In an effort to improve the U.S. education system and make it more competitive with foreign countries, President Barack Obama wants to make school days and academic years longer.
However, adding more hours to the school day is no guarantee that quality of education will improve.
“Young people in other countries are going to school 25, 30 percent longer than our students here,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan to the Associated Press (AP). “I want to just level the playing field.”
The long summer vacation that most American students are accustomed to may soon disappear. However, the U.S. Department of Education needs to make the best use of the time that teachers have now before it considers giving them more.
While many countries have longer school years, the U.S. has longer days, which add up to more total hours than some of its top academic competitors. According to the AP, American students receive 1,146 instructional hours per year, which is more than Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013).
Yet, students in those countries outscore U.S. students in math and science.
This demonstrates that simply spending more total time in the classroom doesn’t equal more competitive test scores. In fact, many studies show no correlation between time in school and test scores.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy analyzed data from the Michigan Department of Education and found no statistical relationship between time in school and student performance, as measured by the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP).
The analysis found that the 20 Michigan districts with the lowest average MEAP score actually averaged 30 more instructional hours than the 20 districts with the highest average MEAP score.
No matter how the Obama administration plans to revamp education, there will still be the funding issue. Sherrie Candelaria, president of the PTSA at Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel, responded to Obama’s proposal.
“Where’s the money going to come from? We don’t have the resources and the funds to do something like that,” Candelaria told the Tampa Tribune.
In this economic environment, any major education reform would be hard to implement.
However, because money is tight, the government needs to develop a plan that will actually work when funds become available. More time in school does not guarantee success, so it should not be the first step in education reform.