Dec 7, 2012

Is More of the Same Really a Good Idea?

The news outlets have been a buzz this week with the story of 5 states piloting extended school days in the fall of 2013. Most want to add 300 hours of time to the school calendar - an increase of 1/3 of the time elementary aged kids already spend in school here in Massachusetts. This is not a new idea, it has been bounced around and is even in place in more than 1000 schools across the nation, however there is no proof that this will benefit the children, their education or test scores in anyway.

Many of the articles out there keep reiterating the fact that teachers feel there isn't enough time in the day - isn't that something that we all feel? Should we make a movement to extend our 24 hour day to a 32 hour one or arbitrarily decide that we no longer need sleep in order to function so that we can work more hours and our kids can learn more? Essentially this is what is going on here as many studies have shown that less hours of instruction, class time and homework are all keys to kids increased performance.  ~ I am not going to touch the whole standardized test topic here, but I plan to in a later post. ~  On the other hand quite a few teachers' organizations are lobbying against this movement due to compensation concerns. Several districts across the country that have attempted extended days, but had to abandoned them after just a year or two because the tax payers were not willing to provide the extra funding.

Education reformers are also seem conflicted on what exactly they will be doing with the extra time. Some feel they need it in order to increase academics, while others want to increase extracurricular offerings that many families have been forced to outsource because of budget cutbacks.....yup you heard that right. I am sure it is not the first time you have heard of the cutbacks - the first things to go are always the arts, but now suddenly there is more money for more school hours? Where oh where is this funding coming from? Our school district's budget for this school year (2012-2013) took five months to pass and was ultimately cut by $380,000. Washington Associated Press reports - "A mix of federal, state and district funds will cover the costs of expanded learning time, with the Ford Foundation and the National Center on Time & Learning also chipping in resources. In Massachusetts, the program builds on the state's existing expanded-learning program. In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel Malloy is hailing it as a natural outgrowth of an education reform law the state passed in May that included about $100 million in new funding, much of it to help the neediest schools."  How will they suddenly have more money? Where is the federal government getting the money for grants?

So I ask is MORE really better? More spending, more time, more coersion - is any of it really worth it? Each of the 5 states in this pilot program are have already been granted waivers for not meeting the strict improvement guidelines of No Child Left Behind. If these states haven't been able to make improvements yet - and in most cases have actually seen a decrease in acceptable academic rates by NCLB standards - how can more time in this antiquated system improve the situation?

The home education community seems to be deafeningly quiet on this topic. Yet I am curious to see how this will effect the home education requirements in each of these states?  While Connecticut has no required hours for home education instruction, Massachusetts case law eludes to meeting minimum hours and New York, Tennessee and Colorado have clearly outlined days and/or hours that are required. Anytime someone goes sniffing around the legalities and requirements of home educators we must stay on high alert, so that there is no chance of them slipping some other arbitrary ruling or control point on to the books.  

More articles on this proposal - HereHere, and Here.
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