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.