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December 8 2012

Does More School Time = More Learning?

Vicki E. Alger

It’s an increasingly common mantra: longer school days and years are needed if students are to compete in a global, competitive world. In fact, five states just announced they’ll be adding 300 more hours to schools calendars: Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee

As with so many things, this idea sounds good, but before parents sign on, they should ask a few questions.

First, how much time is already lost by design because of school district calendars? Think of all the teacher in-service days, where students are released early for example.

Then when they are actually in school, how many pizza parties, holiday parties, field trips, in-school productions are there? Everyone likes a bit of fun, but it’s worth asking how much actual learning time is compromised.

Next, how good is your child’s teacher? That’s the number one in-school factor contributing to student learning.

As schools near you likely scramble to add extra hours to the school day and year, consider: American schools already clock in more instructional hours than any other industrial country: close to 1,100 a year.

Contrast that with other countries that routinely outperform American students: Germany and the Netherlands, around 773 hours; Finland, 600; Korea, 575. Japan, 500 teaching hours per school year.

As with most things, quality trumps quantity. 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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