How Long Should the School Day Be?

Many states have been considering longer school days, and now Congress is looking to get into the act. I can see good and bad to it, and I’m wondering what other parents think.

The good, of course, is that it means there is more time for activities that schools have been neglecting. I’d love for schools to have enough time for art and music classes, for example, as well as just more time for the kids to play at school.

Many parents who work outside the home would probably also appreciate the extra time that they wouldn’t need to find childcare for.

It would give more time for schools to reach the educational goals set by programs such as No Child Left Behind. I’m not 100% a fan of such programs, as I think it encourages too much teaching to the test, but maybe the extra time could be used to do more than that. I can hope, anyhow.

If the longer days are run similar to what the schools in the CNN article are doing, the children will probably enjoy it more too. Some parents in that article report better overall progress in school, as the children have something to look forward to at school, and so are better about the other subjects too.

The bad can come in if the schools get the extra time, start out with wonderful, enriching programs, then decide students aren’t keeping up with standards, and that more time has to be spent on academics. It’s a government thing, after all, and all I have to do is compare what preschool is now with what it was when I was a child to know that children are being pushed harder now. What’s to keep them from pushing harder still with more hours.

The issue of teacher pay comes up too. I understand that current programs run about $1200-1300 extra per year per child. That will add up fast. So many schools are already underfunded, so that could be a serious problem.

Then too, what about teachers who don’t want longer days in the classroom. I can certainly see why some wouldn’t. A teacher’s day doesn’t end when the kids go home. There are papers to grade, lessons to plan. Adding to that could be a serious impact to the teacher’s life.

Right now the plan is to look at adding the option for longer days to schools that aren’t meeting their goals. That’s probably not too bad a thing, so long as it’s done right.

What I would like to see is something regulating how much of the extra time can be required to be purely academic work versus enrichment courses. I wouldn’t want schools to be able to extend the school day and then keep adding the academic pressure to the children. But giving them the option to pursue things that are interesting to them could be quite beneficial.

So what do you think?

[tags]longer school days,Congress,elementary school,middle school,students,no child left behind[/tags]

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2 Responses

  1. My concern here is that while some districts would use this as an opportunity to provide enrichment, others would use it to push the academics as you mentioned. And while all too many parents consider the public schools to be the providers of their child care while they are at work, many families are already talking about being overscheduled and lacking quality OR quantity time as a family due to the length of the school day plus any sports or other extracurricular activities.
    Lastly, as a homeschooler, my fear is that administrators would use the “need” for longer school days and higher teacher wages (and who shouldn’t get paid more to work more?) as an attempt to raise income in a district by claiming that a longer day will equal “more learning”. As many children have proven for generations, attendance can be mandatory…learning cannot be. Kids who are having issues in school because they aren’t getting one on one tutoring or because they daydream are still probably going to daydream or miss out on individual lessons if the focus is on enrichment such as art, recess, etc. Every day families who begin homeschooling after school attendance learn that smaller teacher to student ratios (anywhere from Mom to one child up to mom and older kids working with each other and younger kids) can accomplish just as much, if not more, in less time, because there are fewer admin tasks (roll taking, forming lines, disciplining a group of gigglers, etc) at home than in class.
    Is the idea worth considering? Yes. Will it be a perfect solution? I fear not.

  2. Stephanie says:

    You and I have very similar fears. But it should be interesting to see how this all goes. As I said, I would want some controls to ensure more enrichment time, in the hope that it will keep at least a part of school more interesting.

    And like anyone else, I want to know where the money will come from.