An important issue in the United States at this moment is the quality of the education our children receive in public schools. With incredible numbers of drop out students in cities across the United States, there is great concern regarding how good education is. With increased emphasis on the role of the teacher in the classroom, things like standardize testing, parental involvement, and a host of other factors are being considered.
One aspect of schooling that is different in other countries are the number of hours students spend in the classroom. Other countries have their children in school for longer, leading to the belief that longer school days can make a difference in the performance of children.
With this in mind, lets take a close look at the pros and cons associated with longer school days. Along with breaking down several key points, we will also discuss what exactly it means when considering a longer school day in the United States.
The Pros of Having Longer School Days
There are numerous pros that range from helping students get more work done to removing the need for external work like homework. Lets take a moment to review these pros now and see how they can improve the performance and retention of students.
1. More Time To Do Work In The Classroom
Simply put, having more hours in the day devoted to classroom activity means having more time able to be spent on schoolwork. With more hours of class comes increased potential for covering more subjects. In addition, every subject can be given more time and students can take the content at a slower pace. The advantage of having more time is that students can ask questions, work on problems, and come out of the experience better educated. After school hours can be rolled into the class itself eliminating the need for people to see teachers after school is over.
2. The Longer Day, No Homework Approach
Homework is an interesting concept. Doing school work out of school means having an opportunity to continue the lesson outside of the classroom. The challenge however is that not everyone has the time, materials, inclination, or correct habits to do homework successfully. These students will begin to fall behind in the educational process because they can not keep up with the rest of the class. By making the day longer, homework can be tied into the day, making it unnecessary. While students may have less free time in the day, they will not have to worry about doing work once they are let out for the day.
3. Better Child Supervision
A major problem caused by education systems are that the let out before parents get off of work. This means that parents are left to find things for their children to do until the parents come home. With a longer school day, the amount of time between when parents come home and children get off of school shrinks. This means that there is less time for children to get into trouble, reducing the risks of being on their own.
Many afterschool and before school activities also provide children with necessary things. Before school lunch programs provide kids with food so that they do not go through the school day hungry. Afterschool activities provide meals and activities that keep kids engaged and on the right track for continuing their education. With a longer school day, these activities can be directly tied into the school, making it easier for children to get the resources they need.
The Cons of Longer School Days
While longer school days can be a benefit for students and for performance, there are also a lot of cons. Including the fact that the time may not be spent well, that the lives of the students may be impacted, and that the additional time in school means additional hours, longer days at school may not be a good idea. Lets review why.
1. Time May Be Spent Poorly
Generally speaking, there is a lot of pushback from the educational community regarding standardized testing. With teach-to-the-test methodology being pushed on teachers as well as testing not accurately helping kids with what they know or adding to the lesson plan, there is a concern that more hours spent at school will be more time spent on generally wasteful activities. While we hope that extra time at school will mean learning and growing, depending on the tasks at hand, children may not gain anything from the experience.
2. Removes The Opportunity To Play And Enjoy Youth
When thinking back to your own past, where did your fondest memories of youth occur? Were they in the classroom? Chances are, they were what you did when you were out of class. With more hours spent at school, many parents worry that their children will not have the time or energy to enjoy being children. These experiences can go a long way into adulthood, teaching lessons that cannot be learned in a classroom. Also, for kids that enjoy doing things outside the class like taking classes in sports, dance, or other activities, having a longer school day can be a detriment. As a final note, not every child enjoys or particularly is good at learning in a classroom environment. For these children, the best experiences are those when school is over.
3. Costs Additional Money And Time
Having a longer school day generally means an increased cost to the community. Along with the hours put on by the teachers, there is also the time spent on the part of classroom aids and janitors. In addition, there is the cost of heating, cooling, and keeping the lights on.
4. Does Not Address The Real Problems
While many people think that a longer school day will solve the problem, it still does not get entirely at the heart of what makes for failing standards among students. Between children being unable to focus at school because they are hungry and have not eaten anything yet during the day, children struggling with emotional and physical abuse, the quality of school lunches being abysmal, a general lack of parenting, and even poor teacher performance, non of these things will be addressed by lengthening the school day.
Where Does This Leave Us?
While there are a number of reasons why longer school days can provide assistance to students and increase performance, there are also reasons why such policies have not been instituted. As per all questions regarding education, it pays to focus on the specific situations and to address them on an individual level. Whether or not longer school days will work depends on the situation at hand.
The Public School Day
First, it should be noted that we are talking about public and charter schools in the United States. When considering longer school days and the potential for increasing performance, private schools do not normally have a problem regarding the performance of their students. With significantly more time and attention given to private school students by their parents and school, the real focus for longer school days resides with public schools. As it stands, public schools average around 6 hours of schooling a day. If increased, it would be more similar to an 8-hour average work day.