Will Extending the School Day and Year Improve U.S. Education?

The quality of education in U.S. schools has been steadily declining over the years. Some experts feel that extending the school day will improve education in U.S. schools. More people disagree with this statement than agree with it. Will extending the school day improve test scores and student learning?

The Case for Extending the School Day

Extend the school day. Proponents of an extended school day claim students learn more through intensified learning activities and test scores will improve. Restructuring and Extending the School Day, a report published by the National High School Center claims there are benefits to an extended school day. Citing The Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy, 2003, The National High School Center claims that an extended school day in which students are engaged in quality learning activities improves test scores and retention of subjects taught. The center further claims that low income students benefit from an extended school day due to the fact that those students do not have access to supplemental educational experiences outside of the classroom.

President Obama advocates extending the school day. When compared to other nations such as South Korea, England, Thailand, Israel, New Zealand, Hong Kong, The Netherlands, and Japan, the U.S. ranks at the bottom with the fewest number of school days. President Obama wants to increase the school year from 180 days to 200 days. The President feels that the school days should be extended as well; stating that America is no longer a nation of farmers that need to be home at the end of the day to plow the fields.

Proponents of a longer school day and longer school year claim that it increases test scores, improves education, and will keep the U.S. competitive with the rest of the world.

The Case Against an Extended School Day

Keep the school day as is or shorten it. This is a case made by experts who claim that an extended school day does not warrant the additional cost to school districts. The cost to extend the day does not warrant the miniscule improvement in test scores.

The Miami Dade School District is a good example. In 2004 the district extended the school year. They abandoned the extended year in 2008 citing poor results in student achievement, higher teacher salaries, and higher energy cots.

Extending the School Day and Year, published by the Clearinghouse on Educational Management discusses this issue in detail. Their conclusion is that the correlation between a longer school day and an improvement in student performance is a complicated relationship. The report cites a study using third grade test scores on the Stanford Achievement Test. This study showed little correlation between the amount of time a student spent on a learning task and an increase in test scores, a mere 2% variance. (Rosmiller 1983).

There are other reasons not to extend the school day. Economics tops the list. School districts already struggling to make ends meet do not have the financial capability to extend the day. Many districts have already cut or eliminated electives such as music, art, and PE.

Other economic reasons abound for not extending the school day. Many feel the tourist industry will suffer if the school year is extended. Camps and other related industries will surely see a downturn.

Finally there is the teacher’s unions. Will they accept a longer school day and longer school year without major changes to existing contracts? One should expect the unions to demand higher pay for teachers if they have to work more.

The decision to extend the school day and year should not be entered into lightly. Will the cost of such programs justify the means? The fact is the US is falling behind the rest of the world in education. How to correct this situation is a complicated and multifaceted problem.

References:

Restructuring and Extending the School Day

Obama Proposes Longer School Days, Extended School Year

Extending the School Year and Day, Clearinghouse on Educational Management