked at math 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."However:
"Extra time is not cheap. The Massachusetts program costs an extra $1,300 per student, or 12 percent to 15 percent more than regular per-student spending, said Jennifer Davis, a founder of the program. It received more than $17.5 million from the state Legislature last year."
Our Legislature doesn't even fully fund education in our state. How are we do get them to pay to add more time to the day or extra open hours at the schools?
Arne Duncan did say one thing that did bother me:
"Those hours from 3 o'clock to 7 o'clock are times of high anxiety for parents," Duncan said. "They want their children safe. Families are working one and two and three jobs now to make ends meet and to keep food on the table."
I get that, certainly. There are "community schools" evolving all around the country either as an adjunct to regular community centers or instead of a community center. But I really worry about a model where a child could show up for daycare at 7 a.m. and not go home until 7 or 8 p.m. It turns the government into a nanny and I worry about kids becoming dependent on other adults as caregivers.
Maybe I'm being naive and a 7 a.m. drop-off and 7 p.m. pick-up is the norm for working parents (I don't currently work outside the home). And, I have no idea how many parents would enroll their kids in such a system. How would it work for middle-schoolers who tend to be more mobile and likely to refuse to hang at school 5 days a week?