Educational Editorial: Obama and school time

By Dr. Bill Bosher, NBC12 Educational Specialist

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - President Obama has proposed that young people in America need more time in school. Longer school days and shorter summers are the goal. What are the issues around this proposal?

The first is simply time. While it is intuitive that young people will increase their achievement if they spend more time on a subject, it is equally compelling to note that students in countries that "outperform" us on standardized tests, like Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, presently spend less time in the classroom.

While time is a factor, practice, and more of it, doesn't make perfect, it makes permanent. And then there is the issue of quality. Who is likely to get better performance, an outstanding teacher for 170 days or a poor or mediocre one for 190?

As for the cost, teachers should not be expected to work additional days without additional compensation -- and who pays for it? Perhaps $3-4 million a day in a Chesterfield.

It is great for the federal government to offer up aspirations, but they presently pay for about 5 percent of the bill. The preponderance of funding comes from localities: 60 percent.

If this issue is not in part about childcare, perhaps the focus should first be on what we do with the time that we have? Schools are asked to take on far more than the basics.

And then there is the question, "What do the customers think?" Having tried to add a couple of days to the 180-day calendar, a revelation emerged -- the issue was not about children or curriculum but about change and convenience.

The resistance from parents is great because it fools with their schedules.  Perhaps this proposal needs more time!

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