Should the School Day Be Longer?

While more time in the classroom may benefit children from disadvantaged backgrounds, is it right for everyone?

Let Teachers Teach

September 26, 2011

NHY Times

Vern Williams teaches honors math at Longfellow Middle School in Fairfax County, Va. He was named to the National Mathematics Advisory Panel in 2006.

Adding more time to the school day might be appropriate under certain conditions, but I can think of only a few.

Teachers, students and parents are usually promised that extra time spent in school will result in increased learning opportunities and measurable academic results in both core subjects and electives. However, in the real world of teaching and learning, this will occur only if the extra time is spent on activities focused on learning real academic content.

If teachers were given unencumbered classroom time to actually teach, perhaps the argument for a longer school day would become moot.

Much of the current rationale for extending the school day relies on the assumption that some students, especially those in low-performing schools, need more time to prepare for state testing and would thus receive extra tutoring and homework help. But under the current school day, if teachers were given unencumbered classroom time to actually teach, based on their best professional judgment and expertise, perhaps the argument for a longer school day would become moot. I fear that if the school day is extended without real input from both core subject and elective teachers, the extra time might be used for activities that are nothing more than glorified recess or unstructured study halls.

Other nations that have longer school days and years actually use the extra time on serious academic ventures for students and provide quality planning time for teachers. Teachers in the United States spend countless unpaid hours working with students, communicating with parents, grading papers and planning. Would a longer school day reduce the amount of extra teaching duties, which seem to expand each year that I teach? Will it reduce the homework load for students since they will be spending more time in school? Will teachers be adequately compensated? Those are all questions that need to be answered before decisions are made concerning the length of the school day.

In fact extending the school day should not even be considered until teachers are allowed to use the current school day structure for purposes solely related to the education of students.



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