Students beginning in elementary school and continuing all the way through secondary education have become acclimated to a standard school schedule of sitting behind their desks for 180 days a year at an average of 7 hours a day. This system has been in commission for over a century and is desperately in need of an overhaul. By the time students walk into their final period of the day they are mentally numb to anything the teacher is trying to teach which will only end up hurting their own performance in the future. Having subjects pressed onto them repeatedly while they are desperately trying to remember every detail is a staggering amount of mental work for a child to bear. Some schools have attempted to fix this fatigue by creating a rotating class schedule so that the students are not struggling through a class for the sole reason that they have it early in the morning or late in the day. This system works in such a way that on a Monday a teacher will have a group of students first period but by Friday the teacher would not have that same group until last period. While this is an impressive way to work around the issue, at the end of the day there is still a teacher who is drawing the proverbial short straw. Everyone’s ability to receive a standard and enlightening education should be fair.
Several schools around the nation have been attempting to find ways to close the achievement gap with the time they have but it is nearly impossible. The students at Clarence Edwards Middle School ‘have now narrowed that gap by two-thirds in science and by more than 80 percent in English language arts; they now score substantially higher than the state averages in math’ (Gabrieli 2). By adding merely a single hour of instructional time a day as well as offering instruction during the summers has drastically improved in the short span of a handful of years. During this hour students are given small group tutoring in the subjects they are doing most poorly in, mainly reading and math. In the case that a student is excelling in both of these subjects they then move on to dedicate the time to science. This allows the students to reach the level of a well-rounded education in such a way that every student is individually taken into consideration yet ensures that the student body as a whole is seeing improvement.
Though it was no easy task, the changes in the school atmosphere, which was once full of bad behavior and truant learners, have been dramatic. According to Gabrieli ‘There’s now a sense of positive energy, enthusiasm, and optimism in the building. Students have learned that through hard work, they can excel against the odds’ (Gabrielli 3). With such a vast improvement it is obvious that the children have had to put in significant time as well. Their school days begin at 7:20 in the morning and end at 4:00 in the afternoon ‘ nearly nine consecutive hours. However, for all the work the students put in during the school week they are rewarded with an 11:20 dismissal time on Fridays. There has to be a level of give and take for an educational system to be successful. If the teachers and the administrators expect their pupils to sit in their desks for hours on end then there must be a mutual level of respect between the two because both parties are getting something out of it ‘ the teachers have the pride of seeing their students excel and the students are able to hold their heads up high as they move on towards their futures.
As the idea of putting longer instructional times into practice becomes a more viable option many parties worry about what the cost of putting such a proposal into effect would be. As the nation is already millions of dollars in debt, the school system literally cannot afford to put more money into the system unless they are presented with real results. From another of Gabrieli’s articles it can be seen that in districts where extended learning time has been put into effect the cost of the extra time has ranged from nothing to a mere $1,300 per student. Though the majority of the places where there is no extra cost are in public charter schools, where they have been using extended learning time since their introduction, many regular schools have been able to avoid higher costs by simply reworking their employment schedules in a just and fair manner.
Many schools have taken to adopting a staggered employment schedule throughout their two hundred extended learning time days. With this schedule, each teacher works the standard one hundred and eighty days over the two hundred day period while periodically switching off with fellow teachers to enjoy sanctioned vacations or participate in instructional workshops. By adhering to this program the schools avoid hiking up their budgets due to salaries and still receive the benefit of extended learning time in school. In Brooklyn Generation school ‘the school has achieved positive results: Ninety percent of its first cohort of fourth-year students graduated on time, and 90 percent were accepted into college’ (Gabrieli 27). Not only is the program extremely cost effective but the schools have shown a great increase in their proficient and advanced student production. Though many have shown skepticism at the proposal for extended learning time across the country they are hard pressed to deny the positive results coming from dozens of schools which have already adopted the program.
Despite all the success at keeping extended learning time at an allover low cost many people are missing the real point behind such reforms. As Gabrielli expressed in his article ”Rather than asking, ‘How can we afford more time’? more schools need to ask ‘What amount of learning time do we need to succeed”? (28). When it comes to the education of our future generations the real questions need to deal with the issues of betterment first. If this were a truly successful system than the logistics would never be enough to stand in the way of advancement. If anything the studies surrounding schools and districts which have implemented extended learning time have proved that as long as there’s a will there’s a way to achieve their goals. Schools have to prioritize within their systematic hierarchy so that they may most effectively teach their students.
Though it is a clear and evident point that ‘teachers are there to teach, not baby-sit, our children’ there will always be an indissoluble link between school schedules and the family’s economic needs (Rhonda). The last lengthening of the school year occurred during industrialization from 1870 to 1930 in order to allow parents to have more freedom to enhance their standard of living. In the time that has passed since then the school calendar has remained static. Another lengthening of the year would not be a waste of time. Though many would call the practice baby-sitting, others would argue that extended time is a blessing in disguise. With the academic achievement gap widening each year this extra time would allow teachers to cover more material in a standard school day.
While many of the witnesses to the new modifications are concerned about cost and results many are overlooking another important group to consider ‘ the families. As the national economy is changing drastically a large need has arisen for both parents to become breadwinners in the home. As expressed in Rhonda’s article, ‘The days of June Cleaver waiting to greet the school bus each afternoon with a plate of warm cookies and a nice, cold glass of milk are pretty much over, assuming they ever existed at all’ (Rhonda). Due to both parents having to work in order to provide an average standard of living for their children, the problem comes in when it is realized that there is significantly more work days in the year than school days. It is difficult not only to afford but to find quality care before and after school for younger children. Having an extended school year, or at least and extended school day, would make it significantly easier to coordinate children’s and adult’s schedules.