Sunday, September 27, 2009

Longer School Year-Who Pays

"Obama and Duncan say kids in the United States need more school because kids in other nations have more school.
"Young people in other countries are going to school 25, 30 percent longer than our students here," Duncan told the AP. "I want to just level the playing field."
While it is true that kids in many other countries have more school days, it's not true they all spend more time in school.
Kids in the U.S. spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the U.S. on math and science tests -- Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days)..."

This is an argument we will see more as the year goes on and as unemployment remains high. I would question how the president plans to pay for this. This year our district cut all departments' funding 10% across the board and in electives an additional 10%. As property values continue to decline, the tax rates will have to go up just to maintain the status quo. Add days, weeks, months to the calendar and you had better have some meaningful way of paying for it. As a teacher I already spend at least an hour and a half after school every day and two to three hours over the weekend just to keep up with grading, mandated reports for IEP's and BIP's not to mention online lesson planning and keeping a website up to date for parents and students to access. I don't need more time in class. In fact the argument could be made that most public schools waste far too much time.

But the bottom line is that there is a difference between just lengthening the school calendar and providing a babysitting service. I am sure that in some sectors the idea of not having to pay for after school care would be a winner. But quite truthfully, by the end of the day kids are tired. Teachers are tired as well. I am not sure how much effective learning will really take place between four and six in the afternoon. And I am not sure that this is a good way to attract quality graduates into education by offering more hours for what would effectively be less pay per hour than working at Starbucks. I am also unsure whether this is the best and most efficient use of resources. If you add hours to any program, you must also add money to apply and staff that program. A program without resources is no program at all-it's play time. Most districts already offer remedial tutoring before and after school. Every district I know offers summer school to help students who have failed assessment tests for their grade level. What then is the purpose of opening schools and making all kids attend around the year other than to provide day care under the guise of education. As someone who has worked far too long and far too hard to be considered a professional, I don't consider this a way of improving education, but instead a way of invading family lives for the purpose of God knows what.

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