Today’s assignment: The Calendar. How much of the year will students spend in school?
Rita Pin Ahrens, the director of education policy for the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
Students will be in school year round, with the equivalent of eight weeks of vacation distributed throughout the year—two weeks every season. This will diminish the frequency and extent of summer learning loss, reduce the need to review at the start of the school year for certain subjects, and provide more time and opportunities to go into more depth in the curriculum. Summer will not be a time for parents to worry about what they are doing with their children, especially for elementary- and middle-school students, as it will be no different from the fall, winter, or spring.
Schools will be open five days a week, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., from kindergarten to grade 12, though the start times for academic learning will vary by age and developmental needs. Also, students will not have to be physically at school every day or all day. This will allow for other learning opportunities and environments to be integrated into a child’s education. This schedule flexibility will allow for more extracurriculars before and after school and better match parents’ working schedules.
Nicholson Baker, the author of Substitute: Going to School With a Thousand Kids
Once, working as a substitute teacher, I asked a class full of chatty seventh-grade math students how they would design the school day. A girl said that it should be illegal to start the day before 11 in the morning and illegal for it to end after 11:01. A boy disagreed: "They'd just give you a ton of homework," he said. Another girl thought the day should start at noon and go for about an hour. "We could all use 40 minutes of schooling," she said. A quiet boy said that four hours of school would be about right.
The days, the years, can feel fearsomely long—to teachers and students both. Nobody's learning enough to justify all those hours. A sense of timewaste and exhaustion hangs in the air. Something drastic has to happen. The simplest solution is to cut the length of a typical day in half.
Carol Burris, the executive director of the Network for Public Education
Students in high-performing nations like Finland, Korea, and Japan spend the same or less time as American students in school. The myth that American students spend less time learning than students in other industrialized nations is not true. It is also clear from studies that increasing school time is very expensive and there is little return in achievement. Reductions in class size and peer tutoring, for example, have been found to be far more effective.
That being said, we do know that students from disadvantaged homes experience summer reading learning loss, while students from affluent homes experience small gains, and all students lose a little bit of knowledge in mathematics in the summer. Rather than lengthening the school day, which exhausts young children and deprives older children of the opportunity to engage in extracurricular activities and sports, a better alternative is to provide targeted, enriched learning activities, especially in the summer.