Jeanette Wat. “Extended Year-Round Schooling, Extended Success”. Naperville, Illinois – The third problem is insufficient learning time. In order to provide a long summer break, learning must cram within a shorter period of time, which requires students like John to either give up a comprehensive learning or cut sleep, both of which are undesirable. Furthermore, a long summer results in less learning time and less knowledge acquired. This problem becomes magnified in the international arena. According to Don Glines, Ph.D., director of the Educational Futures Projects, an association that supports year-round schooling, a traditional school year in the U.S. is usually 170 to 180 days, compared with the 240 to 260 days in most European and Asian school systems. A typical traditional American school day consumes six-and-a-half to seven hours, compared with the eight to nine hours internationally. It is no wonder that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley concluded, after his vacation in China, “The idea, still having two months off, is ridiculous in this country. If you’re going to compete with India and China, they’re going to school six days a week and they don’t take the summer off.” Under the traditional schooling, our students have less time to learn than their international peers, so they learn less. Yet we send them to compete in the increasingly competitive world, with less knowledge equipped than their competitors. This sets them up for failure.
[…]with more learning time provided to the students, learning becomes less rushed. Teachers do not need to squeeze a large amount of content into a short period of time. Students can both pursue in-depth learning while still being able to sleep and finish homework. No wonder Jane feels so relaxed! Students and teachers now can afford to go deeper and broader into the knowledge base of subject matters. This enhances our ability to equip our students with more knowledge to successfully compete internationally.
“Go Year-Round: A Push for True Summer School”. Edutopia, the George Lucas Educational Foundation – In the Internet age, information is more accessible, and learning should happen during and after the school day — nights, weekends, and summers. As dreamy as a long summer break may be, unless a kid is flipping burgers six days a week, it’s education downtime we can no longer afford. More than ten years ago, the U.S. Department of Education organized a panel with an unusual title: National Education Commission on Time and Learning. The panel issued a report that began, “Learning in America is a prisoner of time. For the past 150 years, American public schools have held time constant and let learning vary. Some bright, hardworking students do reasonably well. Everyone else — from the typical student to the dropout — runs into trouble.”
The problem, according to the commission, is not just the length of the school year but also the lockstep “gridding” of the school day. The report emphasized that American schools have been operating under the tyranny of time; the length of the typical school period (forty-five to fifty minutes), the school day (8 A.M. to 3 P.M.), and the school year (180 days) is remarkably rigid across the nation. Middle and high school students, especially, are required to march in assemblyline fashion throughout the day, where bells still ring to signal the closing of books and the flooding of hallways. The unchanging schedule prevents students from working in-depth on projects and venturing into the community to gather data or talk to local experts. Teachers are also isolated in their classrooms by this rigid schedule, so they miss out on opportunities to learn from other teachers and share ideas.
Teaching may be the only profession where members have so little control over how their time is spent. Other industrial nations recognize that more time can equal more learning: Countries like Germany and Japan have longer school days and years, lengthening the focus on core academic subjects. Some schools in the United States, however, have started instituting more innovative approaches to school schedules.
In the year-round program at Fairview Elementary School, in Modesto, California, (see “Power to the People,” Edutopia, September, 2004) students benefit from an emphasis on civic literacy and responsibility in addition to a regular academic program with about the same number of school days as traditional schools. For the 2004-2005 school year, the Alice Carlson Applied Learning Center, in Fort Worth, Texas, scheduled four blocks of about nine weeks each and fall and spring intersession workshops, allowing its K-5 students time for hands-on arts, science, and computer projects or sports in addition to language arts and math enrichment.
As Ernest Hemingway once said, with typical brevity, “Time is all we have.” It’s about time schools change how they use it.