The Virginia Commission on Youth is looking at a comparison of academic achievement in Virginia with leading industrialized countries.
The task is significant because you must first determine the points of fair comparison and the relative ways to quantify them.
You must also ask, "What factors contribute to academic achievement?" An immediate assumption is that most countries with high achievement rates spend far more time in school.
Dr. James Strong of William and Mary says that this is not the case. While speaking to a recent work group of the Commission, he shared data from Canada, Finland, Singapore, Shanghai, South Korea, Virginia and the US.
Amazingly, Virginia and the US spent more time in school, had lower pupil teacher ratios and spent more money per student than the comparison group.
We clearly do not know the conditions and variables that contribute to these factors, but the information should cause us to pause.
Following A Nation at Risk nearly 30 years ago most studies in this country have called for a longer school year and a long school day.
Few people look at the fiscal impact of such a move and rarely do we ask families what they think.
In reality, parents do not like changes in their schedules and budget-makers have no desire to calculate the fiscal impact of more time.
Moms and Dads often qualify the demands of busy schedules with "it is not the amount of time that I spend with my children but the quality of time that is important."
Perhaps the Commission will find that increasing student achievement is not related to spending more time in school but using better what we already have.