Do Students Need More Time? (Extending the school day)

While reviewing some of the discussions on my PLN today, I came across an American Schooling Journal with an article on extending the school day.  Reading this article made me thankful to be teaching in Canada.

I understand that historically the school year was not as it is today, but I believe there are many reasons for this.  Do I believe that expectations over the course of the school year has increased for both teachers and students? Absolutely.

The standards and differences between Canada and the United States to me, is like night and day.  I believe the drive for standardization in the States is really unfortunate.  The fact that teachers are judged based on their student’s test performance is scary to me!  How can students be expected to perform on the same level if they are all individuals?

Do I think that days are stuffed full as a teacher, and that you never get everything done that you plan to get done – you bet I do!  Is the solution to that  extending the school day, or having more days at school in a year?  I don’t think so!  To me, that is just an invitation to try and stuff more into the school day.  I don’t see teachers and students being given more time without strings attached.  I believe that if more time is given to educators, they will actually have less time to teach!

I think it’s important to remember that our students are individual’s and they don’t all WANT to be doctors.  That’s the great thing about being individuals, we don’t all have the same goals and aspirations, so I don’t think we should hold everyone to the standardized expectations!  I’m not trying to say that we shouldn’t have high expectations for all students, but I believe that we should have expectations for students that are fair.  When we know our students, we need to teach to them and their needs.  I don’t think we should aim to have them all at a certain level.

I am saddened that feeling that I get from this article is that students will only be successful if their grades are the highest.  I know that we need to place importance on literacy and numeracy.  I want my students to have the ability to read and write, and to solve math problems that they will experience in everyday life.  I believe for that reason, I can argue that I need my students to be able to THINK!

As a teacher, it is not important for students to spew back facts and information to me, why would that be important?  Today, students can access information almost instantly, so why do students need to use their brains to store that information?  Doesn’t it make more sense to have people use their brains to develop their skills and knowledge in the areas of interest that they have?  Wouldn’t that benefit them in the area of society that they wish to participate in?  I know there are mandates in the curriculum and teachers don’t get to just pick what they teach, I think these are just a few questions to consider when I am teaching!

I don’t think school years or days should be extended, and I don’t think that individuals should be held to standards in order to argue for longer days!

13 thoughts on “Do Students Need More Time? (Extending the school day)

  1. I agree – the standardization is misguided, and a longer school day just adds to the problems.

    The school day is already too long. This is because of mass industrialized education — the classes are too large, so students can’t learn well without a long day, so there’s more time to get around to everyone.

    But the real reason may not have anything to do with education. More and more parents go to work during the school day. They want the school system to act not only as educator but also day care — ideal hours would be 7 am to 6 pm.

    And there’s a perception that teachers are getting away with something, getting “off work” at 3:00 and all those summers off. Those of us IN education know the truth, that teachers work way too hard with too many students and too few resources, packing 15 months of work into 10.

    And you’re right — society doesn’t benefit in the larger ways, like students learning to think.


  2. I also agree that extending the school day is not the soulution to this. Students are already in school for all of their day. If you think about the life of a young child most of them get up in the morning and are off to school, usually not home until 4:00 and usually in bed by 8:00. This means that the students only have 4 hours a day with their families as it is. If we extend the school days students will have less time with their families and for their lives outside of school. Children need time to be kids and to have that time for free exploration and play. I think that the school days are long enough as it is and would not be in favor of extending them!

  3. Wow, lots of passion in this post. I think the length of the school day is a bit arbitrary. It’s not time that is important but rather quality time. Student learning also isn’t restricted to the school day or building. It is and should be flexible and blended as face time (direct teaching), collaborative time (group learning), individual time, etc. and be possible in a classroom, somewhere else in the school, at home, or wherever. The focus on “x” minutes per day is meaningless. It should be more about expectations and process. Perhaps to keep parents happy, a prescribed minimum time “in school” but that’s just a base to start from.

    Good post.

    1. Thank you Brian;

      It really means a lot to me to have peers respond to what I have to say, and it helps me as I continue to grow as an educator! I totally agree with you, it is the quality NOT quantity!

      During my internship, I created a blog with student accounts that also contained many links to educational resources and games. It was a thrill to me when I discovered from parents that their children continued to learn using the educational games at home. Authentic learning experiences don’t need to end when the bell rings!

  4. I completely agree with this post! I was very curious when I first saw the title “Extending the School Day.” Throughout my internship experience I not only struggled with finding enough time to complete my agenda during the school day with my students , but I also struggled with finding enough time in the day to do all of the things I need to do for my students outside of that class time. One particular quote I really connected with was “I need my students to be able to THINK.” I absolutely love this statement. If our students success is based completely on their final grade (especially how high it is), how do we know that they have learned those skills necessary to survive in a critical society that requires us to not only think, but think critically and creatively?

  5. Let’s stop looking at seat-time as a metric of student achievement and start looking at content mastery. Given the opportunity, there are a proportion of students who can complete their courses ahead of the average time frame, others within the timef rame, and yet others who need more. Achievement pace will vary within courses as well based on the content/skill/concept pieces. Who are we serving here with extending the school year but maintaining the same monolithic, Fordist approach to education? I love the piece from Disrupting Class where Christensen et al. recount the research of Steven Spear into the different training methods at Toyota & Chrysler (pp. 108ff). Think it applies to the concept of lengthening school years without substantive methods changes.

  6. I think that maybe days should be lengthened a bit (20 minutes or so) in order to do a half day of teacher collaboration or self-directed PD every couple of weeks. This time could also be used to support struggling students.

    1. Jac,

      You do raise a valid point, collaboration and PD are very valuable, but I’m very wary and skeptic that if the school days were lengthened that the commitment to additional collaboration or PD time would be maintained!

  7. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this troublesome issue. I think you raise interesting and valid points. I would add that the real issue here is that our test-driven and accountability crazed leaders want hard data that they can parade around as evidence for whatever agenda they are behind. None of our leaders in charge of education ever talk about teaching kids to think because they know there are no reliable, quantifiable scores they can point to as evidence that kids can think.The sad truth is they are caught in a vicious circle of test scores and accountability. Despite all the hard, research-based evidence to the contrary, Bush and Obama put their own kids in private schools, ignore the evidence, and push agendas that tout numbers and accountability over learning and thinking.

    1. Thanks for your response Harry;

      This is really at the root of the problem, and I’m glad and fortunate that I have been able to receive the education that I have because it has become apparent to me that putting a number on a test does not really show learning. That number is what society values at this point, but that is not the most effective way to communicate to students!

  8. Amy, you have made some excellent points. What I found thought-provoking was your question and opinion regarding teachers trying to get everything done in a school day: “Is the solution to that extending the school day, or having more days at school in a year? I don’t think so! To me, that is just an invitation to try and stuff more into the school day.”

    I agree, because I think that our days are FULL ENOUGH! I mean, I’ve only experienced 75 or so consecutive school days as a teacher (internship) and wow… not only was I exhausted day to day, but the kids were, too. They needed to go home by 3:30… They needed their weekends to recuperate. Extending the hours at school each day or adding more on at the end won’t make a whole lot of difference. Everyone would just be more tired and worn out, I think. Students would not learn a whole lot more because they’d tune out (even more than they already do) and probably get bored… and, our work load would just become even bigger.

  9. Great analytical thinking Amy! I feel like I agree with you on so many levels and feel that my philosophy of education is greatly related to your post. I believe in fairness and not equality in the classroom. By treating students equally we are not treating them fairly, which then contradicts the whole push for standardized testing. How can all the multiple intelligences and learning styles be tested in the same way? Not very likely to happen. I also agree that it is exceptional that we are all individuals but yet the standardized expectations really are not meanginful.

  10. I agree with you Amy. The solution is not a longer school day. But rather to think about learning as a non stop activity. The schools have a roll to play but what is that roll? If I want the schools to parent my children and instill values and coach sports and expose them to arts – then the day is not nearly long enough. If it’s learning academic skills – it’s way too long. Maye we’re trying to treat all kids the same.

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