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Obama says longer school days and years will bring the US up to par.

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Initial post: Mar 11, 2009 9:47:24 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 11, 2010 12:36:43 PM PDT
Zacksmom says:
I would enjoy reading your thoughts on this proposal from our President.

Currently, our students leave the house at 7:30 a.m. and return at 3:30 p.m. with backpacks filled with homework assignments that (on average) take anywhere from 1-2 hours to complete each evening. Adding this time up, and allowing a full hour for bus ride to and from school room, it seems our students are getting 8-9 hours of "schooling" per day. (40-45 hours per week)

With that being the answer really spending more time in the classroom? Will that really improve our rankings in education as compared with the rest of the world? Will that prevent 20-25% drop out rates? Increase the enrollments in our colleges and continued learning facilities?

Is it really that our children don't spend enough time learning? or is it the curriculum? or is it lack of focus of our teachers to teach the "3 R's"?

And finally, is it really up to the federal government or the individual states to improve our youth's learning?

Posted on Mar 11, 2009 11:10:24 AM PDT
R. Largess says:
You are 100% right. Along with the fact that kids today are programmed into many activities after school, the long school day seems plenty. Indeed, people have raised the point that kids today don't have the unsupervised time and freedom to be kids - to play tag and sandlot baseball, hang around with friends, daydream. It's also interesting that the call is more time in school, as year by year and decade by decade, the curriculum has been watered down - they learn less in every hour spent in school.

Posted on Mar 11, 2009 11:57:04 AM PDT
Mattie Mae says:
I feels that some things in the American Education curriculum are archaic. Why are we still reading The Graps of Wrath and the Canterbury Tales, how is reading this going to help the kid in life. It certaintly didn't help me in life.

I thinks the school year should be longer. In the 21st century there is no longer a need for kids to be out in July and August to help on the farm. We are no longer an Agricultural society. They should either end in July or start in August with quarterly breaks through out the year as they've started doing in North Carolina.

I also think that in order for us to move ahead that Abbot Pre-school programs need to be changed from all play and to incorporate some real learning in the curriculum. The child would be bettered prepared to enter into Kindergarten. Pre-k programs are going to have to be manadatory just like public school is now.

I do agree with the previous message stating that the curriculum has been watered down over the years. I don't think the schools utilize enough different methods of teaching reading, writing and math skills. I don't feel they spend enough time on each area. They introduce a topic this week and next its on to something else without mastering the previous one.

Let's take NJ for instance the problem I see with my state is that they have more individual school districts than municipalities. I thinks the schools could benefit if they were run by the counties rather than the individual districts. This would save money from having to pay a bunch of superintendents six figure salaries. I also think it would make the opportunity to receive a quality education easier for everyone who doesn't live in the most affuent towns.

I for one don't like having to pay for my child to attend a Parachoial/private school because the district I happen to live in I don't feel is good enough for him. I believe in school vouchers and that you should get back a portion of the property taxes you pay to subsidize you child's education. Its being used for a school that he/she doesn't attend.

Posted on Mar 11, 2009 12:50:13 PM PDT
The biggest reason for higher failure rate in today's school system is due to the number of children that do not read or write English.

Remove the children that are not at the English level of the grade they are in and you will find that the numbers will improve dramatically due to a couple of reasons:
1) There is no longer an unknown variable factored into the statistics being used today.
2) The teachers will be able to help troubled students instead of pushing them through due to over crowded classrooms filled with non-English speaking students.

Posted on Mar 11, 2009 4:45:50 PM PDT
R. Largess says:
I agree with the observation that the size of the school districts is a problem. Massachusetts has a separate school system for every municipality - 300 cities and towns. Each one is very much segregated by income level. And the rich towns have great school systems, the blue-collar towns have fair ones, and the inner cities and poor towns have terrible ones.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 11, 2009 8:24:16 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 11, 2009 8:26:24 PM PDT
Sherlyn says:
As a kindergarten teacher that has 17 English as a Second Language (ESL) students in a class of 24, I totally agree with R. Corey. How can my statistics possibly be as good as a class that has 24 Native English speakers?

Posted on Mar 11, 2009 9:37:04 PM PDT
John H. says:
At 180 days per year and less than 6 hours per day in class, US children spend significantly less time on task than students in other developed countries, like Japan and Hungary. The benefits of a longer school day and a longer school year are obvious to a working parent like me and to the President. Comparing test scores is just one measure of success. Here are some of my measures:
- fewer concerns about before- and after-care time and resources
- fewer concerns about holiday and summer time resources
- professional support from teachers and aides for time with my children rather than at the "community center"
- more time at school for everything that is important in school: PE, art, music, computers, vocational training, you name it

In sum, my children would be well-served with balanced, 8-hour-per-day, year-round, 220-day-per-year schools rather than the oddly national standard we follow today.

John H.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 11, 2009 11:29:57 PM PDT
thea nguyen says:
Last I remember where USA was currently ranked, it was at 54. It once was #1 for a very long time. Even the math and sciences ranking have slipped. In Japan, over 60% of the students were going into the math and science fields while the USA had 32%. What happened?

I remembered meeting a lot of people going into liberal studies and social sciences at a local college I attended last year before transferring. Instead of "good for you or that is great," I would reply rudely, "What? Why?" or just flat out laugh. I guess it is hard for me to understand when I am going into the science field and expect more to do the same.

Anyway, keeping the kids in school longer wouldn't do much for them, especially when they have other activities, like gymnastics practices, to attend to. What else, it will burn them even more and end up losing the desire or drive to do more. Remember that teachers can only do so much before they burn themselves out.

What should be done is find a way to get students more academically challenged and excited. The great late Richard Feynman was such a teacher that got his students excited about Physics. There was also a teacher that got troubled high school students excited in Calculus. There was even a movie made from it.

Another thing is parents getting involved in their kids' education. They got to give themselves some time to help their kids out when they need help with homework. Telling them to do their homework is not enough. Taking part is the part of the battle.

Also, parents should set themselves as examples. How the hell can you tell your kids to graduate from high school if you never did? What kind of an example are you setting your kids when you didn't live your end of the bargain?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 11, 2009 11:47:30 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 12, 2009 12:01:04 AM PDT
As a teacher and a mom of three, I cannot begin to tell you how much my family and I enjoy our summers off. Kids need to be kids. There will be plenty of time for working 8-9 hour days when they're adults.

I feel much of our educational problems today have to do with too many teacher "assignning" busy work instead of teaching the students. Why should kids have so much homework? As adults, do we like to take home 2, 3 or more hours of work home? Kids need to be taught in school!

As for the government mandating our youth's learning... making preK mandatory. When will it ever end? How young is too young and shouldn't parents be responsible for their child's education also?

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 1:28:07 AM PDT
It isn't the length of time youngsters are in a classroom, but the quality of time that they are there. The quality of our educational system is declining miserably. We need better teachers, but also serious discipline in schools, not the nonsense and dissruption that's there now, and that will attract better teachers. Kids need to have time to be kids, and many do work on farms and ranches year-round after school and during the summer. The main reason parents want year-round school is for it to be a baby-sitter so they don't have to watch their kids, and somebody else can do it for them!!! Also there are too many athletic programs when kids should be home after school and evenings creating family-ties and doing things with their families. A lot of education and character-building starts at home, and much blame should go to disfunctional families instead of the educational system. We have too much government now telling us what to do, and their only answer is throwing more taxpayer money at everything, and not wanting to make tough decisions to remedy any problems. That has been true for a long time, but especially so now with this incompetent Obama administration!! Wake up people!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2009 5:14:26 AM PDT
Zacksmom says:
John H. -- I understand your position; however.....
I understand it is more "convenient" for you to have our children stay in school because of your work schedule. A glorified babysitter.
I don't agree with your position, obviously. My original question asked, would we gain educational strides in climbing back up the educational ladder (worldwide) by lengthening the school day and year.

I was surprised to see you listed "more time at school for everything that is important...." did not include reading, writing, mathematics, science.

Bottom line - would sitting in a classroom longer really increase each child's learning capabilities.

I heard our President talk about merit pay for the teachers and longer classroom time for school -- why has ciriculum not been scrutinized? One of the posters mentioned "antiquated" cirriculum -- but if you think about that and dig a little deeper -- we WERE #1 in the land at one time -- when did we start failing so miserably? What changed?

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 8:52:06 AM PDT
I also think the year should be longer with breaks after each quarter and time off for the holidays, we need smaller sized classes (no more than 15 per class for grades K through 3rd) and we got to get back to math, reading and science as core classes. We no longer expect enough from our kids and therefore we have gotten less and less as the years have gone by. For all of you who talk about kids not having enough free time give "me a break"!
We also have people running the schools who simply do not care and are only doing what they need to do to received their paychecks; they have become a large part of the problem. I have a daughter who teaches at a school where most of the kids do not graduate high school. Of the ones who do make it through, most do not have enough education to make it out in the real world. I can't tell you how that makes her feel as a human being let alone as a teacher. I can go on and on about what goes on in some of these schools but its almost unbelievable. Bottom line the people at the top do not care. Talk a good game, looks good on paper but in reality they could care less.

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 10:33:34 AM PDT
dss says:
"when did we start failing so miserably? What changed?"

Class sizes for one. Put thirty third graders in one room and how much time is spent just trying to maintain order? Twenty should be the upper limit on class size. When I was in elementary school every class had a teacher's assistant that would help those not keeping up with class, or give more challenging assignments to the bored. Remember summer school for those that fell behind? No more. They fall behind, stay behind, but graduate anyway.

The emphasis on standarized exams. You can't standarize essays or creative thought. So that means all those multiple choice exams, which test good guessing techniques as much as knowledge. It also means stressing facts over understanding. It's how you make fasicnating subjects, like history, boring. Memorizing names and dates puts you to sleep and is usless once school is out. Learning how historical events changed lives and seeing it reflected in literature is fun and engaging. And it will help you understand the world you live in later in life, even if you don't remember any specific lesson.

Taking music and art out of the curriclium. They're always the first to go in any budget crunch. No matter how many times it's been shown that they contribute to the learning process and students do better across the board when they learn an instrument or participate in drama or art. Now all the extra-carricular is sports. Not that sports is bad, only when it excludes all other non-academic activities.

I think schools are underfunded. But longer school days and years isn't the answer. Certainly not by itself.

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 12:05:46 PM PDT
HSC000 says:
I agree with a longer school year but not a longer school day. I come from Ireland where 4-5 years old attend 9:30 to 2, 6-12 year olds 9:30 to 3 and high schoolers 9 to 4. I think this is just right. If the day is too long kids will be too tired to learn anything.

Ireland spends half per capita what America spends and according to OECD testing is turning out much better educated students than America. I think the real problem is this country is the lack of a consistent curriculum. I talked to an Irish mother (in America) a while back who said that the education her son was receiving was piecemeal and all over the place. He didn't study science consistently but when he did the teacher jumped from unrelated topic to unrelated topic. He went from learning about volcanoes to how seeds grow to water as a solid, liquid and gas; geology to biology to physics. When you learn like this, information goes into short-term memory and is soon forgotten. In Ireland there is a national curriculum. Teachers are largely told what to teach and when to teach it. Teachers will stay on related topics for several weeks. So, rock types, mountains, volcanoes, etc. would be studied for a while before moving onto something else. This way, concepts go into long-term memory. I took Geology in college and I actually knew a lot already because I remembered so much of what I had learned in primary school about 15 years earlier. This particular mother started homeschooling through an online public school (, which has a consistent, coherent curriculum over each grade. She said her son just wasn't learning or retaining much in his "excellent" public school.

America needs to develop a curriculum that combines federal, state and local standards. Finland does something like this and is very successful academically. I have talked to teachers who have told me that they largely decide for themselves what to teach, what books to assign, what workbooks/worksheets to use, etc. I talked to a parent recently who told me that her son was learning completely different things than his best friend. Both were in the same grade in the same school but had different teachers. This doesn't make any sense.

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 1:10:28 PM PDT
M. McNerney says:
Having been a teacher for thirteen years, I find that the biggest problem today is that there is no accountability on the part of the parents. Children who begin the school year not completing homework usually end the year not completing homework. Parents have abdicatied their role. The parent's response is often that they have no power to get their children to do their homework. If we were to demand accountability from the parents of our students, I believe our test scores would improve and we might even make a dent in the gang problem.

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 1:49:44 PM PDT
D. Nolan says:
Too often, we design the school day or school year around parent(s)' work schedules. Education becomes a secondary function of baby sitter availability, errands that need running, and parent(s)' busy lives. We are wearing each other out! Homework occupies our kids until parents can come home, tired from the pressures of their own responsiblities. No family time until the weekend rolls around.

We have chosen to homeschool our children. Both girls learn their subjects well without the need for weeks on end of study and reams of the drill and kill worksheets. In fact, we love what homeschoolers call "unit studies". Choose a subject and explore! For instance, Native Americans: where are they (geography), how did they traditionally live (social studies), what did they eat (ecosystems, home ec./nutrition), population size (graphing and math), etc. Handcrafts to make Native tools, dress, music, etc.. Write about what you've learned. Believe me, this stuff sticks when kids learn like this! And its fun (even for me!).

Let's build an educational system that serves our kids first, then see how it fits in with the rest of our family and lifestyle. Although we homeschook, our taxpayer dollars go to support the public system, and we dontate beyond that to our local school system. As a society and country, public education is the avenue for the vast majority of our children. It needs to be a good system! One that helps our kids grow in terms of resposibility, ability to learn, and to get a job that makes the most use of their natural talents. It seems to me that we can do so much more to improve the experience of education. If the kids' imaginations are engaged, the learning and appreciation for what they now know is tremendous. Our national and state standards supposedly define what is important for our kids to learn in terms of subjects taught by age. Curriculum publishers provide our schools with the tools to meet these standards. Standardized tests should evaluate how well the system meets those goals. Instead teachers teach to the test, not the kids.

But more important to me, let's not loose our precious family time! Homework isn't necessary if the lesson has been learned. Family is the basis of our society, its what connects us and keeps us grounded. So many times I see the educational system being forced to fill in time that parents don't have for their kids. Let's relax a bit and enjoy our kids. They're not with us for very long before they're on their own way. Quality education is not defined by hours in a day or days in a year, nor is it defined by who is in charge, the "corporate structure" a school district takes on, or how its funded. Its what happens between one teacher and one student in the context of respect and encouragement.

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 4:15:33 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 12, 2009 4:28:19 PM PDT
SB says:
I always find it troubling to read posts like M. McNerney's. Education is a disaster is America. Rather than trying to emulate what other countries do well, we seem to engage in this blame game. Parents blame the schools. Teachers blame the parents. There are bad teachers in every country. There are parents who don't give a damn in every country. Other countries have immigrant students who don't speak the native language well. Yet many of these countries do a very good job of educating most of their students. Why are we different?

I think the lack of a standard curriculum across the country is a problem. I also think the bias against early learning in this country is a big problem. For example, many Americans find the idea of teaching kids to read before 1st grade horrifying. Yet, learning to read at four is the norm in many countries. Learning reading, writing and math at four is not damaging children in other countries. It isn't turning them off learning. It is putting them far ahead of their American peers. In many countries, high school graduates have the same level of education that college sophomores or juniors have here. We believe that hard academic work will damage our kids. But we are largely unique in this view.

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 4:27:47 PM PDT
It seems to me that this is "beating a dead dog" - meaning what's the point. When the system is BROKE how is more time in it going to help? Hello? What happened to common sense here. . . . Oh, I guess that was "taught" in public school.

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 4:30:03 PM PDT
SB says:
"When the system is BROKE how is more time in it going to help?"

Well said! More hours in a broken system will not work.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2009 9:14:54 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 12, 2009 9:16:36 PM PDT
B. Gordon says:
gpc01---You are right about studying a single, focused topic for a period of time rather than random topics all year long. It is called the Unit Study method and also involves cross-curriculum study. For example, if a child is studying Ancient Egypt he should also be studying the desert and its climates, natural resouces, animals. He should learn the types of religions in that area, as well as the people groups who live there now. He would then ideally respond to his study with writing, art, music, or drama based on what he has learned. We've watched our kids thrive in this type of learning environment. The reason schools don't do this is because there are those standardized tests at the end of the year that require the students to know a smattering of various topics but only a fact or two about each. This requires the teachers to try to prepare their kids for the tests rather than capitalize on precious and valuable learning time when the wonder of new things is fresh and children desire to know more. Critical thinking must be restored to the classroom. We need reform! I think in the next ten years many people who thought their kids were getting a "good" may be shocked.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 13, 2009 6:11:47 AM PDT
Zacksmom says:
I, too, find this view disappointing (referring to M. McNerney). Although I home school, I have neices/nephews in the public school system. Children don't complete their homework -- seriously -- tell me what these people who are teaching our children for 6-8 hours each day are doing. Why do our children have 1-3 hours of homework each evening? Is the "learning" being done at home or at school? Even in the workforce, most people work about 40 hours a week. Why would we want our children to "work" 50+ hours a week? It really doesn't seem quite fair, does it?

I agree with one of the posters on this board regarding family time. The time our children are at home with the parents, should be "family time". Time to build our relationships -- not teaching (through their homework) what they didn't learn in the classroom. I can understand now, better, where the problem lies. Allow our children the time with their parents to play games, read, discuss the day's events, and love each other. Not more work. I fear the longer days/school year would bring more work home for our children. This kind of legislation is (in simplistic terms) damaging the family unit at it's core.

Posted on Mar 13, 2009 8:29:19 AM PDT
J. Rice says:
As long as we perceive schools and education as a sequential cumulation of facts, skills, and work ethic we will continue to have problems educating our children to the level we expect for citizens of the 21st century. Our current system is broken, yes, but more than that, our current perspective of learning and education is archaic. We still see teaching and learning as a linear, cumulative process, in which the child is the receiver and the teacher is the giver. We are still lost in the world of operant conditioning, in which we teach, test, and reward, no differently than when we are teaching our dog to "sit." We know so much more about learning and teaching today, but we still use the same old methods. So, more of the same, slower and louder- more days, more weeks, or more years will not likely get us out of this morass. We need to change our "vision."

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 13, 2009 10:57:30 AM PDT
D. Tortolini says:
Then how do you explain high drop-out numbers in states like New Hampshire, where, north of Concord, the capital, there is virtually no immigrant population, and English is the first language of a supermajority of the population?

Posted on Mar 13, 2009 11:34:21 AM PDT
SB says:

All parents have, in a sense, become homeschoolers because homework, rather than reinforcing the day's learning, has become the day's learning. Children aren't learning much at school. If they don't have a parent to sit down in the evening to help them they get lost. I see this with kids who have parents who don't help with homework or don't understand it themselves. They get left behind.

I plan to homeschool next year through, which offers public schooling in my area. I just don't see any point in subjecting my children to our failing schools.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 13, 2009 11:49:07 AM PDT
SB says:
"Then how do you explain high drop-out numbers in states like New Hampshire, where, north of Concord, the capital, there is virtually no immigrant population, and English is the first language of a supermajority of the population?"

There was a big drop in SAT scores in Iowa in the 70s, which is almost 100% white and English-speaking. The fact is curriculums have been dumbed down. 12th graders today study the kinds of things 10th graders studied in the 50s. I get tired of ESL students being used as an excuse for our educational decline. More than once, I have read comments from English teachers who say they don't believe in teaching grammar because it interferes with creativity. It is ideas like this that are hurting our students.
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