The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

In today’s Philly Inquirer, there was the following editorial: Inquirer Editorial: School days are too short.

The editorial is framed around how Cherry Hill, New Jersey teachers agreed to extend their days by 30 minutes, and how, if you do the math, that adds up to 14 extra days of instructional time over the course of a year, etc… How could anyone be against that, right?

Here’s the thing: Too many kids already hate school. Why do we want to make them do more of it?

More of something that is already flawed and broken isn’t a good thing.

And moreover, when are we going to realize that kids lead pretty busy lives?

According to a 2011 National Federation of State High School Assocations study, 55% of high school students participate in athletics. And while I couldn’t find a recent study on total participation in after-school activities, it seems that number tips somewhere around the 70% – 80% mark. And the Child Trends DataBank study of youth employment in 2010-2011 shows that 17% of high school students have after-school jobs. That probably doesn’t take into account all the kids who have to help with after-school care of younger siblings, etc…

Just saying, “More school for kids,” while appealing to policy-makers for any number of reasons and appealing to the “teachers don’t work hard enough” tropesters out there, is a bad idea. The problem is that contracts and legislation are the policy tools that boards of education and legislators have, and they are more often than not bad tools.

Just making the day longer solves little to nothing, and it creates as many problems – if not more – than it solves.

I’m not against having kids and teachers in schools longer – SLA is proof of that, as teachers and students tends to spend a ridiculous number of hours there. But let’s figure out how to use the policy tools at our disposal to make the time more meaningful, if we are going to do it.

Want kids in school longer? O.k. – figure out how to create study teams of teachers and kids so that we don’t send them home to do more homework in less time without support. Or figure out how to create 80% / 20% time so that every kid has time every day to pursue their best ideas.

Better yet – before we think that just making kids be in our buildings longer, let’s take a hard look at the time we already spend there, and figure out how to make 8:00 – 3:00 more empowering, more authentic and more useful to everyone.

8 thoughts on “The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

  1. Or let’s look at the work being done in Finland, where kids are in school less time and where teachers are respected and admired for the work they do. Where they are given time to plan and collaborate with colleagues and where curriculum is reduced so kids and teachers can explore ideas that are of interest to the kids themselves.

    Lengthening the day and continuing to do the same old thing is not going to change anything.

  2. Agreed. I think its less about changing the length of the school day, and more about what we do within that time period that really matters. I work in Hong Kong and I can’t believe that nights when I get home late – say from going out for dinner – I still see kids walking home in their school uniforms at 9:00pm! They are overloaded already with after-school activities and then they are supposed to go home and do homework! It’s nuts. I can’t imagine adding on an extra half hour of class time to that.

  3. Thanks for this, Chris.

    Like so many #edpolicy decisions, what’s right for kids really isn’t ever a consideration, is it?

    That should piss off more parents than it does.

    Hope you’re well. Definitely looking forward to Educon. Thanks for hosting us again.


  4. I love the two suggestions at the end. The Google inspired 20% time idea would be cool if implemented right, but study groups or study halls seem like such a simple but overlooked solution. I was shocked when I started teaching and I found out that my school had no study hall at all.

    I’ve never quite figured out why. One argument I’ve heard is that there isn’t enough time. Yet we schedule teachers for a duty period (cause monitoring the halls is important, and our paid security staff can’t handle that), and we’ve managed to schedule all of our freshmen and sophomores for two periods worth of both Math and English.

    In a standard schedule with nine periods, you’ve got time for four core academic classes, gym, an elective, a language, a study hall, and lunch. As it is, I have kids that choose to skip their lunch just to come to my room (either for some help with homework or because I have computers and a printer they can use). Why not cut something from their overloaded schedule, give them a study hall, and let them do some work _and_ eat lunch.

  5. L
    i agree. I’m truly happy that students enjoy my class. I work extremely hard to make sure that they have instruction that is engaging, relevant and I allow them to have ” their say”. I say that the school day is long enough.

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  7. The issue should not be having our school days extended for our students, but how do we improve the quality of the time that we already share with them. If the day is going to be extended, let the students come in later in the day and allow teachers to meet in Profession Learning Groups to discuss real issues such as how do we know that our students are learning and how do we develop ways to monitor that learning. Would it not make more sense to help those students who have issues by considering new teaching applications and researching what happens in schools that have been successful in raising state mandated test scores. We as teachers work much bettar as a community than in isolation. So if the school day is extended let it be because we want to improve the way we teach by sharing our success stories and failures,not by keeping our kids in the classroom for what would turn out to be busy time. If the students are going to stay longer kets make it quality time by implementing successful teaching practices