Monday, September 28, 2009

School Days, School Days....

Here is a link to an article from the Associated Press concerning changes that Pres. Obama would like to make to the school calendar.

Basically, he would like to add time to classes, keep schools open later, and leave schools open on the weekends as a safe place for kids. Education secretary, Arne Duncan told the AP, "Young people in other countries are going to school 25, 30 percent longer than our students here. I want to just level the playing field."

Interestingly, the AP points out, "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)." That leads me to understand that other country's school days are shorter. Not only would our children be going to school more days in the year, but we'd also be increasing their hours spent in school? No thanks.

Charter schools are used as positive evidence behind increasing time spent in school, as well as a Massachusetts'
expanded learning time initiative program.

Most disturbing to me is the vision that Education Secretary Duncan has of our schools being "the heart of the community". Ummmm.... Isn't that what the family is?

Here are my thoughts/questions/ponderings: How will these changes affect the family? Will these changes really make our children more competitive? How are we going to fund this (it seems to me that most schools are already operating on skim funds)? Why not use that money to give teachers a raise (I feel teachers are the biggest factor in the quality of our children's education rather than how long our children are in school)? Is it the school's responsibility (taxpayers) to babysit/provide for families that have two working parents? Kids hanging out at school after hours or on weekends seems like a breeding ground (perhaps literally) for trouble... unless they are being supervised by/engaged in activities by teachers, in which case, how do we fund that?

What do you think?


  1. Here's what I think. If we keep doing what we're doing, we'll keep getting what we're getting. I don't think that simply increasing time spent at school will make higher-achieving students. We need to look at the way children learn and make sure that the teaching methods we use are actually making a difference. More time in school will not equal better results unless we use the time wisely to help students learn.

    There's a lot of evidence that suggests that students who are held back a year in school do not necessarily do much better the second time they are in that grade. They only do better if they get a different teacher who teaches in a different way, a way that reaches that student.

    I think you're right--we need to focus on educating and teaching teachers how to teach effectively and then giving them the tools they need to do that (smaller class sizes, high-quality books/materials, mentors, etc.).

    I also am wary of increasing school hours and days simply for the sake of an increase. Let's start first with making sure kids are getting a quality education during the hours they are already in school.

  2. Rebecca-
    Thanks for giving a teacher's perspective on things. I was hoping you would comment. In your opinion, what would be the first necessary step to improving quality?

  3. I really don't know how best to improve quality. When I was teaching I know I really wished I had more planning time and less students. It was also really helpful to me to have good mentors and teachers to work with. I learned a lot from watching good teachers give quality instruction. I like the idea of somehow holding teachers accountable for their students, but I don't know how to accomplish that. It's a tricky thing because each year, your situation changes depending on your students.

    And while we're talking about accountability, maybe we should hold parents accountable, too! Almost without exception, the students who excelled were the ones who had parents who helped them out at home. Teachers can't do it alone!

  4. I concur. Seriously, this issue makes me VERY nervous. Yes, let's start using the time we already have more effectively. I agree about finding ways to make teachers, students, and parents more accountable. It really doesn't help when a school can't fire the crappy teachers. I know I had my share of high school teachers that didn't want to be there. Also, I just feel it in my gut the disintegration of the family plays big time into this. Because some families (or lack thereof) aren't doing right by their children, the government feels that they need to step in and take there place. It breaks my heart to see the children that don't get support that they need from their parents, but on the other hand should my child be forced to go to school longer and for more days a year, because other children aren't being taught by their parents and quite frankly need to be "babysat." I have never wanted to home school my children, but if this is the direction we are headed I might have to reconsider. If parents don't teach their children the skills they need to be successful in this world, it seems that the government will be happy to step in and teach them what they think is most important.