Nooooooooooo!! No Longer School Days, Less Vacation, Obama!

Hi Readers! Worrying that American students are falling behind their international counterparts, President Obama is floating the idea of longer school days and shorter vacations. This is about as uncreative a solution as a man all about “change” could possibly have come up with.

“Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas,” the president has said. “Not with Malia and Sasha, not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom.”

Really? Who’s to say American kids are lagging because they aren’t spending enough time in school? Maybe it’s because they aren’t spending enough time LEARNING TO DO THINGS ON THEIR OWN! Kids who organize their own games of kickball develop communication skills, compromise, agility. Kids who sit at home with a book develop imagination, smarts. Kids who bake a cake work on their math skills. Kids who babysit develop empathy, and all-important fridge-raiding skills. Kids who look for four-leaf clovers (my one hobby as a young child) develop…the need for glasses. But also patience and a respect for nature. 

There are so many “skills” a child does not get in the classroom, it is ridiculous to even have to argue this point. Especially because here’s the weirdest fact of all: Our kids already DO get more time in school.  Tampa Bay Online reports that:

Children in the United States spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do students in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the United States on math and science tests — Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013).

So our kids should spend more time than they’re already spending even though with all that extra time they’re BEHIND? Couldn’t you interpret these numbers to say the LESS time kids spend in school the BETTER they do on math and science tests?

And it’s not like when you add on school hours there’s no trade-off! MORE school time means LESS self-direction. If we want to raise a nation of young people who never do anything without being told by an adult to do it, it’s hardly assured that we will end up with the kind of leaders and entrepresneurs Obama is looking for.

And besides: who will harvest our nation’s four leaf clovers? — Lenore

178 Responses

  1. This one, I don’t know about…it’s mnore than just test achievement. There are lots of studies that show more time in school decreases crime by younger people because they aren’t being delinquent. Many Boston schools have adopted a full day school and there have been lots of great outcomes – not just test outcomes, either. This is for older kids (middle school, high school I believe – correct if I’m wrong). Perhaps elementary school is too young, a time when free play time is worth more than additional hours at school.

    So much of this divides along socioeconomic lines, too. Kids with rich parents get to do enriching activities and live in an education rich environment, with lots of books, museum passes, big back yards, sidewalks, etc. To some people, being home from school means plopping in front of the TV and eating high calorie, low nutrition food. I wish that all kids, all ages, would engage in creative, self directed activities that build their knowledge when they are not in school. Unfortuantely, that’s not always the case. And thtat’s really sad but maybe that’s where some extra time at school could help.

    Also, the schools I know of that do extended days don’t necessarily spend all that extra tim in an academic class. Think of extracurricular activities like drama, dance, sports, band. Again, this is at the middle school level and above. Age/grade level is probably an issue on this subject but I wouldn’t write off the idea completely.

    I’d love to hear failure/sucess stories of other school doing full day, especially at the elementary school level.

  2. Oh my son wouldn’t complain.

    But he attends a Sudbury school. He is a free range kid all day.

  3. More time in school doesn’t necessarily mean more time in the class room. There are plenty of communities where school is the refuge from some pretty poorly unstructured rest of the time. I think more time in school would be great if that meant more time at recess, more time at lunch (my 4th grader gets 20 minutes), more time for extracurriculars (music, band, clubs and other self directed activities).

  4. I’m not totally against it (or for it) either, simply because I don’t believe that many kids spend their free time doing enriching activities. It would also save me a bunch of money, but that’s besides the point.

    My daughters currently go to an after school program because my husband and I work. My husband has been trying to get me to allow my older daughter (8) to come home after school by herself. I am against it because I feel like if she comes home, she will probably spend most afternoons watching TV. It is not like there are any kids outside in our neighborhood for her to play with. At the after school program they are at least socializing with other kids and playing outside. I wonder if similar reasoning is behind this proposal.

    Finally, does anyone know what the statistic about American children being behind in math and science really means? It’s one of those things I always hear (sort of like women make so many cents for every dollar a man makes) that I don’t really get. Are we really comparing the average of every American child to the average of every child of the other countries? Or is it only the ones who are going to school or are in an academic (as opposed to vocational) track?

    My daughters are in first and third grade and they are learning way more than I learned at that age.

  5. Knowing how much time is wasted on trivia in even a well-regarded, college-oriented public high school with great outcomes, I seriously doubt that more TIME in school is the first thing we ought to look at.

    My kids pointed out that proposals for lengthening the school day would pretty much eliminate stuff like sports and extracurriculars (unless food and sleep are considered optional parts of the learning experience.) Now, those things aren’t vital for everyone, but they ARE part of the learning experience, in more of a “Free-Range” way than more time stuck in a classroom (watching movies and giving kids time to finish their homework) would be.

  6. BTW, what this economy really needs is the huge tax effect of increasing teacher salaries by 50% to cover the extended work hours, providing adequate facilities at the school for longer usage (i.e. air conditioning and possibly more food service) and so forth.


  7. I agree that a longer school day would be a bad idea, but I kinda think shorter summer vacation would be good. Ideally combined with slightly longer winter, fall and spring breaks to chop up the year a bit more, with more overall days in school. And NO MORE homework for kids under ten. It’s driving me crazy to see my school loving 7yr old niece sigh over daily assignments. After school would provide plenty of freerange time if little kids didn’t have to sit and struggle through essays.

    More school can’t do any good at all though unless we improve our system. Test scores might not be the best way to measure academic success, but neither scores or real achievemet will be improved by MORE TIME in ineffective classrooms.

  8. All I see here is one more reason to homeschool.

  9. I’m with some of the others here – longer school days could be a very positive thing if it meant more time for lunch and more opportunities for non-core classes, recess breaks, extracurriculars, or even just a structured, quiet time & place for study/homework.

    There are a lot of variables in play here, but lack of structure and/or discipline at home has got to be a significant contributor to dwindled student achievement. When I was a kid, homework was the priority over everything else once I got home after school – no TV, no bike-riding, no friends over. Kids nowadays have so many distractions with TV, Facebook, texting, etc. that it’s a wonder they’re able to squeeze in ANY homework.

  10. This is just a gift to the NEA. A union payoff. More school hours equals more school pay. No mention of performance.

    The worst of it is that the false statistics comparing U.S. classroom time to that of other countries is being repeated by uncritically by the Press throughout the country.

    The whole thing is shameful. The Federal Government role in public education is not helpful.

  11. We have a problem in our school district. Fourth graders don’t know how to cut paper.

    Why? Because we spend so much time cramming curriculum down their throats that no one has time to learn how to cut paper anymore. Or how to draw a face with eyes, nose, mouth, ears.

    So I don’t know. We’ve taken away a lot of basic skills to get more academic instruction in, but to a huge detriment. If a longer school day means even MORE curriculum, NO WAY. But if it means a little more time to relax so our teachers aren’t in constant worry about being 5, 6, or 7 days behind where the curriculum says they should be….then maybe it would be better all around.

  12. Here’s the other fallacy of the “more time in school” argument: I’m getting bloody tired of seeing the U.S. education system compared to countries that don’t even pretend to attempt to educate everyone. Places such as India and China where, yes, the NAEP scores might be higher, but it’s because many students drop out at very young ages.

    And here’s an anecdotal piece of evidence: My 6-year-old’s school day is dramatically shorter than the average of the one at the school he attended last year – to the tune of a full day less instruction time a week. They still have PE two days a week and art or music once a week. And guess what: The test scores at his new school are higher. Not that I’m a big fan of test scores as barometers, but it’s the only basis for comparison available.

    Keep my kid in school longer for the sake of adding more extracurriculars? No, thanks. I’ll craft my own. Or just turn him loose behind the house, where he’s busy constructing a dam out of rocks. Or maybe he should be in school – the dam might not be such a grand idea once it starts raining.

  13. By the time American students graduate, they’re already one year behind their peers in other countries because they’re in school less hours a year. Moreover, studies have shown that so much is forgotten over summer break that much of the following year must be spent reviewing forgotten material. Indeed American students have many issues preventing them from succeeding, especially laziness and a sense of entitlement instilled by their parents. Regardless, American students spend too little time at school. I’m happy to see Obama working to correct this handicap.

  14. I’m wholeheartedly opposed to longer school days, especially for elementary school kids. How about bringing the arts and science programs back? How about accountability for teachers? How about allowing teachers some leeway to utilize teaching strategies to reach the various modalities in their classrooms? I’m beyond sick of this idea that MORE structured education is what kids need. To me this sounds like a policy that would enable to already broken educational system to fail kids even more. Its a punishment for kids, when the goal should really be to encourage a love of learning, not develop mindless sheep who can ace a standardized test.

    There are so many things wrong with this idea, I could spit. Kids suffering the consequence of the failure to actually reform education by having to be in school longer; oh yeah that’ll make ’em LOVE school. :-/

  15. I was hoping this would show up here! There are so many things that kids can’t learn by sitting in a desk doing worksheets. Things like:
    -social skills

    These things are best learned through play! Unstructured-by-adults play!

    Furthermore, these things that are learned by play are the very things employers ask for. Nobody cares if you can recite all states/provinces and their capitals. Employers want people who have these skills not learned through a workbook.

  16. My son is only 3 mo old, but this is outrageous enough that I think I’m going to homeschool him. Sure American kids spend more hours in school than those in other countries, but how much of those hours are quality instruction? When I was a kid a lot of it was “Don’t eat that, BIlly! Children, today we’re going to learn about sharing. Stay in line! Be quiet! Settle down!”

    Before my son was born I taught at a preschool. Our goal was to prepare these kids for kindergarten by teaching them their numbers, letters, etc. Unfortunately we were not able to meet those goals because of a few rowdy kids in our classroom. 90% of our time and energy was devoted to behavior modification. The poor kids who were ready to learn were shunted to one side. Plus, being in the same classroom with violent classmates was really stressful on the kids – when one particularly violent boy withdrew from class two weeks early,, our rate of wet accidents plummeted. I’m willing to bet those kind of stressors exist in grade school and middle school, as well. Do children really need MORE time being stressed out like that?

    I agree with what some of the other people have said in the comments – instead of chaning the policy (more hours in school) we need to change our culture (more parental involvement in children’s lives).

  17. I completely disagree with this idea. My (full day) kindergartener is already down to about an hour of at-home playtime a day, thanks to the length of the school day. If it didn’t involve oceans of red tape and paperwork, I’d be homeschooling right now. If they take away more of my daughter’s free time, I will do whatever it takes to homeschool. And for those who are arguing that more school time equals lower crime rates, that may be true in certain areas or socioeconomic classes, but just because it’s true there doesn’t mean the government should compel my semi-rural, bright, busy little girl to spend all her waking hours at school.

  18. This idea doesn’t address the real issues that make American kids fall behind other developed countries in math, science, etc.

    I have three kids, and they are not learning more than I learned in school — it seems like far less, in fact. They have lots of homework, but it’s usually a time-consuming rehash of what they learned weeks or months ago. I can’t tell you how many times I ask, “You’re still working on that?” and they sigh like they wish the class could get past it and move on. In class, so many of their teachers spend time focusing exclusively on how to take the next standardized test, and not emphasizing the actual knowledge content. In fact, many of the teachers cannot understand an answer on a worksheet unless it is worded EXACTLY like it is on the answer key. I review my kids’ graded work, and there are many, many instances of questions answered with a correct answer but marked wrong, because the teacher didn’t see that exact answer on an answer key. In several classes, they are taught by someone who doesn’t understand the subject, but the school needed someone in that spot, so they got the English teacher to do Science, etc.

    Add to this the strange phenomenon that in America we drive men away from our schools — there are so few male teachers now that our kids are getting a very lopsided exposure to real life. I’ve got nothing against females, but there is not a single male teacher at my youngest son’s school (except the gym teacher – how’s that for training in stereotypes?). They had a few, but they were not treated well by the female principal and found work in other districts. At my other son’s middle school, he has one male teacher.

    If the methods we are using to educate our kids are not working well, I don’t believe that adding more days to the school year or hours to the school day will do a bit of good. More of a substandard thing doesn’t make it a good thing. Let’s improve the methods. Or maybe we could all start homeschooling the same week. Perhaps that would send a message.

  19. This is why the founding fathers argued that government should function as locally as possible as much as possible. In some areas, a longer school day might be beneficial. In other areas, it is already too long. When you try to normalize something as variable as the socioeconomics across a population of 300 million, it just doesn’t work. I say no to a longer school day, and NCLB for that matter.

  20. Seems yo uhave exactly the same curriculum problems as we do . Too much testing not enough arts etc. I have year 3 children (8 yearolds ) who cannot use scissors. Because in Year R 1 and 2 (5 6 7 yr olds) They are too busy learning academic stuff. Quite a few primary age children here are disaffected by age 9 because school is so rigid. There is no spontaneity anymore. Everything is done to time table and so many days spent on each English topic or maths section.

    Most teachers I know get to school an hour before the class and leave ages after they go home. If the extended our school day we would have no home life at all and pupils would not either.

    If I am cynical I would say it might suit some working parents we already feel like a baby sitting service.

  21. I’m on the fence on this one. I think kids need more free time and less homework but I also think shorter vacations so there’s less to forget over the summer. The amount of work students are supposed to do at home after being in school during the day doesn’t make sense to me particularly in lower grades. If a parent spends two hours on homework with their kid, homeschooling sounds like a better use of the time. I guess I’m for a modest increase in hours for the school year coupled with a reduction in hours per day.

  22. I don’t know how I feel.

    My wife teaches Kindergarten. I know she doesn’t have time for lunch, doesn’t have time for recess and isn’t allowed to give her kids much needed naps. If more hours meant more time for these key activities, then I’m all for it.

    If it was more teaching the tests, then no I’m not at all for it. In fact, I’m opposed.

    As it is now, the idea of “Academic Freedom” is non-existent. My wife, in 10 years, has never failed to “benchmark” 90% or more of her class. But over those 10 years, they’ve made the curriculum more and more structured, giving her less and less freedom to teach her class. She’s now a puppet of the state, with no freedom of what to teach, how to teach it or what manner of instruction to use.

    It’s ridiculous.

  23. I would not be opposed to anything that restores real recess (TWO recesses AND a break at lunch) to the school day, nor a daily (daily! yes, daily!) gym. And if it means teachers stop assigning homework to children in the lower grades (where there’s never been shown any benefit to homework at all) I’m all for it.

  24. smalltowngirl, I’ve seen the same thing here with a group of third graders. The simple instruction “draw a line using a ruler” was met with blank stares. I actually saw some kids try to literally *draw with the ruler* by scraping it along the page.

    These kids would surely have more basic skills if they ever got a chance to just sit and draw as their imaginations led them, without someone telling them what crayon to use where. It’s completely okay for them to use most office supplies unsupervised, I promise.

    Longer day, shorter day, either could be great or awful; the question is how they use their time, wherever they are.

  25. ‘Children in the United States spend more hours in school…’
    Where is this statement coming from? I am seeing it everywhere and can no longer find the original source.

    My knowledge of at least Japanese schools is that kids have less vacation days, attend school on Saturdays, school days can extend until night fall, and summer courses/night courses in Juku are encouraged to be taken before important exams in regards to high school selection.
    Because of this, a 12-hour day is not unusual for a high school student (before homework). This time includes extra curricular activities and clubs of course, but our school time includes band, debate classes, and theater production classes.
    If anyone can point me in the right direction as to how this study came to these numbers I would appreciate it.

    In regards to the idea of extending school hours, I am for it. I believe longer days at school would give more time for extra curricular activities and for studies during school hours. I believe there are many subjects that schools do not cover (One being civil liberties and law) and with increased time they can accomplish this.
    Relying upon parents to teach and supervise children to facilitate this learning in many cases is not feasible or just isn’t done because of poor parenting. In the cases it is done, I don’t see how making it more formal is a poor decision (unless the program is poorly created and turns into High School health class)

  26. One thing I heard in the audio of this was it wasn’t really about more time in class (obviously that’s not working) but about making schools the center of the community. They wanted to have extra-curricular activities, parenting classes, ESL type classes, pot luck dinners (their idea, not mine, just stating what the audio said), and so on. They said an ideal time range would be something close to 8am – 8pm. This I have huge issues with, 8pm? What time would kids get home? Baths, meals, any homework that didn’t get finished, and crawl into bed around midnight only to have to be up aroun 6:30am to get ready for another long day? No thank you.

    My children are homeschooled, so it’s a non-issue for us. We have year round school, shorter days, more learning, and a lot of child-led learning. I love it and so do the boys.

  27. Sorry, I disagree with you on this one…I’m all for a longer school day and year-round school (they still get 4-6 weeks off in the summer with the remainder spread through out the year more). Schools are dropping PE, art, and music, giving kids about 15 minutes to eat lunch at 11 AM and sit the kids in a classroom all day with little respite. Kids need to expend physical energy throughout the day. Kids benefit greatly from PE, art and music. With more hours in the school day, kids can learn at a kids pace and with kid required breaks…they will ultimately learn more and learn better.

  28. @Clover: I was (one of?) the one(s) who metioned crime rates. I agree with you – this is only true for certain areas, as I mentioned Boston is one place where it has had positive effects and students, tecahers, parents and community members very much like the new school day/calendar. Again, they have made sure to keep things like extracurriculars and sports and not just add more time doing worksheets.

    @rdykt: Going along with @Clover, a nation-wide longer school day may not be a good idea. Perhaps the President should encourage school districts to consider the facts (studies of other schools that have implemented it and their outcomes) to see if it would work in their district. If it sounds like a good fit, they can try it, if not they can keep the calenday the way it is.

    However, as it is now, I don’t think 6.5 hour days and long summer vacations best serve everyone either but until recently, that’s what everyone had. A more local approach definitely sounds like a better system when we have such diversity of situations throughout our country.

  29. You can’t:
    – pacify teacher’s unions’ demand for more money
    – increase Education Dept bureaucracy
    – make people more dependent on gov’t services (state-run day care essentially instead of private day care)
    – exercise more control over local curriculum

    …by letting people have *more* *freedom* over their lives, and less interaction with public schools.

    You’ve got to breed dependency early, and replace the existing lives of citizens with lives centered around state institutions.

    Please note the efficiency of spending more time/money on schools, and how spectacularly unsuccessful it is:

  30. Tampa Bay Online lies.

    American students spend dramatically less time than Asian students. I’m from Taiwan. According to this:

    Children in the United States spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do students in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the United States on math and science tests — Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013).

    I should’ve spent less time in school in Taiwan than after I came here to America. WRONG. In Taiwan, my 1~6 school day is like this: M-S, Sun off, 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM.

    7~8 was, M-S, Sun off, 7:00AM to 5:00 PM.

    We get two weeks of winter vacation, a month of summer vacation.

    Japanese schools and HK schools have equal if not longer school days than Taiwan.

    When I came to the US, my school day became 7:40 AM to 2:30PM, M-F. I didn’t even have any homework, and I went to one of the top public high schools in America, where 96% of the students go onto a four year university.

    Obama isn’t the one saying American students are failing world standards on math and science because they don’t spend enough time in school learning, with quality teachers. The rest of the world is. Trust me, they’re also laughing their heads off.

  31. We need to stop teaching for content and teach for life long learning skills. It’s not as important that I memorize all the presidents as it is that I know how to find and evaluate the information and how to run/be part of a learning team/community.
    I wish we had a year round school because summers off give kids too much time to get out of the swing of school, but longer and more days wont solve the achievement problem. We need to completely change how we teach kids. Self directed learning and IB are the way to go.

  32. Taiwan’s education system is free from K through 12. In fact, parents will be penalized for not sending their children to school. Home schooling is strictly prohibited. It is illegal.

    Both elementary school and JHS have 8 classes a day. The classes cover history, math, science, art, music, chinese, english, social science, PE, woodshop, home making, health, writing, calligraphy, etc.

    When I came to America, the most baffling thing to me was 95% of the students in an upper middle class neighborhood could not read music. In fact, they had little or no music training, something that should’ve came free with education. They couldn’t do oil paint, they have no idea how to draw, they can’t do calligraphy, their math and science skills are clearly lagging behind (I learned Trig in 8th grade, at 9th grade some students in my school were learning Pre-Algebra, something they should’ve learned in 5th grade).

    Most of them can’t tell one country from another, if you ask them who the first US president is, half of them give you a blank stare.

    Truth be told, I thought American kids were undisciplined, wild, idiots.

    I was soon placed in Honors classes, where most students were from immigrant families.

    What was also baffling was I kept hearing American kids complain about “too much homework”. I had so little homework I did most of them during 10 minute recesses. I didn’t even bring my books home most of the days. 99% of the time my homework was done either in school or within 2 hours after I get home. Once in a blue moon there will be a project to do, and they never take more than a day.

    I had no idea why my fellow classmates here were so lazy. I didn’t know what exactly they were spending time on when they say they have “too much homework”.

    You can’t tell me it’s because they had more extracurricular activities either. I was playing 3 hours of piano a day, volunteering at both the police station and the animal shelter, ran a children’s choir, went to various tutoring sessions, taught piano, and ran a club, plus volunteered with Leo club.

    In general, I think my fellow students in America simply didn’t manage their time well, and they were far too uninterested in learning to want to excel.

  33. to the first commenter – yes kids with more ‘wealth’ (read access) have more options in time off, but what would you propose? Longer school days for the poor only? Imagine what an outcry that would bring!

    And access doesn’t necessarily mean anything. With the internet, we all have access to just about anything, but how many of us have decided to become Latin speakers, or to play the cello?

    There are plenty of rich kids who behave badly in their time off, and are neglected by their parents to boot – the Menendez brothers come to mind, as do the Columbine kids. Involved parents go a lot farther than wealth when it comes to bringing up children – ask any great depression survivor!

    As to crime prevention. That is not what school should be. Public education was started in the interest of educating children to become productive adults – not just to keep them off the streets. And an education does not even necessarily equate to good behavior. Look at Bernie Madoff.

    I don’t know if the study is out there, but I’ll wager Chicago had less teens beaten to death in the streets before the ‘advent’ of longer school days, shorter vacations, and detention camp thinking in public schools.

    Nationally, there seems to be this thinking of children as crimes waiting to happen, and needing to be treated as prisoners in fenced compounds with magnetically sealed doors and police standing by. This is a generational tragedy.

  34. First, a link to an article that outlines the time our kids already spend in school:

    I’m flat out against longer school days. Many families have little enough time as it is. I’m all for year-round schools, with longer breaks periodically and a shorter summer break. If you think longer days will save you daycare money, you’re right. It will also cost all of us in taxes. Even the president can’t contend that a shift like this will be free or cost efficient. The article linked above states that the Massachusetts program currently in effect that adds three(!) hours a day costs $1300 per student. The program received more than $17.5 million in funds from the state legislature. That money has to come from somewhere, and we’re already drowning in debt as a country. I already home school and that isn’t going to change. I really don’t want to pay higher taxes for the funds required to extend public school hours and days. I think the feds need to butt out of this one and let education be handled at the local and state level. Check out the chart N. posted a link to ( to see why.

    On Obama’s proposed schedule, when will our kids have time to be free-range?

  35. I’ll be another voice saying that the Tampa newspaper data looks very suspect. I thought it was well understood that American school-years (generally 180 days) are shorter than most European countries, and far shorter than many Asian countries.

    Malcom Gladwell’s book “Outliers” discusses IQ and test scores with relation to days in school, and apparently more importantly, length of summer vacation and what children do during the summer. His conclusions were pretty conclusive that 1) long summer vacations, common only in the US, are detrimental to learning, and 2) what kids do during those long summer vacations is very important to learning and information retention. If I recall correctly, Gladwell stated that the Japanese school year is 240 days, many Asian and Europeans are in the low 200’s, and US is 180.

  36. You should have asked my opinion about this earlier. My kids were absolute monsters this morning. I am ready to advocate for boarding school at this point…

  37. to follow up on my last comment – it looks like the article does briefly mentions the longer school year in Asia, but the US has more “instructional hours”.

    I’m sorry, but that just sounds like BS. Sounds to me like that would be US school systems “cooking the books” to inflate the hours they supposedly spend teaching science and math.

  38. My nephew used to complain all the time that he had too much homework, and all the parents in his class and his own parents agreed. One day, I watched him do his homework. The kid never did his homework for more than a few minutes at a time. He was always jetting off to watch TV or look out the window or answer a phone call (from other kids who, I imagine, were also “doing their homework”).

  39. Delphine,

    Couldn’t agree with you more! Our education system has failed in so many ways. Keeping kids locked up for 13 years and spitting them out with not much more than they came in with. I have always been amazed at how disciplined and educated young adults from other countries are – in fact I try exclusively to hire them, or kids who have been home-schooled, or private-schooled! Truth be told, when I see resumes from American public high school graduates, even the honor students, and I just throw them out.

    Spending more time doing nothing might ‘reduce crime’ or make life easier for single moms, or whatever, but it won’t make our labor pool anymore talented, productive or valuable. I hope Obama doesn’t force this issue.

  40. So we keep them busy and out of trouble throughout high school, but what happens when they enter college and don’t know what to do with their free time?

    It seems colleges can’t curb binge drinking and while college age students are adults, do we want to promote hooking-up as the foundation of what should be mature adult relationships?

  41. Of course they could considerably lengthen the number of days by taking all the school holidays off the calendar. Wonder if the teachers would go for it? After all…its for the children.

  42. Ick. Ick ick ick. More and more I feel like we’re entering this wierd Victorian age where we want our kids to grow up as fast as possible–not in the way where you know how to handle the complexities of existence, just in the way where you know how to keep quiet and stand in line so that we won’t have to stretch our own boundaries by dealing with them. MORE school??! What about family time??! What about creativity and self-directed activities??! Oy vey!

  43. You said it, Lenore! Big Obama supporter, hate this idea…We need to look at Scandinavia and other countries where kids have more freedom, less time in school, and are doing better on tests, etc. In this country there are a lot of socioeconomic issues but more time being babysat by teachers and/or the government is not the solution here. The government should be working to level the socioeconomic playing field for working families, not babysitting all our kids.

  44. Egads. The number of people who think this is a good idea is truly frightening to me.

    I went to school to be a teacher. Then I did my student teaching. I now homeschool my children.

    Our government is all about persuading parents that they aren’t capable of raising their children (really, what other message is this proposal sending?), but at the same time, teachers have no power to provide a truly superb education. And teachers have NO power to provide a moral education. Instead, they are forced to teach politically-correct and often worthless lessons that are designed for herd consumption. A child’s individual ability can’t be dealt with in a classroom of 25-30 student.

    The more time children spend in schools, the more they are taught to be part of the herd and the less they learn to be self-motivated or creative.

    Sounds spectacular.

  45. Both my parents worked when I was kid. We were living on a shoestring, and I ultimately dropped out in the first trimester of 10th grade. Mainly because the teachers irritated me.

    Today I am a civil engineer with a fine job in process-control and quality assurance of infrastructure products. I manage about three dozen facilities’ processes across the country. I sit on several committees responsible for writing standards in many municipalities.

    I do not mean to boast, although I am very proud of my accomplishments, only to point out that there are many paths in life, and ‘socioeconomic playing field’ was never in our vocabulary. While making my brother and I clothes out of the scraps from her fabric store job that paid $1.25 per hour, my mother taught me everything I needed to know to be equipped for college and the professional world. My father – who would become a successful biochemist later in life worked only occassionally while spending the first 12 years of my life getting his PhD. We lived in community housing and subsisted almost entirely on the thousands of things you can make with corn meal, flour, and anything else you can imagine that’s cheaper in bulk.

    Despite being poor, they taught me to calculate, think critically, understand music, write creatively and technically, read, and understand language structure.

    I only went to school because that’s where my friends were. When I went to a big 10 college on a full scholarship from a private investment firm after writing a compelling essay, I outpaced every high school graduate and pulled an engineering degree out in 3 years, while raising two children of my own.

    The fact that America, a relatively opulent country, is outpaced by some of the poorest countries on the planet says to me that ‘socioeconomic’ factors are more of outcome of poor education rather than a cause of it. And sadly, I think a lot of people use it as an excuse. This is only bolstered by my own experience.

  46. This plan isn’t for the kids who are baking cakes, reading books, and playing kickball. It’s for the kids whose parents work until 6pm every night and the kids who sit at home and play video games every afternoon. And, as you know, there are many of them. It’s tough – not everyone needs so much school, and I don’t want it for my kids, but the fact is that many of our children need some place to go that’s safe and constructive.

  47. Dead on, Jennifer. I was writing the same thing (except not as clearly) and refreshed just to see what new comments had appeared before I hit send. It doesn’t matter how long the official school day is, for a lot of young kids. They aren’t going *home* when the final bell rings anyway. No cozy mug of cocoa, no frolicking in the autumn leaves, no learning valuable moral lessons from their family culture. That’s just not a realistic alternative for a lot of folks. A longer school day option would save many working families the stress and uncertainty of patchwork afterschool care arrangements, and let kids spend less time being carted from place to place.

  48. Seems odd that people think that school is (or should be considered) torturous to children. Perhaps that mindset is part of the problem in America.

    If not longer days, then I’m certainly in favor of reducing the Summer break. There’s so much lost over that extended time between May – August.

  49. I’ll restate what I said above: even those who argue that other countries teach more effectively with longer days need to explain how merely lengthening the days without addressing the wasted time and (frequently) poor structure of American schools will help. In fact, the system needs to be changed, not extended as is.

  50. Above that should be “longer days and a longer school year” in both references to “longer days.”

  51. “A longer school day option would save many working families the stress and uncertainty of patchwork afterschool care arrangements, and let kids spend less time being carted from place to place.”

    Unfortunate as some of these things are, school is not supposed be the cure of all social ills. It is for education. Until it starts doing education well, I’m not terribly interested in hearing how the school structure can be used to solve the problems of people who can’t or won’t spend more time with their kids. Even then, it’s like using a hammer to change a light bulb because it’s the tool you have handy.

  52. “This plan isn’t for the kids who are baking cakes, reading books, and playing kickball. ”

    Unfortunately, I don’t think the public school system’s hours are going to be optional or means-tested for quality of home life. So the kids who ARE baking, reading, and playing are going to be forced into longer classroom hours as well — in a school system that has yet to demonstrate efficient use of the time they already have.

    In reality, I don’t really expect to see this happen. There’s generally too much inertia against radical changes like this in American society. But there still needs to be outcry against it, lest dumb ideas get quiet traction.

  53. Public schools have never been strictly about academics. It’s not a recent expansion. There were school lunches and school clinics and onsite afterschool care and teams and bands and evening classes in many American city systems over a hundred years ago.

    The summer break itself isn’t an academic measure–it was originally an accommodation for the schedules of working families, when that meant farming families.

  54. You know, I’m sure both “sides” have a great reason for what they want… but you have to think about what the reality of it would *really* look like, not the fuzzy “I wish” version.

    There is only so much money, and any money spent keeping the place open longer hours would take money from everything else. So, bigger classes, no sports equipment, no art, no music, no buses — whatever your area likes to take away when they need to pay more to teachers and the countless administrators I’m sure a program like that would “require”.

    And, actually, I don’t think it would help them “achieve” more. I think some kids from bad neighborhoods *might* be helped? But there are other ways to do that, that targets the *actual* issue. So many fixes these days are giant, expensive things that change everyone’s life, when really you’re trying to fix something very specific. It makes no sense at all, and quite often creates more problems than it fixes. And quite often will not even solve the real problem people were trying to solve.

  55. @Chuck: I was that first commenter and I’m sorry that my comment was taken the wrong way by you – my only point was that, after seeing its effects in Boston, many people saw lots of positive outcomes aside from test scores, and decreased juvenile deliquency was one of them. The students were happy about this, too. Less boredom. I don’t think that’s a bad thing – replacing bordeom with meaningful activity. I’m sure plenty of “rich” kids find themselves bored after school and that, too, is a shame. That’s why I think this idea has some merit, is all. It would be better if kids could find their own ways to make good use of their time but that’s not always happening.

    Of course I don’t think we should base the school calendar on whether the students are rich or poor but as others and I mentioned, perhaps this is an issue that is best left to individual distrcits and not the federal governemnt. If a school district thinks that the students will benefit from longer days and more days in school, then by all means they should do it.

  56. “perhaps this is an issue that is best left to individual distrcits and not the federal governemnt. If a school district thinks that the students will benefit from longer days and more days in school, then by all means they should do it.”

    And that’s why we have school boards. The president doesn’t have any direct authority to order schools to do anything. He can express opinions and encourage certain directions, and shape policy in some areas through his choice of Secretary of Education, but school governance really is by and large a local matter. Already. Still.

  57. @Q: I know and I’m glad for that. It should stay that way. Maybe the President’s message should be to encourage schools to look into it, as one way to benefit student learning and outcomes, instead of a broad this-is-how-it-should-be-everywhere stance. Because, like most people here, i don’t think this idea would work everywhere. But I do think it can work and has worked for many schools.

    Too bad we don’t have more commenters with experience from schools that have already implemented longer days and/or shorter summers. I think everyone would benefit from knowing more about what that honestly looks like in practice, for better or worse.

  58. You should send a letter to the White House, Lenore. They say they actually hand him some to read – with any luck this would be the one.

  59. I was in another discussion regarding the school day, especially in high schools. Longer academics no, but more vocational training yes was a good consensus. Throwing this out as an idea, but making all high school essential more like vocational high schools. 2/3 thirds academics 1/3 vocation skills someone proportioned through out the school year. It would have to cut out extra-curricular activities and sports though.

  60. Q,

    If schools want federal funding, they have to follow their guidelines. So the most at-risk neighborhoods would be affected.

  61. They already added one extra hour to the school day somewhere between when I was in 9th grade and when I was in 12th in the late 80’s/early 90’s. They shortened our break, too. I don’t recall learning anymore. Instead, I took TWO periods of journalism AND one of literary magazine, while still studying my academics…I think the addition was mainly for more extracurriculars to occur within school hours, so people wouldn’t have to choose between say, band and Advanced Spanish, but could take both. I don’t think they should have added the extra hour then, and I certainly don’t think they should add still more now. Kids need run around time, creative time, not constant, constant structured time. Not to mention the money involved…

    This is partly why homeschooling has taken off. I don’t intend to homeschool, but I know a lot of people who do simply because they can get their kids to learn in 3 hours what it takes 7 hours for them to learn in the school, and the rest of the time they can free read and play.

  62. Are parents who want a babysitter the ones in favor of longer school days? If you want somebody else raising your children, and you doubt your own ability, then I understand why you want more school involvement.

    My wife is a school psychologist who sees so many parents who expect schools to “Do-it-All” – And so much more! Alas, these unfortunates don’t seem to see the influence they can and do have on their own children’s lives. Free and unstructured time for kids is often only bad for those whose parents were never a loving and guiding light.

  63. P.S.

    The reason we are behind in math and science is because we are about the only nation where EVERYONE, no matter how stupid, no matter how obstinate, is REQUIRED BY LAW to be in school until the age of 16. In a lot of countries, education is more of a privilege than a right, so when you compare math and science scores, you are often comparing the AVERAGE American to the ELITE of another country. I wonder what the outcome would be if you compared just the scores of top 10% of our school-age population with just the scores of the top 10% of their school-age population.

  64. Well, that might be a valid argument. You know, if I was sure those statistics were valid, and if the purpose of all those hours and years of school was actually education. You think it takes 12 years to learn the standard curriculum? There have been studies done on it, and it doesn’t, even allowing for inefficiencies due to the structure of mass education. The main purpose is actually socialization: the main ways children are socialized are through their families, their peer groups, and their schools. I jokingly call socialization brainwashing, but really it’s a lighter and more accepted (and impossible to avoid) version of it, and it takes a while to do.

  65. I’d rather have school time more efficient rather than just dishing out more of it in a rash (and unfounded) attempt to make things “better.” Before the whole country rushes off in a huff to do something like that, we really need to define what it is that we want to change for the better.

    Someone earlier mentioned reducing juvenile crime as being a benefit, and that’s all well and good but then we’re as much as admitting that schools are simply prisons to keep kids away from the public. Our president is harping on test scores, but I see no reason why 1,100 hours a year is insufficient time to give children a thorough education in math and science.

    If he wants to compare our outcome measures to Asian or European schools he’d better be ready to compare every facet of our differences. How about starting with a deeply ingrained cultural respect for teachers, reflected in everything from teacher pay to student (and parent) behavior. Isn’t it funny that a teacher in Wuhan, China can teach a classroom of 50-100 students more effectively than ours can teach 25-40? Does anyone really think that is directly related to the amount of hours they spend in class?

    Let’s elect ME as czar of education. The first item on my docket would be a revamping and reimplementation of vocational ed programs for many of those students Nicole mentioned in the first response. They are not going to college, so we do not need to treat them like college preparatory students. I’m not talking about teaching these kids to retread tires, but in the cities where this is a big problem there are MANY semi-skilled labor demands that we could be preparing them for. They need concrete, realistic educational goals along the lines of keeping a budget, operating equipment, interacting with the public professionally and the like. Vocational training is far too maligned as it is, but learning how to run a gas station is much better than learning how to sell drugs and hurt people (the educational path many of these kids are on now).

    They’ll call you racist for suggesting it. They’ll call you cold-hearted and they’ll hate the person that starts to solve some of these problems. They’ll do that because they’re the same idiots that got us into this mess in the first place.

  66. For some reason the real argument seems to be restructuring schools to teach differently, not extending the hours of said school time. We need to focus back on to the topic at hand.

    Even if you do not agree that the school system is perfect, by going against this idea of elongating school days, you are stating that parents and children in peer groups can (on avg.) teach better then a school can given this time. This statement is following the idea, the only reason we give children school is to have them grow and learn.

    Now if you think school can used for things other then teaching, say crime deterrent, you are stating that parents and other peers are better at deterring crime then a school would given that time.

    So let us tackle the second argument first.
    Do schools, using police, hall monitors, teachers and hooky officers do a better job at keeping our children out of crime then parents and peers do.
    This is a definite yes. It is proven over and over again that keeping children busy reduces crime. Building a skate park reduces the amount of crime skaters do. Opening any activity after school reduces crime from the population who uses it.

    Now back to the first argument at hand. Being against this change you believe, with longer school days using our current system parents and peers in charge of the students activities are more beneficial to the growth of the student then the current system. If this is the case, should you not be asking for the right to take your children out of this extra after school time and keeping the students whose parents and peers are not better at facilitating learning within the students. Why would you be against the movement? You just don’t want the movement to affect your kids and kids who can have a better life outside of this structured environment.
    Now if your against paying for this service for other children, that’s a totally different argument on efficiency and use of taxes, but no one seems to have made this argument as of yet.

    So really I only see 2 choices without thinking about taxes… being for the idea or being for the idea with exemptions for kids with a better option.

  67. “So I don’t know. We’ve taken away a lot of basic skills to get more academic instruction in, but to a huge detriment. If a longer school day means even MORE curriculum, NO WAY. But if it means a little more time to relax so our teachers aren’t in constant worry about being 5, 6, or 7 days behind where the curriculum says they should be….then maybe it would be better all around.”

    I don’t understand this. Why did we have to take basic skills away to get kids to learn in 7 hours the basic academics that they were learning just fine in 6 hours 20 years ago? Or have we ALWAYS had this perpetual “crisis” in academics in the U.S.? Were we having a crisis when I was in school in the 80’s? I think we were. Always we are having an academic crisis. And yet somehow we still manage to churn out most of the world’s inventions and capital.

    I think we need a “Some Children Left Behind” Act. Accept that not all children can achieve at the same level academically, and that some children are not college prep bound. Fail some children. Make them repeat the grade so they have a second chance to learn, but stop holding the other children back, and stop making them sit for seven hours a day in a desk when they could learn the same material in three hours and be reading a novel or playing sports instead…Stop pressuring teachers not to fail kids who need to be allowed to fail.

    Accept that people can be productive members of society and hold a job even if they don’t know Physics and Algebra II. Have separate academic (college prep) and vocational (with internships in a wide variety of trades, sales jobs, service jobs, and classes in budgeting, etc.), beginning in the 10th grade.

  68. @Sky said: This is partly why homeschooling has taken off. I don’t intend to homeschool, but I know a lot of people who do simply because they can get their kids to learn in 3 hours what it takes 7 hours for them to learn in the school, and the rest of the time they can free read and play.

    My second-grader is six weeks into school and is still bringing home spelling words from first grade, all of which he already knows. I’m wondering when his class will get out of review mode and into actual learning. They spend an awful lot of time at school learning very little. I’ve got a friend who homeschools, and her kids are already pulling away, academically. Proposals like this one make homeschooling more attractive to me.

  69. I think a redistribution of school days would be good for the kids – 12 week vacations are really too long, and so are long semesters without any break. I went to school in Uk, where at that time we had 3 roughly 12 week terms, often with a half-term break in the middle, so only 6 weeks of school without a break. 3 vacations of several weeks long per year. School was also 9-4:30pm, but with long lunchbreaks for sports/music, and including an afternoon of community service. But on the other hand, for working parents it’s much easier to only have a couple of very short vacations during the year and then the long summer can be filled by summer camp.

  70. I don’t agree. The 10 week long summer break is ridiculously long and kids do lose valuable information. 4 weeks in the summer, tops and 2 weeks in the winter. I don’t agree with lengthening the school day.

  71. I also suspected the Asians have shorter school days statistics, because I work with a lot of Asian high school students (via internet) in my freelance job, and they seem to have close to 12 hour school days. That said, I don’t think the longer school days are what are pulling Asians ahead in math and science, but that the pool of high school students tested has already been weeded out, whereas in the U.S. we have very few vocational tracts and everyone is entitled (nay, forced into by law) an education until 16, 17, or 18 (depending on the state). Many of the papers I read from Asian students complain of the length of study in their countries, the rote and limited nature of study, the lack of creativity and critical thinking, and they are trying to study abroad in the U.S. for these reasons.
    I wouldn’t mind year-round school provided the TOTAL number of days was not increased, and there were simply longer breaks spread throughout the year. This would allow families to vacation during different seasons as well. As for those who rely on school for child care and then send the kids to summer camp – I’m sure if the school year changed, private camps would sprout up during all of the breaks. Summer camps only exist because of summer vacation. Fall, Spring, and Winter camps would exist if there were such vacations.

  72. Year-round school with more breaks throughout the year would also make it easier to give religious holidays off, rather than having 5-10% of your population simply not show up for certain days…or having to show a movie on certain religious holidays because you couldn’t teach anything important, because you know some students will be absent for religious reasons and their parents would complain that you taught something significant…etc.

  73. I’m among those that are on the fence about the issue, but possibly for a number of different reasons. And I certainly don’t think it’s a solution that would work in all schools around the country.

    When I was a Freshman and Sophomore in high school, the school I went to had a system known as block scheduling (and, it should be noted, was the only school in the district with it, we were the guinea pigs). That is, some of the classes were double-length, but only for half the year. So, instead of having 8 periods that were 45 minutes in length, we had 2 that were 45 minutes and 2 that were 90 minutes.

    When it came to the work itself, it actually worked out great. We had fewer subjects to deal with and the teacher had more time to teach each day (most teachers would have a break to stretch, or would allow some time at the end to relax or work on things like projects). Where it failed, though, was that it was a REALLY small school. Like 200 students, K-12 small. We had about half a dozen teachers, and because of block scheduling, we had nothing in the way of electives. However, from what I heard from someone who went to a big school that had block scheduling, it worked very well. This is an example of how schools can’t be homogenized across the country.

    My high schools (the district closed the above school and sent us to a different one 15 miles away) were the standard 180-day, 8-3:30, two and a half months of summer vacation schools.

    When I went to college, I went to a college that had a trimester system. That is, there are three semesters in the year: July through October, November through February, March through June. Within the trimesters, some classes had the option to be “session” classes, which were basically like the block system in high school — the classes were either longer or more often (or both) but were done in half a trimester. We had two weeks off between the Spring and Summer trimesters and a week between the others. We had two weeks off for Christmas/New Years, a four-day weekend for Thanksgiving, and a three day weekend for Easter and the major federal holidays.

    You know what? While I remember bits and pieces from nearly every class I took in college, I probably couldn’t spit back to you most of what I learned there, particularly things that never got applied later on (basically, anything that wasn’t programming, project management, or, to a lesser extent, business).

    I was in college, an adult, I didn’t have summers, and I still forgot pretty much the same amount of information that I forgot between years while in high school.

    What does that tell me?

    That tells me that standard classes don’t work. Not in college, not in high school. Why? Because most people learn through more methods than just reading and listening to lectures. Some people can’t even learn hardly AT ALL through just reading and listening to lectures. The funny thing is, the teachers know this, or many of them do. Ask any teacher that teaches critical thinking or English and they’ll tell you pretty much the same thing.

    What works best? Including DOING in the curriculum. Like most parents know, a really good way to learn math is through cooking. Why is it such a good way? Because it’s a practical application of the theory. It provides a context and a reason for it, making it easier to remember.

    I’ve been keeping an eye on the local politics, especially in regards to the schools in the area. The kids in one district around here have no extracurricular activities this year. They don’t even have gym, and I don’t think they have art or music, either. They didn’t get enough funding from the district, and the constituents voted down funding bills. Even some of the schools that are better off have been cutting out extracurricular activities, and these are districts where you’d be hard pressed to find a street that didn’t have at least one house sporting a banner showing that their kid was an athlete. They’re cutting out the very things that have been proven over and over again to aid in learning (not to mention provide a change of pace from the “hardcore” academics).

    The American education system doesn’t need just more hours, it needs a total overhaul of how it works. If that overhaul includes more hours so that there can be adequate time to have hands-on learning sessions for as many classes as possible, then I wouldn’t be opposed to it.

    However, if it means the further deterioration of things like extracurricular activities, or the elimination of the arts, then I vehemently oppose it. Like others said, more of an ineffective thing does not make it effective.

  74. Since much of Free Range Kids is about giving our children a childhood like we had, let me tell you about mine:

    Homework was rarely assigned. Rather, homework was what you had if you couldn’t finish your school work during class time or study hall. Oh, sure, there were the occasional reports and outside reading, but mostly homework was spillover, only very rarely an additional thing specifically for outside school.

    Athletics — there might be practice for an hour or so after school, and there were games either Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Fridays. Never Wednesdays, and only very rarely on Saturdays (and that was just for the football games).

    Band — Practice was mostly during school hours because it was an actual class. Maybe an occasional practice outside school hours.

    All of this was entirely manageable, and there was plenty of free time for kids to be KIDS.

    Today I have a kindergartner, and SHE gets homework? What? (Okay, it’s not much, but just the fact that she has any at all seems silly.)

    I feel like society is trying harder every year to separate kids from their families. Several years ago they instituted 4-year-old kindergarten here. Not mandated, but for working parents, it was quite an enticement. No worries about paying for day care! Now you send the kids away even earlier! And again, with all the extracurricular stuff that kids get involved in, not to mention community-organized stuff, it seems like family time is harder and harder to fit in.

    My initial response was “If they want to push me toward homeschooling, this is the way to go.” It’s not that I want to be a helicopter parent, constantly monitoring my kid, always keeping them in the safe cozy cocoon of the home. Rather, I want to free them from the “Societal Helicopter” that wants to have them always in school, always in some adult-organized activity, always monitored by authority, always marching to the same beat . . . little cogs in society’s grinding wheel.

    I want my children to enjoy this time of being KIDS — not taught to be perfect little worker drones by the system.

  75. Oh, I so agree with Annika! I was home-schooled and public-schooled. And I have taught in both the public and private school settings. Now, with my oldest turning 3 and already beginning to read (because that’s what interested him, not because I’ve forced it down his throat), all I can think is, “I must homeschool.”

    The biggest problem is: there are parents who can’t or just won’t parent. However, I am not one of those parents. The vast majority aren’t that kind of parent! But because that kind of parent exists, my kid must suffer through more hours inside a classroom so that the absentee-parent’s child can complete what my kid has completed in half the time? I don’t think so!

    There used to be a thing called summer school, but funding for summer school in most places has been cut. Let’s fund summer school for the ones who are behind and need the extra help, and leave the kids who are already successful alone!

  76. “The summer break itself isn’t an academic measure–it was originally an accommodation for the schedules of working families, when that meant farming families.”

    Funny how those generations came away from school and built this country into a scientific, literary, and business powerhouse – up until the city folk started insisting that nobody is capable of self-reliance without big brother’s hand on their shoulder.

    So some kids are troubled, focus on them. Rebuilding an engine because a wire is faulty is foolish, especially if you put the same wires in it! To hear some people talk about how much kids need this and that, it’s a wonder we’re not still all living in caves!

    And just a thought. What happens to those kids who have good relationships with non-custodial parents in other places? Do 40 million families go back to court to revisit their custody arrangements?

    Also, I’m a little confused about this term ‘working families’. I keep seeing it around, and wonder…where are these families that don’t work?

  77. Clover writes: “If it didn’t involve oceans of red tape and paperwork, I’d be homeschooling right now.”

    Clover, it usually doesn’t. Don’t know where you live, but it’s relatively easy homeschooling in my state. I provided a Notice of Intent at the beginning (can be as short as three paragraphs, mine was two pages but that’s just me) and Proof of Progress at the end (I used a high school admissions test) and they left me completely alone in the middle.

    Do check out your state regs. It may not be nearly as difficult as you think. All newbies think it’s like climbing Mount Everest. I thought so too. Not to push you but that thinking delayed it for years so that I was only left with one. It is harder to homeschool than to send her to school (serious homework overload, sleep deprivation, loss of play, erosion of family time).

  78. FYI, Lenore (and others)

    Fox News is reporting the same school hours stats you have quoted up top. I don’t know if they directly copied it or what (that’s what it looks like), but it has spread to them, too.

  79. EDU in Review seems to have a more accurate, albeit still not completely clear, picture of the “us vs them” stats on school days.

  80. I skipped 4th grade, then dropped out a few weeks into 10th. Today I’m an professional engineer. It’s not quantity…it’s quality.

  81. Homeschooling laws vary from state to state. In some states it’s quite easy; in others a nightmare of bureaucracy.

  82. Chuck,

    So because the country has been successful using an older model, we should always stick to that model, newer understandings of neuroscience and brain development be damned?

    Long breaks in the summer mean time spent in school is used inefficiently. If one goal is to get kids more free time, then offering several shorter breaks throughout the year, makes more sense. Why waste time each Fall rebuilding what was built the year before, when we could give that time back to the kids and their families, instead?

  83. I haven’t read any of the posts, but I totally disagree with extending the school day. I’m sick of the philosophy ‘more is better’.

    The schools are crammed with a lot of unnecessary BS as it is. They outta cut the crap and stick to the basics, and quit expecting the parents to micromanage everything.

  84. I’m a former teacher…

    The current school day/calendar is based on an outdated agrarian model. There’s no logical need for it. Why get three months off in the summer? Because it was an important harvest time, and currently because it’s too expensive to retrofit buildings to add air conditioning (at least here in the Northeast).

    It’s impractical for working parents. Why get out at 3? For kids old enough to be latchkey kids, sure…but for 6 year olds? Have you seen what daycare costs? The big reason I quit teaching is because all the money I would make dealing with other people’s kids all day would barely pay for someone else to deal with MY kid all day. Pointless, really.

    In Boston you actually get March 17 off…St. Patrick’s Day. Sure they call it “Evacuation Day” because it’s theorectically the day that the British evacuated Boston, but really it’s because in the old days the teaching staff was majority Irish and everyone called out on 3/17 so they gave up.

    To give Math and Reading the long block periods that have been mandated for them in most districts here in MA, our students are only getting the equivalent of a half year of Social Studies and Science.

    I for one fully support a longer day if it’s actually used for academics…
    –Reading, Math, History, Science
    –Adding a foreign language k-12 (as is currently mandated in our curriculum frameworks and implemented in ZERO schools in the state)
    –Adding quality phys ed, music, art etc classes

    There’s a reason most private schools have longer days.

    Beyond that, the argument that kids in Asian countries do better with less does not take into account
    –That the cultures highly value academic achievement. To the point where your scores are printed in the paper and then reflect family honor (my husband’s parents are both from Bombay and we have family there). The US would do better if we actually cared about education instead of just paying lip service to it.

    –That in China and Japan and India, most students go home and work with a tutor for long hours each day

    –The emphasis on rote learning and speed of recall that is missing from our schools (in certain areas–do you need it for Math? DAMN SKIPPY YOU DO)

    –That misbehaving isn’t tolerated. You act up, you get kicked out. Period. And that’s nothing compared to what will happen to you at home for sassing a teacher.

    It’s like comparing apples and rocket fuel…

    Adding to the school day and year may not fix everything, but they will help with certain things….but American Culture (and the stupid idea that everyone can succeed) is going to keep any real change from being made.

  85. As a former school teacher, didn’t you know that harvest time is mostly in the Autumn not Summer?

  86. Jan,

    In some parts of the country and only for some crops.

  87. YES! Thank you for saying it, Lenore!! Sharing your thoughts on my FB!!

  88. Ugh. This makes me want to cry. Longer school days and school years? And maybe we could add a little more homework while we’re at it. That way there will be absolutely no time for play or family time or sibling connection. The emotional intelligence is totally missing from this equation. I thought Obama was all about emotional intelligence.

  89. I attended a year of school in Spain at age 13: school from 9-1 & 3-6 (had to have siesta time), plus 9-1 Saturdays, It did me no harm, and I learned many things I wouldn’t here. I think a series of 2 week breaks might do more good than one long summer break. As I understand it, the idea will be NO homework – it will be done IN school, so out of school time will truly be the kids’.

  90. I already commented but…

    If we want a connection with our kids when they’re 20 year olds, we have to put a connection in place when they’re little. It’s not just going to magically happen that you’ll have a connection with your grown child. It takes time and effort and intention too.

  91. The reason our kids are behind is not due to the time they spend in clasrooms, it’s due to the flawed education system (read: system not teachers) Our school system does not need a major overhaul it needs to be knocked down and completely redone. Get rid of all this extra testing, let teachers get creative with lesson plans, pay teachers by merit (get rid of the teachers union already), and give kids more leeway to guide their own education and work with the community. BTW, I don’t believe that more school time will lead to increased recess and band/art/sports programs. The increased cost to run longer school days will be used an excuse to cut these programs even more. Longer days means more test prep time. Yeah!!!

  92. I’m always curious about people who think a longer school day/year would be a “gift to the NEA.” I personally don’t know of any other teachers who think it’s a good idea. And I’m really shocked at how many parents at the beginning of this comment section think state-supervised enrichment/babysitting is a good idea. Really? You want that for most kids because the poorest kids parents aren’t parenting? That’s a HUGE step in the direction of nanny-state. And as a public school teacher in a really good district, I’d find a new career and pull my son out for homeschooling in a heartbeat if an extended day/year happened.

    I do think that there SHOULD be an extended day for kids who are not English proficient or who are behind in basic skills. Right now, teachers are required to spend too much of the school day working with these select groups to the detriment of average and high students. It creates an impossible situation for both teachers and students. An additional hour or so each day would enable a specialist or teacher to give these kids the targeted help they need without cutting the other things they (or other kids) need to learn in order to make it fit in a traditional school day.

  93. C, there are some areas of the country where an agrarian model is not outdated, and kids still do spend their summers working on the farm. If not farms, then family businesses. I grew up in a community that had a large influx of vacationers in the summer, and I spent every summer working in the family store because that’s when extra help was needed. Many of my classmates got summer jobs working at resorts and other summer businesses.

    This still continues today.

    It’s not an outdated model. Perhaps it’s not like that within the DC Beltway or Obama’s Hyde Park neighborhood, but again we’re seeing the federal government trying to apply a one-size-fits-all solution.

  94. As a current public school teacher (who will be looking to get out soon) I find this ridiculous. I have 35 students in each of my classes. They are packed in like sardines, but this is how they want to spend the money they don’t have – on a longer school day. Not on more teachers to make smaller classes – for which there is much evidence in support of, by the way.

    All the longer school day and/or year means is MORE TESTING. All teaching has become anymore is teaching to the test.

    I never considered myself an advocate of homeschooling. However, seeing where the bureaucrats are taking education, I might have to seriously consider it when my kid reaches school age.

  95. “C, there are some areas of the country where an agrarian model is not outdated, and kids still do spend their summers working on the farm.”

    THANK YOU Drew. To hear people talk about this issue, you’d think either that food grows on the grocery store shelves and no one needs to grow it any more, or the people silly enough to stay in farming can just lump it when their kids have to be in school instead of helping out (or maybe that people don’t realize how marginal many family farms are and that they really need the help of the older kids.) It’s not as though farming doesn’t exist anymore!

  96. Curious how it seems everyone that commented who actually went to schools outside of America or seen how schools outside of America functioned, support longer school days.

    The rest of the Americans who appear to know nothing about education outside the US education system are the ones that think children need to stay out of school as much as possible. Why not just pull your kids out of school all together and set them free? They can be even more wild and fall even further behind the rest of the industrialized world in math and science. It’ll be great.

  97. I’m sorry, but if we are going to ignore basic neuroscience in order to allow a very small percentage of the population to have their kids working on the farm, we are doing a huge disservice to the nation as a whole.

    Further, it’s ludicrous to make comments denigrating others, and pretending that others “don’t know where food comes from.” Most food does not come from family farms, anymore. We can rue that if we want, but that’s not likely to change, and it makes no sense to continue long summer vacations for most kids, when that means schooling them in a very inefficient manner.

  98. First of all I don’t think there should be any Federal Involvement in public schooling. I think it should be strictly state controlled. Someone show me where in the Constitution we gave our Federal government the right to regulate schools or our children’s education.

    And what do we really think a longer school day would achieve? Many have said IF it included longer recesses or a return to music, art, pe and other dropped subjects they would be for it. Those things would happen only in a perfect world. In reality we probably wouldn’t see those things happen because of the money involved.

    I think the best things we can do for our children is to introduce to them a chance to play, use their imagination and explore how their world works. If we structure our children’s day from the time they wake up until it is time for bed when do they learn to entertain themselves? How many kids today have a chance to look for butterflies, or lightening bugs? How many have ever laid on their backs and looked for shapes in clouds and how many moms have time to bake cookies with their kids or dads that have time to let their children help them around the house.

    I truly believe if we want better educated children, we need stronger families and more time in school is not the way to achieve that.

  99. Big important issue. The debate will be long and hard.
    My question is:

    HOW WILL WE PAY FOR IT? I know if MY boss requires I work a longer day I will ask him to pay me more. Less vacation time? Right now in California teachers work from late August thru Late May. Average p[ay statewide $65,800. Ask them to lengthen their work day by 3 hours and work 8 extra weeks, that is going to cost a LOT!! Prop 13 holds property taxes to 0% increase effectively, income tax could go up, but with 12% unemployment in the state there is no money, hmm maybe the Federal govt can help?

  100. Ah, Asian education, such a conundrum.
    My husband is currently teaching at an international school in Hong Kong, and though we have disagreements with some aspects of how kids are raised in this environment (lack of access to nature, primarily) we can’t argue with the quality of kids that are being turned out. (Though it’s an international school, the students are primarily Chinese, and many are Hong Kong locals.) Both my husband and I expected that with such high emphasis on rote learning and memorization that the kids would lack creativity, problem-solving, etc. But not true! His students are such great kids–polite, articulate, confident, creative, respectful, hard-working, etc.
    At the same time, it drives us crazy that there is pressure here for our 18-month-old to be in preschool, and even if we take him to a playgroup, the little Chinese babies are willing to sit in the circle and listen to a story, and he’s up running around the room. So I totally disagree with the philosophies about early childhood education and expectations here–we are much more “free-range style”, but then we remember the students he has here versus the students he taught back home in the states. Totally different, and we would choose for our kid to be like the Hong Kong ones in a heartbeat.

  101. I just cringed when I heard Obama’s take on longer school hours and shorter vacations. No, NO, and NOOOOOOO!!! I wish the school days were shorter and that summer was longer. When I was kid, summer was three whole months. I think my kids get 9 weeks off and it stinks. I also don’t get how kids lose knowledge over the summer. Maybe it’s who they’re living with that’s the problem. My kids swam swim team, practiced karate, went to the park, played outside, rode bikes and read tons and tons of books. And we got to spend time together as a family. I get so sick a tired of the schools thinking they can decide what all of us do in our time when our kids are away from school. Why should we all suffer because some DA is going to park their kid in front of the TV with a lunchable and a bag of chips every day for the whole summer. Why should this mean that my kids and I can’t go blueberry picking then go to the Reptile Zoo?

  102. […] Lenore at Free Range Kids has a great post which I’ll copy and paste here: Noooooooh!! Longer School Days, Less Vacation, Obama! […]

  103. This is yet another /ObamaFail in a long, long list. Beyond the fact that his idea misses the boat completely on why American kids are behind their foreign counterparts, I suppose no one explained to him that more school hours means more teacher salaries, more overhead cost for Board of Ed budgets, which results in HIGHER TAXES for already strapped American families? Way to help the economy. Let’s hit the middle class with another bill to pay.

    But after all, it IS all about teaching our kids how to get better scores on standardized tests. Isn’t that the true measure of their worth?

  104. **How about more quality education taking place during the school day instead of the “busy work” that our kids are having to endure?! There would no longer be a “need” for longer school days and less summer. I don’t blame the teachers, its simply a broken system that is losing touch with reality more and more each year.**

  105. I taught English in Korea. I would like to state that the notion that our kids spend more time in school that other countries may be technically true but is not entirely accurate. What I found when I was over there was that many children spend the compulsory 7 hours a day at a school but then most go to either private institutions for further instruction in a particular subject and extra study in English. Students that did not go to private learning centers often stayed at the public school for further teaching. The highschool kids i worked with from time to time told me how many of them were actually in a learning environment from 7:30 every morning to about 6pm every evening.

    I think that fix number one should be HOW the kids are spending time in schools. Work smarter not harder comes to mind. There is too much tenderness given by the school system. My girlfriend is a 4th grade teacher and twice a week she is required to get her students (all 20 of them) into a circle for 15 minutes to discuss things like bullying and talk about their feelings.

    As long as the teachers need to spend more time doing things like the “open circle” described above and the more they need to accomadate each individual students needs, instead of treating the class as a single entity, less will get done more time will be needed.

    I do not see the harm in increasing the school year from 180 days to 200. I would break it up more though, one month in the summer, one in the fall/winter and one at winter/spring. Set up a Trimester system

    When did elementary and high school become over blown day care?
    We send our kids to preschool for forced socialization to learn to play together (maybe learn the alphabet). When kids are in elementary and highschool they should be there to learn and have very subtly guided socialization training.

  106. As always, I am really impressed with everyone’s responses here–excellent and thoughtful points of view.

    I’d like to add that Obama’s “longer school day” proposal is simply…naive. He just doesn’t know what he’s talking about. What kind of longer school day? A day full of test prep so No Child Will Be Left Behind? As has been mentioned, there’s lots of research out there showing that more time in the classroom does not mean more academic success. Title I, the Head Start program, has not made for more academically successful kids. Period. Does his longer school day mean more time with supervised extracurricular activities–including meals, counseling, tutoring, homework support? A kind of high-end, super duper daycare? Well, for many of the children in this country who live in poverty and with extremely dsyfuntional families/neighborhoods, this is a GREAT idea. But how will it be funded? And of course not every family needs that kind of community support anyway. And finally, many, many schools in our country–inner-city schools for lack of a better definition–are simply terrible. Why would more time in those schools be helpful?

    So then, what is the point of a longer school day? I’m very disappointed in Obama. I sure hope A Longer School Day does not become the new No Child Left Behind–inadequately researched, inadequately funded, and just plain inadequate legislation which does not solve the problem.

    And our country does have a problem: poverty and illegal drugs. How will a longer school day fix that?

  107. “my kid must suffer through more hours inside a classroom so that the absentee-parent’s child can complete what my kid has completed in half the time? I don’t think so! There used to be a thing called summer school, but funding for summer school in most places has been cut.”

    There also used to be a thing called TRACKING (and it still exists in some schools). You had the kids who were struggling all in one class together, the kids who were doing average in one class together, and the kids who were excelling in one class together–so that the teachers could teach at the level of the children without having to dumb things down for those who were ahead or spend twice the time teaching. In elementary school, this takes this form only for certain subjects – separate math and reading groups, mainly.

    But this is part of the problem with the “No Child Left Behind” mentality we have in the U.S. We refuse to let people fail, repeat, or be separated and grouped based on ability, so that each person can achieve as much as possible accoridng to their individual limitations, admiting that individual ability does vary widely.

  108. Hey Delphine, I did pull my kids out of school and set them free and guess what? They are both doing math 2 grades higher than their school friends. And yes, they get tested in those higher grades and ace them every year.

  109. Thanks for the facts on time spent in American classrooms compared to Asian countries. Anicdotile wisdoms assumes they are in the classroom more. Knowing the facts changes everything. You made some good points.

  110. Delphine — Earlier you talked about how your “school days” were 12 hours, but the thing is, you counted extracurricular activities within those school days. When I count extracurricular activities (for me, it was primarily basketball), then yes, I spent 12 or so hours at school, too. On away game nights, I often didn’t get home until 11pm or midnight because of how far we typically had to travel to play other schools and we’d go out to eat after.

    The problem, here, though, is that there are a number of schools that can’t even afford to pay for even the classes that aren’t “hardcore academic classes” (history, science, English, etc), so they’ve cut out art, music, gym, etc. You were appalled that most of the kids in your American school couldn’t read music, it’s even worse in schools that don’t even HAVE music, anymore.

    And other extracurricular activities, like sports, drama club, or debate team? Those were gone a long time ago. They were the FIRST things to get cut (that’s why art, music, and gym have now been cut, there’s nothing else TO cut).

    These schools are run on a skeleton crew they call a faculty. 35 students in a classroom is not uncommon, especially in areas where the schools can barely afford to pay the faculty for the “hardcore” classes anymore.

    As others have already said, who’s going to pay for the longer school days? If they can’t afford to pay for what they have NOW, what are they going to do if/when they have to add hours to the faculty’s payroll?

    And really, what good will a 12 hour school day do if there’s nothing left to teach because there’s no one left to teach and all that’s available are the mandatory science, math, history, and English classes? Are they going to have 3-hour classes?

  111. Extended hours my be good for some families (especially if both parents are working full-time), but I think it would be the tipping point more many, causing more to home school.

  112. Well said, Dragonwolf. And Delphine, that brings up another point about children who have been freed from school. They have time and access to these programs that schools have cut. Our school day takes 2-3 hours a day which leaves a lot of free time. Through coops my children take piano and violin lessons, create art, sing and my daughter even learned how to sew, knit and crochet. She is now making a sweater for herself and she is only 11. They don’t teach that stuff in school anymore and those skills will help her forever. My children have many hours of “recess” each day.They also have time for sports since they are not spending all day in a classroom.

  113. Mae Mae — Oooh, I’m kind of jealous of your kid. I’m twice her age and only now learning to crochet. 😀 (Granted, I did try back in high school, as I had a friend that knitted and crocheted, but I didn’t have the tools and couldn’t afford to buy them, so it didn’t get very far.)

    I actually kind of wish knitting and crochet were part of Home Ec. classes.

  114. “I’m sorry, but if we are going to ignore basic neuroscience in order to allow a very small percentage of the population to have their kids working on the farm, we are doing a huge disservice to the nation as a whole.”

    You keep bringing up this basic neuroscience, as if it’s the means to provide good education.

    Let’s suppose for a moment it is.

    Why would you expect schools to start implementing real means to good education now, when they haven’t managed to before? My point all along here is that tacking days or hours onto an inefficient system that is WORSE (as far as outcomes) than it was when kids spent FEWER days and hours in school solves NOTHING.

    Besides, if you can figure out a way to get food to the population while driving the farming economy over the edge, then acting as though the needs of farming families are irrelevant in the big picture might work. Until then, it’s HIGHLY relevant.

  115. I have a gifted child that is being completely let down by public education. His creative approach, while providing correct answers, does not fit with “the system”. He is routinely berated or downgraded for having a different technique.

    I have another child who at six was expected to sit quietly at a desk for a six hour day and cut, paste and color worksheets. Elementary school is taught by women FOR GIRLS.

    The last thing I want is more of this. While I work, my kids are met off the bus by college kids, do their (boring worksheet) homework, then do crafts, play outside, play with legos/K’nex, or read until I get home.

    They learn more at home than at school.

    As far as extra-curriculars, they have soccer, karate, and piano (none of which are available at the school). If school was longer we would lose both those and our family dinners every night. That is too big a price to pay.

  116. pentamom: What I am bringing up in terms of neuroscience is very simple. Long breaks away from learning and skill building lead to the need for wasted time spent “reviewing” (relearning).

    This does not mean that kids need to spend more time in school overall. It simply means that the summer break as it is currently implemented leaves us with a very inefficient system, no matter what other changes are made to it.

  117. pentamom: And, again, your last paragraph speaks to a very small percentage of the population. Do you not understand where most food comes from these days?

  118. MervinMerton — I don’t agree that the breaks are the issue in the matter, though. In a “structured” learning situation, there are a number of flaws that keep children from remembering what they were taught. One of the primary obstacles is that most classes teach in a read/lecture setting. It’s been proven over and over that learning works best when it’s applied and when people also learn through doing, not just listening or reading.

    Children are also expected to simply memorize, instead of understanding why something is the way it is. Yes, 8×4 is 32, but why is it 32?

    I think that the class time itself needs to be spent on teaching kids to understand, instead of simply memorizing.

    Finally, while pentamom’s particular situation speaks to only a small percentage of the population, it does bring up a much larger matter — blanket solutions won’t work everywhere.

    I know of schools that have block scheduling (two 45 minute classes and two 90 minute classes, instead of eight 45 minute classes), where the block system works phenomenally. I also know of schools with it where the block system fails miserably.

    Schools should be assessed on a school-by-school or at least district-by-district basis and figure out what works best for that district, because obviously, a school with year-round classes would work much better in a city or suburban district than it would in a farming community district.

  119. To everyone — One of the best things we can do is write to the source of this idea — the President, himself. Voice your concerns in an actual, physical letter, sent through the mail.

    You can’t be heard if you never speak into the microphone.

  120. K brings up another good point. I have often said that I may have put my son in an elementary school if he was gauranteed to have male teachers. Boys and girls do not learn alike. Do they learn to adjust, maybe. But would they thrive in an environment more conducive to them, I would think so. I am all for having boys and girls in seperate classes for elementary school.

    I have a friend who is a teacher. She had men in her classes in college and she said it was fascinating to see the difference between them and the women. She said the men almost always had lesson plans that taught the kids through some type of movement. The women almost always had lectures, worksheets, reading and such. I am not saying either is wrong but it shows that men understand how boys learn because they were boys.

  121. MarvinMerton, I don’t really object to your point about shorter vacations, but I am not interested in walling up kids in school longer in the name of less time needed for reviewing UNTIL they start making better use of the time they have and teaching stuff effectively the first time around. Get those other eight months working up to something a little closer to reasonable efficiency, and then we can talk about giving them more. Again, given that schools did better in the past with equal or longer summer vacations, I’d like to see some recognition of that before we buy into the reduction of freedom and massive increase in expense required by lengthening the school year. Someone above mentioned rather dismissively that older schools in the northeast would have to be retrofitted for air conditioning since they were not designed to be inhabited in hot weather. That is NOT a small issue — that’s an enormous expense most affecting poorer districts who are functioning with older buildings.

    Also, I understand that lots of food in this country comes from large-scale commercial farming where Johnny helping out Dad in the summer isn’t a significant factor. I also know most milk doesn’t come that way, and that while the smaller family farm is not the bulk of food production in other areas, it would be seriously unhealthy all around were small-scale food production to be forced out of existence because some people think it’s too small a percentage of the total to be worth worrying about.

  122. oh God, is that man going to force me to homeschool? Dang socialist pinko Commie. (Was that funny? I thought so…Ok, I love Obama and voted for him, but this is insane.)

  123. In my search for information for a letter I’m putting together to send to Obama, I found a very interesting article from Time Magazine.

    It’s a pretty lengthy article that details the price Asian students pay to achieve the world’s highest test scores — a price that sometimes includes their sanity, and even their lives. There is also significant talk about (*gasp*) EDUCATION REFORM in the Asian countries, including the abolishment of Saturday classes.

  124. I actually don’t think that longer school days are a problem. In our area the public middle schools and high schools let out on average at 2pm and some let out at 1pm with days starting as early as 7am.

    I’m all in favor of adjusting a school day to 8am-4pm. More time at school doesn’t mean more time in class. It can mean more time for recess, art, music, extra-help periods for students and teachers to meet outside of classroom time, etc.

    Let’s not be reactionary about what a “longer day” means until we see how it’s going to be filled.

    My daughter is almost 5 years old and goes to pre-school from 8:30am-4pm. She does several hours of academic oriented work in there, but also has plenty of playground time, music, dance, art, karate, and even free-play time all at school. She loves it and sometimes doesn’t want to come home at the end of the day.

  125. P.S. I’d also be in favor of longer school days if it was joined hand in hand with the abolishing of homework. Work at school not at home!

  126. I hate this issue. It engenders bad feelings every way you look at it. All this “kids should be out there in the world, not stuck in school” stuff is pie-in-the-sky thinking to people like me, who have office jobs that for some strange reason don’t think 2:15 is a good time to end the day…not to mention the at-least-once-a-month minimum-day thrown in to really screw up my schedule. Clovers? Really? That’s all well and good for the kids of stay-at-home parents, but in my world…less school means more time shoved in some piss-poor-but-affordable afterschool program, where my kid will bide his time until he’s of an age that he can be home by himself. Maybe THEN it would be nice, but now? It’s just ugly and it makes me feel bad, and all these outraged comments just reinforce the divide between the ‘haves’ (people who have the luxury of being home with their children and thus might appreciate the extra time) and the ‘have-nots.’

    For the record, though…I think the idea of longer days in the classroom being used to eliminate homework is a brilliant one. Won’t happen, but I’d sure vote for that.

  127. @Kristi, I wish there was a Sudbury Valley school around here. That would be my dream education for my kids. As it is, they’re “free range learners”, homeschooling and mostly unschooled (although they tend to be academically interested).

    I really think keeping kids imprisoned all day, year round, is not going to increase their love of learning. It’s like the difference between the school lunch lady and Rachel Ray.

  128. Sorry, my husband is a teacher, and summer vacation is a freaking travesty.

    We need year round schools with reasonable breaks instead of an incredibly long break where children forget everything they learned and have to spend 1-2 months reviewing their academics.

    I may be a free range kid proponent, but I also think we need stronger academics, longer hours in the upper grades, and no more stupid, agrarian-based summer breaks.

  129. I should clarify: my husband is a math teacher. Our math education system sucks compared to other countries, it’s a travesty. Better teachers, longer hours, no more ridiculous summer breaks can help this problem from becoming a serious issue for our children.

  130. Maybe the schools should teach math the way every other generation learned it. All these new ideas add many steps and make it more confusing, IMO.

  131. I’m not decided on the issue of longer school days and/or longer school years. But, I do question a couple of the arguments being made here:

    1. What happens to the free-time where kids get to make up games and play independent of structure? I don’t know about the rest of you all – but I work and so do most parents of my son’s friends. Our kids don’t have “free-time” to play independently. They go to the after-school program and goof off for about two hours after school lets out. Is it less structured: yes. Do kids get to make up games, etc: Yes. But they can do that during a longer recess, too.

    2. What about sports and extracurricular activities? Well, I don’t think school would go much past the regular work day (5:00-ish) and, again, because most parents work, activities tend to be later than 5:00 — so nothing changes. Maybe I am wrong, but I can’t imagine a community in which kids are playing baseball at 4:00 in the afternoon — who would take them since mom and dad are working?

    I try to respect the opinions of others, but I have difficulty when opinions are based on faulty facts.

  132. […] Nooooooooooo!! No Longer School Days, Less Vacation, Obama! Hi Readers! Worrying that American students are falling behind their international counterparts, President Obama is […] […]

  133. I wonder why people advocating things like longer school days while comparing us to Asian countries leave out the single most important factor in determining student success:


    You need parents that are supportive and respectful of the teachers, something that large portions of our society has decided it is no longer going to do. I guarantee you that in these countries that are supposedly out performing us, that you have both these things.

  134. We get a 6 week summer break and 4 ten week terms per year. The school day runs from 9 to 3 more or less and it seems to work just fine. Term holidays are usually 2 weeks, sometimes 3 when Easter is added on.

    I have no idea how we rate internationally but the kids seem to do ok.

    There are tests at 12 year old level but these are not the end if you happen to do badly. The final 3 years do running assessments which were a pain when they first came in but seem to be alright now.

    Its not perfect – nothing ever is – but the kids learn ok and there are options for those who aren’t academically inclined. There are also apprenticeships for those that wish (and can earn one) along with scholarships.

    Some schools stream for ability but most only take out the top and bottom tier – this only applies to the senior ages in high school and intermediate.

    viv in nz

  135. @ Maureen – I wholeheartedly agree.

  136. I’m guessing that when people are comparing the hours spent “in school” between the US and other countries, that they are actually referring to instructional time in subjects deemed appropriate by the US. My understanding of Asian education is that they spend quite a bit of time doing subjects that no longer or never existed in the US such as martial arts, calligraphy, art, etc. So in that regard, perhaps the US has more class hours assigned to “core” subjects (although I would suspect a lot of that time is spent watching movies and other time wasters)

    My teens are in judo and have come to appreciate deeply the role that martial arts plays in developing self discipline and keeping on “the path” (and *out* of trouble!). This is a huge part of Asian culture. Tea ceremonies, poetry, art, etc have long traditions in those countries also. We have no systematic way of teaching and reinforcing self discipline in this culture. We have no equivalent that teaches the arts in such a way as to add beauty and peace to our lives.

    And worse yet … no one OWNS their education here. If they don’t learn anything, they blame the school system or their teachers or their parents or whomever is convenient. Adults solemnly thank whomever pushed them to succeed in school. “I couldn’t have done it without so and so”. While I certainly understand and endorse that each of us can be (and hopefully are!) inspired by someone, success in education is not the responsibility of others.

    An unmotivated student can have the best teachers and resources in the world, even get great grades, and still go on to do spectacularly NOTHING. How do we explain those amazing stories of someone who triumphed over seemingly overwhelming odds? The student who was born into poverty, had a terrible school system, was surrounded by drugs, but who MADE something of him/herself! The reality is that every single individual has the ability to own their own education.

    Unfortunately, we as a country have now set up our school system to cushion the little darlings all along the way. We don’t want their self esteem to suffer so no one is allowed to fail. We hyper manage them to make sure they get their work done on time. Many kids fall through the cracks for whatever reason (my husband worked at an alternative learning school which was a huge eye opener for us). Oh the problems are so complex and beyond the scope of this post. But I simply do not see how extending school hours or year will fix any of this. For the record, I know many amazing teachers in the school system who make a difference in their school, but it’s like a pebble drop in a pond. So many of our teacher friends are fed up with the government issues already imposed upon them, I cannot see how extending the school year will make their jobs any more effective!

    Looking beyond high school to college is eye opening when considering the state of education in our country, imo. Afterall, college is optional and comes with a price tag (no more compulsory free ride). I think of how many American students I know who completely blew their first year of college, many going so far as to flunk out. WHY? Because mommy isn’t there to get them up in the morning and make sure they are doing their homework. It’s the first time in their life where no one really cares if they show up for class and so many of them are burnt out from all the stupid busy work and/or have no goals or drive that they just take a very expensive “vacation”.

    I’ve also noticed many students in this country feel entitled to an education. They think they deserve to go to college even if they have no idea what they want to do and no follow through to do the work. $20,000 later, they are stunned to realize they have dug themselves into a hole that isn’t so easy to get out.

    Our current form of compulsory education doesn’t create learners. Pouring facts into kids isn’t education. We have to teach them HOW to learn and light a fire to nurture in them the burning DESIRE to learn. And somehow we have to get them to OWN their own education because frankly, they are the ones who pay the price ultimately. They are the ones who have to live with the results of their own endeavor (well the parents may also if the adult child moves back home!).

    We have 7 kids ages 3-17 that we homeschool. We are a low income family and do this at great financial sacrifice since I do not work outside the home. We opted to stay out of the school system, a decision only reinforced by the 3 years my husband spent teaching in the school system. It’s been interesting for us to note how many teachers and former teachers we have known over the years who have also opted to teach their own children at home in response to what they have lived in the school system.

    One of the interesting things I’ve noted over the years is that as far as test scores go, homeschoolers on average test out higher than public school students. While average for public school is the 50th percentile, average for homeschool students is 80th percentile. The most puzzling part of this is that homeschool parents do not see the test ahead of time and are always panicking about whether or not the have taught their kids the “right stuff” this year. They are not teaching to the test while that is the case in the school system. Additionally, many homeschoolers do not even believe in the tests and do them only to fulfill some state requirement (not all states require standardized testing of homeschoolers). I do not believe tests are the best measure of education, but it is the measure the government is using to prove how we are failing. Therefore, I’d like them to explain why homeschoolers on average test so well even though they have a wide variety of educational situations at home (from rigorous academic programs to radical unschooling) and parental educational background (Doctorate down to GED; Mensa down to MR label and yes I know an MR mom who successfully homeschooled her daughter). I’m not saying homeschooling is the solution to the nation’s ills; just that the nation may have something to learn from this growing subgroup of the population.

    Obama needs to show me how the government is going to pay for extended school and give me some real compelling evidence that the time will be used wisely before I’d consider this an idea worthy of consideration.

  137. Great job on an EXCELLENT column! I’m a high school teacher and an author, on leave for a semester to promote my work and complete other writing projects. So for the first time ever, I’m directly exposed to the “helicopter parents” who have taken the opportunity to congratulate me for staying at home bc they would never leave their child ‘with a stranger’ as I apparently did years ago.

    Anyway, keep up the great work. Re shorter summer vacations – kids need to learn to be creative on their own. So much of what we do in school is directly related to parental abdication of real responsibilities. Re test scores: no other nation on the planet aims to challenge as vast and diverse a population. I think we’re doing a super job. let’s keep in mind all the foreign students who flock to U.S. universities to be educated . . . by those who have succeeded in our public schools system.

  138. Longer school days and less vacations aren’t the answer to the problem. Parental involvement is. Teach your younger children good study habits, time management skills, organization, and that getting an education is vital so that as they get older and move further away from “Mom & Dad,” they have the skills to succeed. By high school age the foundation is already set and it’s quite hard to change it then.

  139. Homeschooled students are often billed as far more intelligent than their public school counterparts, and they generally have shorter school days and years. My example: I had all Tuesdays off because of a bowling group I was involved with, and I didn’t have school some days because I went to the mall with my family or something like that; generally finished a full school day around 2:00pm, when my contemporaries finished around 4:00.

  140. For over nineteen years I have been involved with the school system in our town. Longer days and shorter vacations are not the answer. Children need down time. I am amazed at how much time is wasted during the school day. Perhaps if we stop wasting so much time during the day we will not feel a need to increase the hours and decrease vacation time.
    So many people I know are beginnng to home school their children; on average they accomplish in three hours what the classroom teacher does in six hours.

    Parents need to be involved with the schools their children attend. Volunteer. We can only expect so much from our teachers, the responsibility is ours as parents to make sure our children learn good study habits.

  141. Thank goodness for Montessori upper and lower elementary where children learn to think for themselves and develop a desire to learn for learnings sake while in school!

  142. Our President needs to read the NY Times Best-Seller childrens’ book that my 9 year old daughter loves to read. It’s titled, A Fine, Fine School. The author is Sharon Creech.
    It’s a little story about a well-meaning principal of a fine school and teaches about formal, versus informal, education in a child’s life. It illustrates all of the non-school learning that a child does.
    It’s an important reminder for all adults, especially the well-meaning, over-achieving ones. As a teacher, I think of it every time I start to think “more is better.”

  143. Home-schooled children are usually more advanced because it’s either a one-on-one or a smaller group setting with open discussion instead of 25 – 30 students in a more rigidly structured environment.

    I didn’t home school my children but I did teach them in the times that we were together and it helped them in school. There were several times that my children told me they either taught their teacher something or, at least, surprised their teacher by knowing something that hadn’t been taught in class yet.

  144. And Obama watches the point fly miles over his head. The intention might be good, but keeping kids in school longer isn’t going to help their test scores or their information retention. You can’t send your child to school and do nothing else and expect them to just “get it.” Teachers are teachers, not a parent away from home.

    That said, I grew up with the public schools and graduated near the top of my class both in high school and college, so it isn’t as if the public schools are these cesspools of failure. Sometimes I think the problem is that some folks look at education as a passive process when it really, really isn’t. It’s not segmented either. You are learning all the time, whether you realize it or not.

  145. One thing the school as daycare argument is missing ~ while an extended school day might be a great daycare solution for many 2 (or single) parent working families, it will be a disaster for others. Many low income families work evenings, nights and weekends. Keeping kids in school until 5pm or whatever the proposal would be would actually prevent many families from spending any time whatsoever together with their kids or at minimum greatly reduce their time together.

  146. Devil’s Advocate — The fact that most classrooms have 25-30 students is exactly one of the problems of public school education.

    It’s been proven time and time again that classes with fewer than 20 students are more effective than classes with more than that. Colleges and private high schools pride themselves on having small class sizes for a reason.

  147. What a great discussion! Here is my take: When prescribing education for a whole country, there is an underlying assumption that each child can all handle the same subjects and time away from home. But in reality education is not a one size fits all.

    I homeschool my kids and being with them every day I have come to know their learning styles, interests, strengths and weaknesses, maturity levels, personality style and can tailor their academics to match what they need. Some days they are tired and we do less, some days they are enthusiastic and we do more. We are like a small boat and can change course quickly and easily when necessary. A massive school system that caters to groups of 20-30 kids at once can’t do this. To this end I think less school is better than more.

    Of course that depends on parents being willing to be involved in their kids lives. I am sure there are parents who don’t want to or can’t take that time for their kids, but it seems harsh to punish some kids with more school just because other kids have parents who want/need the educators to do more. But again, this is the nature of a huge ship that tries to take care of everyone at the same time. I feel bad for those parents trapped on that ship wishing they could make it better for their own children who are either bored in school, not being taught life skills like self reliance or how to use a scissors etc. The best thing they can do is get off the ship and onto their own boat and create that freedom for their own.

  148. I have step-children in school today and I see many days when they fuss and fret about going to school period. One is in the 7th and the other the 11th grade and I cross my fingers that they at least receive High School Diplomas! Would they learn more or get better grades with longer school days I seriously doubt it….

  149. Quantity does not make up for a lack of quality. There are many reasons why kids in the US under-perform. My totally uninformed guess would be:

    1) Large classroom sizes. Kids don’t get individual attention and teachers have to slow down to the speed of the low-average group. This means that high-performing kids aren’t allowed to blossom at their own rate, and under-performing kids can’t get the help they need to keep up.

    2) Quality of material suffers under political fighting. So many areas in the US now have teachers who are afraid to discuss many topics with their kids because of potential backlash. It’s not just science, but history too, and it bleeds into many other courses.

    3) No one wants to hurt kids’ feelings. Kids lack the confidence to try new things and risk failing because they are constantly told that they are “smart” and “good at art” etc. They don’t want to contradict that image we’re giving them, so they don’t do anything that might make them appear the opposite. By trying to preserve their self-esteem, we’re actually destroying it!

    4) Kids spend more time in school and, compared to many countries, parents spend more time at work. More time at work means less time at home interacting with kids. It’s been shown again and again that kids who interact more with their parents, who are read to, etc. out-perform those who don’t have available parents. Give workers more time off and maybe we’ll see more high-performing kids.

    What we need isn’t more quantity. We need quality – in our schools and in our social lives in general.

    Unfortunately, Obama’s track record so far on solving social problems seems to be:
    -Make a speech
    -Throw money/time at it

    I don’t have much hope that he’ll realize these two aren’t particularly effective if the underlying issues aren’t dealt with first.

  150. I think shorter days and maybe less summer days off…not too many less…also i love this idea and website I think you will also…

  151. Having taught in Japan, I would never, ever want my children to go through a system like that one (and I was at a “good school”). Education is highly cultural and there are some elements at play in Asia which would not work in an American setting. 40 kids per classroom works there because kids are taught respect for others and the value of “the group” very early on. And all those complaints about teaching to the test only? That’s why kids in Japan score so high- teachers teach the test, and nothing else. So what if the kids don’t know how to apply the knowledge, or if it’s irrelevant? If they can answer a question about the teacup used by the famous diplomat on the day he signed the so-and-so, they must be brilliant! They’re not in school just to learn subjects: Japan has used its school system to indoctrinate its populace since before the 19th century. Those nifty uniforms we admire are modeled on the Prussian army (from before any major world wars). The length of the school day is long and the cultural emphasis on school so great that kids have a greater dedication to their school than they do to their families. The longer school day wouldn’t work the same way in our individualistic cultural context.

    Asian schooling is not something I want spreading to America. I think the problem is that we have a cultural identity crisis and have pulled the schools in too many different directions. I’d like to see a more European system, personally, with tracking from the very beginning and vocational training starting in high school for students who aren’t interested in academics. Regardless of what our system becomes, I don’t plan to homeschool my kids. But I do plan to help them with homework or add something to what they learn every day. Education has to be valued to become valuable.

  152. It doesn’t matter how many hours you add to the school day or how many days you add to the school calendar. Students WILL NOT learn more or achieve higher test scores as long as they fail to learn basic lifeskills. Socialization, communication, the importance of family values, respect, creativity and imagination are skills that only their family unit can provide, starting at an early age, before school starts. We should be more worried about the spreading of the NON-SOCIALIZED child epidemic more than the H1N1 virus.

  153. Nimmy – Could you tell me about tracking? Someone at the rink mentioned it when I brought this topic up but I’m not sure exactly what it is. I think I know but I don’t want to comment until I’m sure I’ve got it right.

  154. Well said! Apples and oranges! What about the respect that those children show teachers, and the esteem that teachers hold? Teachers are well-respected people in Asian cultures. Our culture has no problem bashing teachers on a regular basis, and we (because I am a teacher) are expected to teach in a classroom environment that is made up of many disrespectful and disruptive students whose parents have not taught them the appropriate way to conduct themselves in school. Additionally, Obama doesn’t take into account the high suicide rate in upper-level Asian schools. Additionally, Japan is built around honor. American students could learn a thing or two from them. Oh, and what about funding?

    Children are stressed enough as it is. Let them be kids!!!

  155. Oh, and one more thing Obama! I am a teacher, and I am already at school for at least eight hours a day teaching, tutoring, attending parent meetings and SST’s, doing my outdoor duty/supervision, working my required extracurricular team activities, and dealing with the many other paperwork items that fall outside of the regular curriculum. I work through my lunch every day. In addition to all of this, I spend nearly two hours per night grading, and hours upon hours planning my lessons (including the creation/development of handouts, copying the handouts for distribution, and purchasing my own technology since the district won’t provide it). My average day of work lasts 10-11 hours every day now. Oh, and did I fail to mention that I am a loving mother, wife, and friend? I try to spend my other waking hours helping my children to develop into those creative, intelligent, independent thinkers that we hope will be contributing members of society. If you extend my day by two to three hours, just exactly how will I do it? Oh, I know, just give up sleep, right? Teachers work harder than almost any group I know (and I have worked in other industries). We are concerned, caring, and diligent individuals who are already being asked to do the impossible, all under the microscope of public scrutiny (most of the public has no idea about the pervasiveness of the job), and with little to no respect from society. Why not just kill us now? How about parent involvement? What a concept!

  156. One correction to the person’s post about California teachers working late August to late May–that would be late June, not May!

  157. I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, I think that longer school days are useless unless there is also a renewed emphasis on quality teaching. And by quality I don’t mean “learn this because it’s on the sate mandated test.”

    On the other, I spent two years running a “homeschool” group for 10 very much at risk middle graders shortly after I turned 18. Their parents knew and trusted me because I’d started the youth programme they were all in three years earlier so they’d drop the kids off at 6AM and then pick them up again around 8PM every day except major holidays (Christmas, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, Independence Day). The kids had started off barely literate, but all of them were placed on the high honours track when they moved on to high school and all received scholarships to top tier universities.

    Do I think the longer days were the only reason they succeeded? Not at all. However, it did help. It’s very hard to get involved with gangs and drugs when you spend all of your time studying. The problem is, that only works if it’s implemented in a very specific way in very specific areas. That’s the issue with public education in general, there’s no good way to accommodate everyone.

  158. I have talked about this with teachers and my kids.. My 6 year old would honestly be the ONLY one of the 4 kids to benefit from a longer day and shorter summer… Not only does he have his core and non-core classes, but he also attends OT, Speech, and his Autism class. There are not enough hours in a regular school day for him to attend all these classes, and actually benefit from them. And summer? Even with a month of summer school, he can not retain everything and regresses. Even with me working with him daily on everything.

    How the middle school my older kids attend is set up, they honestly do not need longer days. If anything, they can cut an hour or two off and they would still be doing really good. They spend an hour and 45 mins in class for 4 classes a day. They also get a 45 min lunch.

    For being a stay at home mom… I am the one really that would really benefit from a shorter summer. But I do really miss an actual spring break, and having longer then a week and a half for Christmas…

  159. @ Mae Mae

    Wikipedia gives a good overview:

    In short, I like to think of it as grouping students by evaluated ability in order to be able to vary teaching techniques and materials to better serve them.

    I should note that I attended tracked schools myself but the difference in student ability was not obvious until high school. In elementary school, students would be moved to a more advanced section if they worked hard (or to a less advanced section if they were lazy), and it was possible to be in different tracks for different subjects. Evaluation occurred several times a year, or at the request of a teacher (usually unbeknownst to the student, not strictly written testing). Also, parents could request that their children be evaluated and/or simply admitted to a more advanced track. IIRC, most of the parents who did so were Asian, and the kids were just expected to perform. It worked out for most of them. In middle school, students chose their own classes and the only class grouped by track was reading/literature. In high school students also chose, and there were not so much tracked classes as ones with and without prerequisites (which you could fulfill over the summer if you chose). The only disservice I ever saw was when budget cuts demolished a disproportionate amount of the vocational classes. I never got to take shop because of that.

  160. @ Mae Mae

    Oops! I didn’t say that the tracking system was used in elementary school to implement special sessions for the kids who were either too far behind or too far advanced. It was merely one class period a few times a week where small groups of students (2-15) were sent to different rooms in the school with one or two teachers for more personal, pointed teaching. Kids who needed more help got it, and kids who needed advanced material got that, too. But it wasn’t rigidly separate (except the ESL classes… those were separate until the student was judged to have a certain ability, then partially integrated until the student was evaluated to be at the ability they were at in their native language, then fully integrated/no longer needed).

  161. Nimmy — Tracking sounds like a great idea.

    My husband and I were the type in high school that didn’t have to put much thought into our school work because school wasn’t challenging enough for us. Now, my little brother is in danger of not graduating on time because he’s so bored with school’s lack of challenge that he’d rather go to work at the research and development company he works for, because it’s more interesting.

    I think all three of us could have benefited from some sort of tracking system that would put us in classes that would be more engaging to us, and I agree that all kids would benefit, because, like you said, the fast-learners would be dragged down by the slow-learners and both could learn closer to their own pace.

    I know some high schools have a rudimentary form of this, in the form of different levels of classes (Applied, Academic, Advance Placement), but many schools can’t offer all three for all classes, and scheduling conflicts sometimes don’t allow for someone to be in the appropriate class for them.

    For example, my school offered Applied and Academic Physics. I should have been, and wanted to be in Academic, but because I chose to attend vocational classes (otherwise I’d end up with like half a day of study hall, because nothing else that was offered that didn’t conflict with my selection of core classes, which included AP English, interested me), the Applied class was the only one available to me. I got lucky and had a teacher that knew me and knew my abilities and let me read what interested me, because he knew the class was below my level.

    I think, if nothing else, we need to improve funding to schools to allow for a better selection of courses and at least allow for the Applied/Academic/AP tracks to be available in at least the required courses.

  162. Thank you Nimmy. That was about what I was thinking it was. It sounds like a good idea to me too. I can see why the US doesn’t do it. It is too un-PC and parents would have a fit if their child was placed in the lower track. Which I don’t understand. My children are very different. One gets academics without even trying, you say it once and they’ve got it. The other takes forever sometimes to pick up a concept. There is nothing wrong with either of them and they are both aware of it so what good does it do for me to pretend they are equal? No good at all. I can spend more time with one and let the other progress as needed. It helps both of them. Unfortunately, some parents would see this as making them look bad and therefore would fight to not have their child placed in the appropriate track.

    On the other hand, I will admit that some kids do benefit from being in a class with children smarter than they are or that are faster learners. It pushes them a little and can help to motivate kids.

    I think it would be a good idea but I don’t ever see it happening.

  163. The big problem with tracking is that historically, kids were assigned to tracks based on what side of the tracks they lived on. The only way to avoid this would be to use double-blind techniques where the people assigning kids to tracks don’t know anything about the kid’s family background or physical appearance.

    Another problem is that at early ages, kids’ demonstrated abilities greatly depend on how fast they mature. If a kid doesn’t have a developmental disability, then there’s very little relationship between how early they demonstrate certain cognitive skills and where they wind up as an adult. This problem is confounded by enrollment cutoff dates: a kid who was born one day after the cutoff is going to be almost a year older than one who was born the day before the cutoff, and in the early grades there’s an awful lot of maturation that can take place in that time.

    Finally, kids’ abilities aren’t uniform. Most tracking systems put an enormous amount of weight on reading ability, so a kid who’s a poor reader (or slow in reading maturation, which is often simply a matter of having a Y chromosome) but great in math is going to be assigned to a track for kids who are poor in both.

    And research shows that once a tracking decision is made, it’s pretty permanent: evidence that a kid is more capable than he was originally thought to be tends to get discounted, and in many cases a low-tracked kid’s demonstration of higher abilities is interpreted as “acting out.”

    So tracking is one of those things that looks good in theory, but falls apart in practice.

  164. Good points, ebohlman. I guess every system is gonna have it successes and failures. I agree with whomever posted on here that education needs to be more tailored to a specific school rather than as a one size fits all mentality. I bet we have some pretty good administrators out there that could come up with creative ideas to get their school back on track. Too bad they are not given the chance.

  165. It’s 12:44am. The third day my child has gotten only six hours sleep. And six at this school is considered a luxury. Unlike many parents at my daughter’s high school, this does not sit well with me and it tears my heart out each night. Especially because I feel so bad, I’m up right alongside her.

    Why is she up so late? Is she watching tv? Nope. Is she on a computer game? Nope. Is she reading, her favorite pastime? Nope. She’s up late every single night, crushed under a mountain of homework.

    Let’s not kid ourselves. Her school has been lengthened a long time ago. Except in this scenario, it’s sent home to the family and the parents are the involuntary unpaid teacher aides. Longer school day alright, except she’s doing all the work, teaching a lot of this stuff to herself. Just what do they do in school all day?

    Do I support a longer school day? Over all, school wastes so much time. Our high school deviates from the norm but to generalize, most high schools have seven hour days. If they waste seven hours, what guarantee is there they won’t waste nine?

    If school could hire better teachers, eliminate the fluff and time wasters, use every minute wisely and then still seriously contend they need more time, I’m all for an extra two hours ONLY if all the work gets done in school and nothing comes home. I’d rather have her home at five with no homework than homework marathons that far exceed time spent in school.

    I can see an occasional engrossing long range project that would captive my daughter’s imagination. I could see a group project that just can’t be done during school hours. But this relentless daily homework grind, all weekend and holidays too? Even summer is no longer safe. No way, had enough of that.

  166. I’m completely shocked at the number of parents who would so willingly surrender their precious children to more time away from the family and in the hands of an increasingly federally controlled system. I say less school….much less. More time with family. Children should be influenced more by family than their peers, popular culture and political agendas. More community sports programs run by parent volunteers. More community activities, less state run de-education. Wake up fools. Your children are a gift from God and God has entrusted you to be their guiding light. Don’t shirk your responsibility, rather, embrace it and count your blessings.

  167. I am a college student who has just heard about this proposed idea of a longer school day from non other than my 11 years old sister. I find Obama’s idea inconceivable!!! Students today go to school for at least 7 hours a day, which almost the number of hours for a full-time work week and that does not take into account homework time or if the child is involved in a after school activity, how much extra time that takes up. Most classes give an absolute minimum of an hour of homework a night, no matter what day, a student always has something they could be doing. By making school days longer, sure they will be in classes for a longer amount of time, but teachers will still be giving out homework, since that is a good determinant on how well students understand the classroom material. So instead of getting out of school at 2:30, they get out at 4:30/5pm, they still have homework to do so instead of adding 2/3 hours of school Obama would be effectively adding 5 hours at least to a students day. Also other countries have higher math and science scores than we do in the US. This does not fully relect on our school system because who is in the school system…the students!!! Our school systems can only teach the materials, if students are not willing to put in the time and the work necessary to excel at school, then no matter what schools become our scores will stay the same. And in addition to that, everyone I know was a self-motivated student. My friends who were amazing in thier classes did so because they wanted to be the best, they even made competitions in school rankings trying to achieve #1. Also discussed earlier was the advanced classes offered in schools. I loved all the advanced classes I was able to take, especially in highschool, they were challenging and really helped me to become a more focused and diligent student, but the teachers for these classes are swamped with students. Usually there are no designated AP, Pre-AP teachers, these people have to make up various class layouts, because they have 2 or 3 differrent classes that they have to teach, and in addition to have an overload in the classroom, most Pre-AP/AP teachers have a higher level of learning than other level/normal level classes. That is a needed aspect since they are to go more indepth and challenge high school students who are very likely to question everything they are to teach. O and to touch on what Judith said from above about her daughter with so much homework, I had friend who were taking 6 AP classes. For everyone who does not know, these are college level highschool classes that promise pretty much at least 10 hours of home work a week for each class, depending on the subject. So to do that math: 60 hours of homework a week, with 35 hours of classes, thats 95 hours a week devoted to school. That far exceeds many parents work weeks. Students go through the hell of all those classes because they themselves are driven to excel, they want to get in the best position possible so that when they go to apply to college, they will be able to pick and choose. One of my friends who had the busiest schedule i had ever heard of took 6 ap classes, was in the school band, on the school soccer team, on the school crosscountry team, in a club soccer team, and was part of the academy of science and technology attached to my school, which in that she participated in science fair, and add to that she had a part time job at the local community college as a tutor in statistics (her job her senior year of highschool). Now no one can say she has any more time in a day to to school, or really has to sleep when she average a daily maybe 3 hours of sleep a night. And I almost forgot, shortening summer break…horrendous. I always looked forward to summer, hanging out with my friends, going on vacations…and my parents are divorced so I had to split my time between my mom and my dad…most of the time my summer went by way to fast, to shorted that would really burn the kids out, especially the ones serious about school who give so much during the year. To go forward with Obama’s idea of lenghening the school year would not fix the problem of our poor test scores…it would just be VERY costly program that would not procure the results he is looking for.

  168. I am a 14 year old boy, and i respectfully disagree with longer school days/ hours. I think boys and girls should have the choice to spend more time at home with family. Or have a choice to stay after school for a couple more hours to learn more.

  169. I find that the skills you mentioned are of great importance. However, the only skill the administration cares about is competitive skills. Just about their only concern is “can we compete?” For what students need to compete for, I’m not sure. These people’s priorities are all wrong. Cooperation, consensus, community and sharing are far more important than competing for who knows what.

  170. have you noticed how many people have voted for Mr. President Obama? yet i bet you 99.9% of the people who voted for him are regreting it now because Obama has made so many promises and the National Rifle Association(NRA) are trying to protect the 2nd ammendment “right to bear arms” and Obama is trying to extend school days and the year and take this ammendment away how dare he. It was wrong for America to vote for him cause he was the first! African American to run for president this is getting annoying how everybody voted for him because of that so 2009 would be remembered as the the year the first BLACK president was elected like i said before he made so many promises but HE cannot go through with them he sends all the blacks checks cause they were put in slavery 200 YEARS AGO!!!!!!

  171. Wow, this is the last thing I want. I’m a Junior in High School right now with 5 honors classes and Spanish 3. I wouldn’t have even taken the stupid Spanish class if colleges did not like 3 years of foreign languange. Usually, between my school day and walking home (30 min) is about 7:30-3:00. The day does not even begin until I start my homework, however. I usually get 1 hour of Honors Pre-Calc a night, 2 hours of AP US history twice a week, 2 hours of AP Biology once a week, 2.5 hours of AP Art History a week, and about 1-2 hours of English a week. That adds to about 3 hours of homework every night, so in essence my school day is 7:30-6:00. And I don’t even take any extra-curricular activities. Heck, I’m still working on homework when my dad comes home from work. I just had to finish 5 essays for AP Biology, and that took up a bit of time. Once I finish my homework, I usually just play video games or watch T.V. with my family.

    Some of my classmates work faster than I do, but most of them have lower grades. I am only 1 of 2 people in my AP Bio class with an A. And because I’m in California, the class sizes are huge (30+ in most classes) and have plenty of Asians. A lot of kids don’t even seem to do homework because they are too lazy.

    One of the problems associated with foreign schools is that for them, High School is esentially equal to a full load of AP/Honors classes for us. My Algebra 2 teacher who used to teach in Japan stated that students in foreign nations who don’t pass a certain test don’t get sent to High School, they get sent to trade school. Poorer countries might not even have trade school. So what we essentially have is a bunch of dumb @$$ college prep students in the same schools as us, and we get lumped all together while most foreign kids don’t even get to go to school, and the ones who do end up becoming researchers and business leaders and such.

    I gotta agree with AshleyL, this idea is idiotic. What schools need to do is give less homework and give us more flexible schedules with our curriculum. Being a math/science guy, I’d totally love if I could scrap English, art and Spanish for a subject like Environmental Science or Triginometry or engineering, or a !@#$ing hell yea for zoology.

  172. uuuqh , i dnt think is right , i think obama should NoT , lonqeerr school , days that would make thinks worse , well that is how i think !!
    I’m completely shocked at the number of parents who would so willingly surrender their precious children to more time away from the family and in the hands of an increasingly federally controlled system. I say less school….much less. More time with family. Children should be influenced more by family than their peers, popular culture and political agendas. More community sports programs run by parent volunteers. More community activities, less state run de-education. Wake up fools. Your children are a gift from God and God has entrusted you to be their guiding light. Don’t shirk your responsibility, rather, embrace it and count your blessings.

  173. under my estamation i think that adding hours to shool will not resalve anything. who agrees with will uderstand me and whgo dosent well sucks for you.

  174. I am a current high school student. I have read through all of these responses. It took 2 hours. At first glance, I am highly impressed that there are so many students, parents, and teachers expressing their opinions on this matter of great importance. It disgusts me that this is the only place that parents, teachers and students demonstrate their upset.

    One thing that everyone seems to agree on is that we need to fix the actual scheduling. Schools spend up to 12 weeks a year reviewing previous year content. That means we lose approximately 4 school-years worth of actual new material. Everything we learn in 12 years can be crammed into a K-8 education. If we stopped the review or shortened or even covered it only when it was necessary, then we would have 4 years of school to use to actually make students competitive citizens.

    Another thing is that we need to actually make school later in the day. It is blatantly stupid that we have students go to class as early as 7 and have children waking up at 5 to get ready for the day. It is proven that students learn more in the late morning and early afternoon. Perhaps starting school at 9 or 10 and ending between 3-5 pm can solve this problem — in addition to allowing a half an hour break between 12 and 1 pm for food and socialization. With this, students will be more focused and content — making school “bearable”.

    Students, early on, need to be taught to be responsible for themselves. We’re a nation so bent on independence, but when it comes to a student’s poor performance, it is ultimately the student’s problem. Yes, there are multiple factors into how we as students perform, and the student shouldn’t be completely shunned for performing poorly, but when examining what the problem is with a student’s learning, we need to look at the student first, then look at outside factors. The student needs to know what risks and consequences are. They need to be warned of their risks and the consequences with those risks. You would be surprised how aware kids are of the risk-consequence system. Those who seem to “not understand” might actually just be “big risk takers” or were not informed enough of risks and consequences.

    Parents talk about not having enough time with their kids because they are in school all day, or have homework all the time, but look at it from our point of view. “I don’t have enough time with mommy and daddy because they work 9-5 jobs and when they get home they have to do ‘homework'”. Don’t blame the amount of family time solely on the school. Blame society. It drove both of you and your child to this point. You have to learn to accept it or actually do something about it. Obviously, there are multiple factors to why parents have to work many hours. Bills, horrid economy, and basic needs are hopefully 3. We argue that there is not enough efficiency in school, but is the work environment for adults necessarily more efficient? Doesn’t this attitude of inefficiency carry to our kids? Albeit we as human beings have some choice in how to interpret what we see and learn, parents do influence their kids greatly. Perhaps if we spent more time “efficiently working” and schools spent more time “efficiently schooling”, then perhaps there would be more “family time”.

    Realize that you all as parents put stress on us to perform as well. It might not be direct, but it is there. Suppose you own a business. In the 70s, having a high school diploma would get you anywhere. Today that same high school graduate would probably never step foot in your business until he got his bachelors degree or something greater. You expect high performance from them but not your own kids? Even if you don’t expect it, your parents next door do. Society depends on us to do well or it will not continue. Most of this stress is necessary to continue as a society, but some of it is unnecessary. We push quantity work on a student more than quality work because we see quantity as more in America than quality. We need to reexamine our values as a nation.

    I think you all are awesome for caring about your kids, but do realize that you all have voices. USE THEM! You all need to get together and write letters, do some drives, or just make some noise. Make yourselves heard about this issue. And second, quit putting education on the back burner. Education in America is s*** because we don’t see its importance like they do in all those Asian and European countries. They actually care about their teachers and the quality of education. They suffer education problems, but not to the point where it starts to make the country as a whole suffer. We make war our focus both domestically and internationally, when we need to be focusing on improving ourselves here like we used to.

  175. hez making school way harder and worse

  176. i think that longer school days wiil not let us as lot of fun i we will get more work

  177. this isnt right at all kids should be able to choose

  178. this isnt right at all kids should be able to choose whether school should be lengthed or not

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