It’s no secret the American education system is flawed. We’ve fallen behind in scores, literacy, and quality compared to many developed countries around the world. What was once the envy of the world is now a joke. The only thing we still do well is college.
Of the proposed solutions one long popular one has been to extend the school year. American schools must have 180 days of classes. In Japan they go 30 days longer. Australia goes 200 days. Even Iran goes for 200. In many cases the school day for American children is shorter too.
Recognizing this gap, a pilot program is going to increase the school year by 300 hours for certain states. This may be longer days or additional days, but the idea is to give the students more time to learn. Advocates of these systems are many. In some roughers areas of the country children typically get in trouble in the after school hours. If their time were occupied at school or in after school programs they’re less likely to get in trouble. Longer school years provide a similar benefit keeping them safer during a shorter summer. All this to say nothing of the expected benefits of more time in school, which seem to be well documented.
But, there are problems as well. The pilot program is great, but it comes with money that isn’t normally there. School systems that have tried the longer year or day have run into a common problem: money. Some systems have tried to do this before without extra funding. That means more work and no pay for teachers and others. That simply won’t work. The good news is that with more time in classrooms other programs designed to keep kids occupied aren’t needed as much. The bad news is there’s no system to shift resources around like that.
So we’re stuck in the 21st century with a 19th century school year. The only reason we got summer breaks in the first place were so we could go pick crops. That isn’t needed anymore. Breaks still are, but not necessarily in the format we currently use. We’re stuck with budgets that can’t grow, or resources that aren’t properly allocated. Currently only 500,000 students or so are in extended programs. There’s no money to do this for everyone. We’re also stuck with having no solution to what I would see as the biggest problem of all: parental involvement.
This pilot program is a great idea. We need to see what works and how good the benefits may be. But it’s just one of dozens of potential fixes that are needed to get our education system back on track.
What do you think? If money weren’t an issue, do you see any downsides to extending the school year or day?