Just Build a Prison Already

Schools are adding more and more days to their calendars:

In an effort to help underperforming students catch up on standardized tests and give them more opportunities for enrichment activities, 35 schools that enroll about 17,500 students will expand the school day and year in the 2013-14 academic year. Forty more schools that enroll about 20,000 students will also extend classroom and after-school time in the next three years.

Here’s what they’ll be doing with the extra 300 hours per year:

The time will be used for core academic instruction, extra tutoring for struggling students and cultural activities like art and music.

Is it just my cynical nature, or does anyone else think that this will morph into more test prep and other busywork just to keep kids off the streets?

Maybe these kids will be better off, but this strikes me as one more step in making schools the one-size-fits-all social intervention for poor neighborhoods. Schools are just as broken as all the other social institutions in those neighborhoods, but since they’re the only place we’ve decided is worth fixing, their role keeps expanding. Why shouldn’t kids just live in schools in lock-down dorms? Wouldn’t that be even better that expanding the school day?

Update: Had to be away for a while so couldn’t engage in the comments. To address some of the issues raised there: First, other countries do have longer school years, but high performing schools in the US have the same length of instruction as lower performing schools. Why do we think time in school makes the difference? Second, I do not believe for one second that any of this will lead to more music or art or any other expensive program. The additional time will be spent by either overextended teachers, or newly hired teachers’ assistants of questionable qualification, drilling kids on standardized test skills or just being glorified babysitters.. Finally, community mental health, early childhood programs, better social work, community clinics, better daycare, after school programs that aren’t school-based, etc. are some of the things that could be funded instead of pouring more money into schools. Focusing all this attention on the schools strikes me as myopic.

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149 replies
  1. 1
    different-church-lady says:

    [scratches head] OK, these kids aren’t doing well, so the solution is to give them even more of what’s already not working?

    And I don’t suppose we’ll be paying the teachers any more for the extra hours, will we?

  2. 2
    Culture of Truth says:

    Perhaps I’m not quite as cynical, but this does not strike me as a bad thing, either the school-day expansion or the idea of turning schools social service institutions. (better than prison, later, surely) My concern would be if this is inadequately funded or tended to, then deemed a failure, and used to heap more blame on unions and government, with more demands to privatize, etc. But this is not my area of expertise.

  3. 3
    Sasha says:

    I was going to get all snarky and point out that most kids spend enormous amounts of time on videos and TV instead I will point out that the American school system has significantly fewer hours than every other industrialized nation and is still driven by the non-existent need to free the kids to help bring in the crops; the only reason why we have a 10 week summer vacation.

    No other advance school system includes a summer break of this length because it is counter-productive; the first month of each school year is essentially dedicated to refreshing the students’ memories. Our school year consists of 180 6 hour days. I think there’s room for expansion.

  4. 4
    Culture of Truth says:

    A growing group of education advocates is pushing for schools to keep students on campus longer, arguing that low-income children in particular need more time to catch up as schools face increasing pressure to improve student test scores.

    ah the tell!

  5. 5
    Bootlegger says:

    Why shouldn’t kids just live in schools in lock-down dorms? Wouldn’t that be even better that expanding the school day?

    Are you trying to be ironic? Sometimes the snark is so heavy on BJ I can’t tell the difference.

    Prisons = Schools. Seriously?

    You admit its the one functioning social institution (if barely) and we know that kids need safe space, that the more they are exposed to things like books and computers the more they use them, and we know that these neighborhoods lack these things more than others.

    Why wouldn’t we use a functioning social institution to accomplish community goals?

    But if the schools can’t be trusted then let’s just give them all a Tax Cut and unshackle the job creators.

  6. 6
    Culture of Truth says:

    we did build prisons. Quite a few, actually. Perhaps we should try something different.

  7. 7
    ppcli says:

    @Sasha:
    I agree – I grew up and was educated in two of those foreign countries, I had a significantly shorter summer vacation in both of them, and am very irritated at the length of my children’s summer vacation. There is the multiplier effect you note too, since it requires that the first month of every school year is devoted to reminding kids of all the stuff they forgot over the preposterously long vacation.

    That’s not to say that there are no doubt going to be other problems with those extra days, like no extra compensation for teachers, orientation toward test-taking etc. But on the narrow issue of extra instructional time for students, I’m all in favor. The school day should be longer too. And those kids should get off my lawn.

  8. 8
    befuggled says:

    This would save parents money for daycare.

  9. 9
    Mark S. says:

    @Sasha:

    I agree the 3 month summer break is archaic and stupid, but I’m not sure I’m on board for 8-10 hour school days. I know I would have hated that as a kid.

  10. 10
    Punchy says:

    Are you honestly bashing a proposal to give kids more school instruction? WTF? Would you be applauding if these schools cut days from the calander instead?

    Unfuckinbelievable.

  11. 11
    RP says:

    I agree with #3 — more school is a good thing. The comparison to prisons makes no sense.

  12. 12
    Steve says:

    Yes, obviously the first thing we need to do to help poor neighborhoods is decrease the number of school days. Good, thoughtful post.

  13. 13
    jibeaux says:

    Yeah, I can’t say I have a problem with a longer school day or more instructional days per year. They’re in school just under half the year. But teachers should be paid more for the additional days, and the instruction should be worthwhile. My son can take standardized tests with his eyes closed, if it’s just more time to drill for those, then no thanks.
    The trend around here has been to gradually add more days, and add more time, but to never bump up teacher pay. Sometimes state employees get leave time in lieu of a raise (mostly they get neither), so teachers technically get those too, but they can’t use them for instructional days, only workdays, which they usually need and/or get scheduled for meetings and professional development, so they effectively can’t take those either. Between that and teaching to the test all year, I don’t know why anyone would want the job.

  14. 14
    Brendanyc says:

    Why are we so anxious to get kids into pre-school, head start, and all-day kindergarten?? isn’t it because it’s been shown to be of great benefit to them and to society to get more hours of instruction and socialization into those early years? do we think this is not true of first graders or third graders?
    i think i have a great family, and live in a cool neighborhood with much to do, and still i feel it would be great if my kids could have more time per week or per year in our local school. especially if it included arts and music, but also for basic, or ‘core’ instruction. and yes, i know that this is often interpreted to mean test prep, but the only problem i ever had with test prep in school for my kids is if it would take away too many hours from other stuff. test prep itself is not a problem for me–lord knows learning how to take and ace tests is a super useful skill for most of us today. the problem had always been, i thought, that it competed with all the other stuff we’d like the schools to spend time on. isn’t a longer day or longer school year the obvious answer?
    and i agree with those here who say that equating school with prison shows only that the writer had a bad time in school and never grew out of it.
    i had some bad times in school, but also some wonderful and liberating experiences. life is like that.
    prison is not.

  15. 15
    Itinerant pedant says:

    Wrong metaphor. Schools aren’t prisons. They’re daycare. Look at the screaming that went on in the Chicago strike. It wasn’t kids gang banging and it damn sure wasn’t that they weren’t learning, it was “I/my employees are having to take time off work.”

  16. 16

    I am all for the expansion of the school day. The majority of parents have to work, and trying to figure out what to do with the kids when school kicks them out at 3pm is a huge problem for those working parents. Make schools 8-5.

  17. 17
    Zifnab25 says:

    :-p Oh noes! Not more education! What are you, five?

    Kids are having trouble in school, so administrators decide “These people need more time in the classroom to master the material”. That’s just common-sense.

    I mean, don’t get me wrong. I definitely enjoyed summers as much as any kid. But let’s not forget the whole reason summer break exists is as a relic of the days when child labor was common practice and your 12-year-old son was supposed to join you working the fields or tending the store during the summer busy season.

    Now consider what most wealthier parents do with their kids during summer break. They pay top dollar sending their kids to some sleep-away camp or sign them up for school-sponsored clubs or reading groups or sports teams. And what do the kids do at these things? Some of it is recreational, but a lot of it is more education. :-p

    One way or another, you’re going to spend much of your formative years learning, whether you like it or not.

  18. 18
    Face says:

    @RP: I had to read this post twice to figure out if he was being serious, or we were being trolled. Incredibly, he looks serious.

    So now more schooling is a bad thing. Uh huh. Did I miss something somewhere?

  19. 19

    Y’know, I know homeschooling gets a bum rap because it’s been associated with fundies who don’t want their kids learning about evolution and where babies come from, but this is exactly why more and more non-crazy parents are homeschooling their kids. I think 40% of the school day is spent on stuff like, discipline, waiting in line, waiting while the classroom settles down, announcements, attendance, etc. The actual learning time is like 3 hours a day.

  20. 20
    Brendanyc says:

    @Itinerant pedant: what the Hell is wrong with day care? aren’t we in favor of allowing both parents to work if they choose? and who can afford to choose otherwise nowadays?
    school schedules have always been adjusted to the needs of the economy in, first, an agricultural, and now, an industrialized work environment. what is the big surprise here?
    why are so many convinced that more school equals bad? has this blog been taken over by home-schoolers?
    actually, i’d love to home-school my kids—-or i think i would love it. but this is not an option for many families at all. having school hours/years expand to help parents who work is not a bad. not a social bad, not a bad for the kids.

  21. 21
    Walker says:

    There will be significant push back against this if it creeps into schools in upper middle class areas. The after school programs and summer enrichment programs are very big among that demographic. This will eat into that time.

    Anyone seen the college application of a student applying to a top 10 university these days? I have, and they do not have the time for this.

    That is not to say that this is a bad idea in the poorer neighborhoods, which do not have all these opportunities available. But why does it have to be a monolithic part of school? It seems that a more modular approach would be better than one size fits all.

  22. 22
    Balconesfault says:

    I’m looking forward to the Wackenhut Charter Schools.

  23. 23
    WereBear says:

    I have long thought that we should reboot our school system and free it from its roots as a “take children away from the harvest” system and revamp it from its evolution into “let’s make them into factory workers!”

    Those kinds of moves I wholeheartedly endorse. Especially since, at any income level but most starkly in the low ones, there are completely inadequate, even dangerous, parents that we have no real system for ameliorating until it gets so bad that the children are taken away. But a lot of damage gets done before that point.

    Gee, we have a lot of unemployed people, and we have a lot of children in need of mentoring and guidance.

    What to do… what to do…

  24. 24
    Walker says:

    @Southern Beale:

    ’know, I know homeschooling gets a bum rap because it’s been associated with fundies who don’t want their kids learning about evolution and where babies come from, but this is exactly why more and more non-crazy parents are homeschooling their kids

    Homeschooling has been bimodal since the beginning. One group is the religious homeschoolers. The other group consists of highly educated parents disenfrachized by their local school system. The latter have always done well, and the former have always hidden behind the former for PR reasons.

    As a general rule, when a college evaluates a home schooled candidate, the first thing it does is check if both parents have college degrees.

  25. 25
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    I find the 3 month summer break to be stupid. I find it so stupid, that by the end of the summer my kids are ready to go back to school just to get away from all of the stuff I make them do.

    Give the kids more time to learn.

    ETA: At my youngest son’s elementary, they offer an after school program, your pay rate is based on whether you are on free or reduced lunches or not, so we pay full rate. It’s part after school day care, part extra instruction – he’s learning spanish one a week. He’s there until 5.

  26. 26
    Hoodie says:

    This sounds great in theory, but will probably fail in practice. Most districts will skimp on resources in order to meet the additional hours, which means they likely won’t provide the enrichment described and will simply demand longer hours for teachers at the same pay. The extra time will also likely be taken out of teacher prep time hours, which are already woefully limited. This is already the case for my wife, who teaches at school with a high percentage of underprivileged kids and has to stay an hour longer each day than her counterparts at “regular” schools. It’s a recipe for teacher burnout and will likely not be sustainable, even if it initially produces some improvement.

  27. 27
    Rosalita says:

    @Southern Beale: you know, there are a lot of home schoolers in my area of CT. They don’t seem to be fundies at all. After seeing how these kids days are structured, with the schooling and then other social things (like ballroom dance or hockey) I can see where it offers them a balanced learning/socializing existence. That is if course if it’s in neighborhood where they can afford these things. As for the less advantaged areas, if the extra hours did in fact offer some sports or music I think that would be a good thing.

  28. 28
    Soonergrunt says:

    From my admittedly small sample of Teachers, four of them to whom I’m related, two of them have year round school with multiple short breaks and two of them have traditional school with long summer vacations, and the two that have year round love it, and the two that have traditional want to go to year round. All of them believe it’s better for the students academically, and for them as teachers as well because school districts that do this tend to pay more, at least a little bit, even as the districts that don’t negotiate a year’s salary for the nine months of the school year.

  29. 29
    Citizen_X says:

    making schools the one-size-fits-all social intervention for poor neighborhoods.

    But that’s what they are. That’s what they should be.

    And yes, we need more emphasis on the things that get kids ready to learn, as well: good nutrition in their early years, pre-school, getting parents to read to their kids. But schools are thebest way to lift individuals, neighborhoods, and populations out of poverty.

  30. 30
    Capri says:

    Doesn’t this just get the US more in line with number of instructional days in other countries in Europe and Asia – the ones that are kicking our ass in education.

    As someone who sent 3 kids through public schools that mainly contain upper middle class families, I think this would be welcomed there as well. My least favorite time of year was the 2 week gap in the end of May when there was no school since it got out around the 15th and no summer programs since they all start in June.

    There’s nothing bad about this.

  31. 31
    Walker says:

    @Zifnab25:

    And what do the kids do at these things? Some of it is recreational, but a lot of it is more education. :-p

    Covering topics of their own choosing.. The main thing about these after school programs is that is allows students to go highly in depth in topics in ways that are not feasible in a one-size fits all environment.

    I am all for opening up these opportunities to poor students. But you are not going to do this by sticking them all in school longer. Any solution here has to be modular, not monolithic.

  32. 32
    Dork says:

    I think 40% of the school day is spent on stuff like, discipline, waiting in line, waiting while the classroom settles down, announcements, attendance, etc. The actual learning time is like 3 hours a day.

    Sorry, but you’re completely and utterly full of shit.

  33. 33
    Mark S. says:

    @Southern Beale:

    The actual learning time is like 3 hours a day.

    Which is probably all most people can handle. No one can “learn” for eight hours a day. That’s why I’m skeptical of longer school days. If there are a variety of extra-curricular activities (i.e. something besides football) then it might be good, but such things cost money, something most voters aren’t willing to pay for.

  34. 34

    Here’s a study about just how much students forget over the summer:

    http://www.rif.org/us/literacy.....g-loss.htm

    On average, students lose approximately 2.6 months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Studies reveal that the greatest areas of summer loss for all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, are in factual or procedural knowledge.

    Low-income children and youth experience greater summer learning losses than their higher-income peers. On average, middle-income students experience slight gains in reading performance over the summer months. Low-income students experience an average summer learning loss in reading achievement of more than 2 months.

  35. 35
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Walker:

    Any solution here has to be modular, not monolithic.

    We might as well close down public schooling then. 80% of the public does just find with a monolithic system, and they do far better than they would without some generic system: Most would receive little or no education otherwise.

    And even for those of us who really don’t fit into that mold, there are a number of opportunities inside the system. I seem to have done pretty well considering I came from a poor family.

  36. 36
    sharl says:

    Before I form an opinion on this, I gotta first find out what Michelle Rhee and her for-profit edu-pals are supporting. Then I’ll just take the opposite viewpoint. Can’t lose.

  37. 37
    Gindy51 says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: But, but, but how will they fit in football practice????? That was the crying I heard when they wanted to expand the hours at our local schools.

  38. 38
  39. 39
    cintibud says:

    I taught High School for 15 years and found the long summer break just as damaging for me as it was for the kids. Even though I usually picked up a summer job, I found that I “forgot” how to work by the end of the summer and the shock of getting back to work was probably even greater for me then the kids.

    I always like the idea of keeping the same number of school days, but spreading them out over the year. More frequent short breaks would allow for everyone to recharge and to allow for arranging alternate educational opportunities during the short breaks, such as school sponsored trips or special interest instruction.

    Whenever I explained that option to other parents, the reaction was generally very opposed – such a change would screw up their day care/vacations, etc. Very few mentioned the educational gains outside of a few platitudes.

    Also too,
    Teachers are generally paid for the 180 plus days they teach. Increasing the number of days and/or hours without increasing compensation is in fact pay cut to an already undervalued profession. Many teachers need the summer jobs to help make ends meet.

  40. 40
    NorthLeft12 says:

    While I am okay with keeping kids in schools and off the streets and lawns of America, my dog will be greatly saddened by their absence. He is a four year old chocolate Labrador who nearly loses his tail every time a pack of elementary kids walk by when he is out for a walk. I cannot describe his reaction to actually being petted by them as I understand that this is a family blog.

  41. 41
    Taylormattd says:

    Additional tutoring, art, and music does not seem so much like prison to me.

  42. 42
    chopper says:

    expanding the day may be problematic, as a lot of kids aren’t going to do well with 8 or more hours of instruction time.

    now, get rid of summer vacation, adding 50 or more days to the school year, now we’re talkin’.

  43. 43
    MathInPA says:

    We need the extra time, pure and simple. In addition to the ridiculous, outmoded summer break, and the fact that school hours don’t mesh well at all with parent hours– as much as kids need play time, they need supervision too and if our school hours matched parent work hours, we could have longer recesses as well as instructional hours– there simply isn’t enough time to teach all the instructional material.

    This isn’t just a matter of standardized testing, though that’s a big factor. Back in Los Angeles, where I only lost like a week and a half to testing and test prep, in Geometry, I generally only made it through about 5/6ths of the required materials– really, a little less, since I would end up finishing part way through chapter 10, and had to skip some elements I dearly wanted to cover so I would have enough time for the core standards. Even without that week and a half gone, I still would probably only make it most of the way through the book -with- skipping.

    Up here in Washington, or at least the administration in the school I’m at says, we have to do formative testing over the school year in order to get more data for how well we’re preparing them for the test; our quizzes, midterms, and finals, apparently, aren’t enough. Between that and the administration’s math policy that we have to give our finals two weeks early to review for the standardized testing, I’m barely making it through chapter 9 with similar skipping (though different standards for different states. Sigh.)

    I need extra time. My _kids_ need extra time. Even if all standardized testing and the screwed up rigmarole for it save one end-of-the-year exam per class disappeared, we’d still need the extra time. I can’t really dispute the standards, honestly, but they’re more of a minimum. I’d like to teach cover to cover in the book so that my kids get a better grounding, especially in geometry where we teach logical thought and argument. The chance to do more constructions, in-depth paragraph proofs rather than skims and conversions…

    Yeah. Sorry, but this isn’t about imprisonment. It’s about the needs of a modern society for an educated populace.

  44. 44
    Drunken hausfrau says:

    In england, My kids went to school from 8:30 to 4:00 , then had clubs or sports until 5:30 or 6. They had music, drama, art, PE, games, world religion, personal & social health, geography, history, Latin, French, Spanish, English, maths, chemistry, biology, physics, design technology, and ICT (computer). This was primary school and middle school. Greatest education I have seen… I wanted to go back to school myself! School year started in September and went until mid July, with half term breaks and hoiidays interspersed. It was wonderful to be able to take family breaks throughout the year, and summer was short but sweet.

    I would wish this for every kid.

  45. 45
    Bostondreams says:

    Well, since this is an education thread, this is the feeling among teachers in Florida right now with the stupid new VAM model.

  46. 46
    R-Jud says:

    @Drunken hausfrau: My kid starts school in England next September, and as an ex-Chicago Public School teacher I am beyond thrilled at the schedule and the amount of time she’ll have. Sure, it kind of stinks to lose the ability to spend July 4th in America with my family, but seriously– her school has a garden and a chicken coop and they get to go outside twice a day.

  47. 47
    Drunken hausfrau says:

    Yes, I forgot to mention… My kids had outdoor recess everyday… Public schools in the Midwestern city we lived in before had cut all PE, all recess, all the arts, etc.

    What is needed is MORE school time filled with more subjects, activities, fresh air. And libraries. Also, my kids had delicious and freshly made hot lunches everyday I the UK schools.

  48. 48
    The Moar You Know says:

    but this strikes me as one more step in making schools the one-size-fits-all social intervention for poor neighborhoods.

    And the problem with this is? Shit, the building is already there, the ability to serve food is there, the kids are reasonably safe, the kids can learn…I’m really failing to see the problem here.

    A facility that combined teachers, counselors, and social workers is desperately needed in poor neighborhoods, and frankly is needed in a lot of neighborhoods that aren’t so poor either.

  49. 49
    chopper says:

    @Drunken hausfrau:

    i did plenty of after-school activities, especially in HS. and i gotta say, extending the school day into that time is not a great idea.

    first off, it would mean no extracurricular activity time as it would be too late.

    secondly, extracurricular activities are great because they’re voluntary even if they may be strongly encouraged. it’s nice to choose what activity or club you belong to, it’s nice to associate with other kids with a common interest, it’s nice that this shit isn’t part of your grade so you don’t have to stress to shit over the outcome.

    and it really is nice that not every kid does it. a kid can get sick of being surrounded by a thousand other kids during the day, forced into rows of desks to learn according to a teacher’s curriculum for 8 hours. it’s nice to walk around an empty school. it takes a weight off your chest. you get to do what interests you.

    don’t expand the school day. expand the school year. make after-school programs more accessible for younger kids.

  50. 50
    muddy says:

    Something I think about in regards to extra hours is that around here at least, they seem to be on much shorter hours than I was in HS, so they could bump it up and it would be what we used to have. I got on the bus to go home in the afternoon when last class let out at 3pm. When the bus *drops off kids* now they are already home and it’s only 2:40.

  51. 51
    KXB says:

    My siblings and I loved going to school, not because we loved learning, but because it got us out of the house. When you have parents that monitor your every move, and no cable, school is the one place to relax. Like others have noted, American schools need to get with the times.

  52. 52
    Shalimar says:

    If we make them live in dorms for high school, that will help them get used to living in a dorm for their minimum wage factory job after they graduate. It’s a win/win.

  53. 53
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): I should also add that the after school time includes some kind of physical activity every day.

    @chopper: There’s no reason the extra curricular activities could not be part of the after school. Heck, if you think about it, you were just voluntarily extending your school day. Plus, we talking about extending into the summer as well.

  54. 54

    I’ve read this post three times.

    I still don’t ‘get’ what I’m supposed to be upset about here?

  55. 55
    weaselone says:

    Not to be contrarian, but there is research that suggests that part of the discrepancy in performance between different socioeconomic groups is accounted for by the structure of the school year. Performance generally drops over the long summer vacation, but it drops less for the children of parents with higher incomes. This probably has to do with the quality and type of summer activities which the children have access to as well as the the parents continuing to push their children educationally over the summer.

  56. 56
    Culture of Truth says:

    I understand that this is a family blog.

    It is?

  57. 57
    srv says:

    I think our prisoners would be insulted that you compare their institutions with banana republic high schools.

  58. 58
    Deb T says:

    If they can get music and art back into the curriculum, it’s a plus. I’m in my sixties and took band and glee club both. I’m not a great musician, but time spent in these activities meant a lot to me and taught me discipline and the joy of art. I wish we’d had an art program since that was my true love.

  59. 59
    Trakker says:

    I suspect we’re going about this all wrong. All this pressure to perform well on tests right from day one has got to suck all the fun out of learning.

    This is a tremendously exciting world, and learning about it should be equally exciting. Math and music, physics and poetry. Education should be about discoveries, connections and context. A walk in the woods, along a stream, through a wetlands, listening to a bird’s song. I weep for our kids who will no doubt equate learning with drudgery.

  60. 60
    muddy says:

    @Shalimar:

    If we make them live in dorms for high school

    I remember talking with parents when we had teenagers, and all agreed we should swap, the kids were better behaved for the friend’s parent than they were at home.

    Sadly, this would probably only result in teenagers who eventually got snotty with everyone’s parents. Like a snarling mass of vitriolic jackals!

  61. 61
    aimai says:

    As I think others have pointed up middle and upper class kids routinely spend the afterschool hours doing “enrichment” activities–I’ve just spent the last 14 years driving my children to dance classes (Ballet/Jazz/Tap/Irish Step and then Indian Classical), to glass fusing and glass blowing classes, to singing repertory classes, to violin lessons) and now personal fitness classes since they don’t get enough excercise during the regular school day. I would gladly have paid a whole lot extra if they could have done all that on school grounds adn if I could have avoided giving my time to the drive and the wait.

    In addition, of course, the recent thread on “being read aloud to” should remind us all that kids from poor families, from recent immigrant families, from families that deal with homelessness on a regular basis actually need more time in school–not because school is a punishment but because school should be a constant factor in their lives, a still center in a whirling world. I’d like to see student lounges, showers, excercise rooms, and round the clock (before school and afterschool) homework sessions with dedicated tutors and therapists who could help the kids who are unable to be read to and helped get the help they need before and after the regular school day. If we want all our kids to start the school day on an equal footing all of them need the help that upper class parents routinely make sure their kids get. A kid who is sleeping on someone else’s couch because the heat has been shut off, wose parents don’t/can’t read to him, whose parents are holding down three jobs and two shifts, could actually use more time in school.

    I’d also like to point out that a school day that lets out at 3 and for farm labor in the summer is totally disrespectful of the needs of working parents in a two working parent family and of single parents. Those kids are not going home to leave it to beaver world where mom is there to look after them.

    aimai

  62. 62
    Culture of Truth says:

    Like a snarling mass of vitriolic jackals!

    now that sounds more like this blog

  63. 63
    phil says:

    Doesn’t anybody at the NYT bother to do some research before writing an article? The author couldn’t even tell us how many hours the schools currently average.

    According to The Independent:

    An average (French) secondary student attends 1,060 hours of school a year, compared with 925 in Britain and 883 in Germany.

    The biggest difference I noticed looking up the average hours, is most countries have year round school with short breaks between terms.

  64. 64
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @Judas Escargot, Acerbic Prophet of the Mighty Potato God:

    I still don’t ‘get’ what I’m supposed to be upset about here?

    There’s no there there. mistermix phoned in a minimal effort without thinking the issue thru, and is now getting whacked in comments more than a pinata full of smack at the Free Bat Day for Junkies AAA baseball game.

  65. 65
    Culture of Truth says:

    When will the kids find time to sweep the floors?

  66. 66
    Robert says:

    They’ll start with actually including enrichment programs like art and music. Then, when they still do poorly on the standardized tests, all the arts will be cut to funnel more money into test prep courses. Then, when they still do poorly on the standardized tests, they’ll claim students need more resources and cut all non-sports after school activities.

  67. 67
    FlipYrWhig says:

    “Hey, teacher… leave those kids alone!”

    Also, homework stinks!

  68. 68
    Itinerant pedant says:

    @Brendanyc: Youte not quite getting my point. If we are doing this to warehouse kids so mom and dad can be good little workerbees we’re not going to get anything for the extra days but more days in school. Now the lit suggests that you will get some minor benefit just from information loss (or rather LESS loss…the length of summer vacation kills retention).

    But we won’t get better “specials” (school speak for art/music/etc.) that way. And we likely won’t getuch in the way of curricular benefit.

    I don’t object to the extra days. Just object to not actually USING them to actually, y’know, educate the kids. Because treating schools as daycare has led to some of our ills, as I see it. (On one simple level: if school is really daycare, then there’s less social advantage in education so might as well privatize it…)

  69. 69
    Feudalism Now! says:

    Quit trolling the Front Page, Mistermix. School needs to be revamped. It is not prison. It is an opportunity to revitalize education. The problem is trying to lengthen the school day and school year without funding. The infrastructure and staffing at lower performing and poverty stricken schools is appalling. Prison conditions would be preferable in some cases. Schools can be a tremendous force for good in communities, but they are crumbling, archaic and increasingly spastic in their reaction to rapidly changing standards. New York state, in particular, is a chaotic mess of local school districts, BOCES districts, State Ed., and Federal requirements. Unequal funding and rapidly fluctuating aid rates make budgeting and school planning a nightmare. If we want schools to be a panacea we need to start funding it.

  70. 70
    SatanicPanic says:

    I don’t mind shortening the summer break, but schools should let kids take more time off. It sucks to have to pretend your kid is sick just so you can take a day off to go to the zoo or something.

  71. 71
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @FlipYrWhig: How can you have any piddling if you don’t make your grade?

  72. 72
    aimai says:

    @Itinerant pedant:

    Uh: there’s a huge social advantage to “worker bees” in school as daycare–its free daycare. The families which faced the crazy school day shortfalls in the states that suddenly went to Mon-Thursday school weeks instead of Mon-Friday would heartily disagree. Lower income families can not afford daycare for the kids they have right now. They often go to dramatic lengths to make sure that one shift worker is at home or they have gap care for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

    aimai

  73. 73
    The Moar You Know says:

    Seeing as how the kids at my wife’s most definitely NOT disadvantaged high school seem to do nothing after school but:

    1. Sit in front of an xBox or a computer and get hugely fat
    2. Break into homes to steal prescription meds and then get their rich parents to bail them out with no consequences
    3. Have huge drunken parties and stab each other (not kidding)
    4. Mysteriously acquire a fetus in spite of public proclamations of loving Jesus to the exclusion of all others

    then perhaps we ought to start this “all day all services” school model in the rich neighborhoods first. Seems like they might need it more.

  74. 74
    ruemara says:

    @General Stuck: He’s disheveled! He’s too rich to do that! Photoshop!

    Also too, Cole, you’re an idiot. As a public school kid, I would have begged for more school hours, particularly if I could have studied more computing, extra languages, math tutoring and weapons. Stop whinging and open your damned mind. If there’s one thing poorer Americans need in their communities, it’s better schooling, schools and more of it. Beer kills brain cells.

  75. 75
    prufrock says:

    My wife is an elementary school teacher. She taught at a failing school where they extended the day. It was a disaster. An extra hour of reading drills to kids who have already checked out for the day does nothing.

  76. 76
    gypsy howell says:

    Have to ask, mistermix. Do you have children?

  77. 77
    Agoraphobic Kleptomaniac says:

    Just heard a story the other day how a section of a foreign country (area in netherlands, maybe?) was getting rid of homework all together by adding 2 hours to the end of the school day for time to do what was homework. I thought the idea was unnecessary, but my wife, who came from a house that didn’t really push education, thought it was a great idea, because parents can be poor tutors. If a kid is struggling, and the parents cannot help, or don’t have time to help, having the teacher available for after hours help with homework is necessary and terribly terribly important during grade school. If you can’t catch kids up during elementary years, nearly everything after becomes infinitely harder.

    If longer school hours are utilized well, there’s nothing wrong with it.

  78. 78
    Wiesman says:

    What a stupid post. We should be adding school days to the calendar. Here in California we’ve lost weeks of school days because of budget cuts and I’d be thrilled if we were adding them back (which I think we will with Dem control of government).

    What the hell kind of post is this? I don’t even… I just… I mean…

  79. 79
    The Moar You Know says:

    Also too, Cole, you’re an idiot.

    @ruemara: Authored by mistermix, not John G. Cole.

    Have huge drunken parties and stab each other (not kidding)

    @The Moar You Know: Forgot to mention that the parents bought the cases of booze for Stabfest 2012, so the idea that the kids are better off at home doesn’t wash as far as I’m concerned.

  80. 80
    sharl says:

    @ruemara:

    Also too, Cole mistermix, you’re an idiot.

    FTFY.
    I think Mr. Cole would agree that that he provides plenty of legitimate opportunities to be yelled at, without taking heat for other FPers.

  81. 81
    mistermix says:

    @prufrock: Exactly. We might imagine what schools could provide in that extra hour, and that’s a fun exercise, but what will happen is another soul-sapping hour of drills that make everyone hate school more.

    @gypsy howell: Yes. And they spend enough time in school already.

  82. 82
    mistermix says:

    @ruemara:

    Also too, Cole, you’re an idiot. As a public school kid, I would have begged for more school hours, particularly if I could have studied more computing, extra languages, math tutoring and weapons. Stop whinging and open your damned mind. If there’s one thing poorer Americans need in their communities, it’s better schooling, schools and more of it. Beer kills brain cells.

    I’m not Cole, but I think it takes a special sort of idiot to think that kind of special attention is what will happen when a few more bucks get thrown at urban schools to extend their hours. @prufrock‘s wife had the experience I expect most of the kids in the failing schools in this town will have: another hour of boring drills.

  83. 83
    gypsy howell says:

    @prufrock:

    An extra hour of reading drills to kids who have already checked out for the day does nothing.

    Seems like that is the problem, not the extra length of the day. If all you’re doing is attempting to drill in what you’ve already covered that day, I can see that there would be diminishing returns. Expand the curriculum. Add more music, art, drama – courses that require kids to use a different part of their brain and creativity. Of course, that would assume more funding, wouldn’t it?

  84. 84
    Riley's enabler says:

    I’d kill for a year-round option on our public schools. I’ve got a sprout in a Texas elementary school. He goes from 8:15 to 3:10, is bussed to a day care that thankfully focuses on tutoring for homework and physical activity (we lucked out on that find, believe me). I pick him up after work and then it’s off to his sports or music activities. Most nights, we don’t get home til 7.

    7 pm.

    It’s stressful, chaotic, and yet it is the BEST plan I could devise since his school’s after-school care program has a 5 year waiting list. You read that correctly.

    He has Art, Music and PE once every 6 days. I would far prefer a schedule set up with an hour longer at school per day to accommodate arts – and even additional languages.

    I dread the summers – not because his day care isn’t good (it’s great) – but because even with all the enrichment I can give and buy for him, there’s STILL a month of catch-up in September.

    Bring on year-round and additional hours. I’ll alter my day care plans – whatever it takes. Our kids need more hours to absorb a better rounded curriculum.

  85. 85
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    A lot of extracurricular activities are bullshit of the highest order, and exist mostly so students can pad their scholarship/college applications.

  86. 86
    NonyNony says:

    @gypsy howell:

    Add more music, art, drama – courses that require kids to use a different part of their brain and creativity. Of course, that would assume more funding, wouldn’t it?

    Yes if you could add back the parts of the curriculum that have been cut, then extending the school term would be a great idea.

    I suspect, however, that the solutions for urban schools will involve more “practice” so that the students can take proficiency tests and improve district scores, rather than something actually useful like that.

  87. 87
    bemused senior says:

    I’m in favor of a year-round calendar having a longer school days with interspersed shorter vacation breaks, and many school districts have implemented this as noted above. But I agree with other posters that it would be important to insist on a more balanced day. Please read the book Learning to Bow, which describes the experience of a US teacher who taught in Japan. The school day there includes many non-academic parts (including the children tidying their own classroom). It offers teachers more prep time during the day. Teachers are paid more, reflecting the respect they hold as professionals entrusted with the care of children. Before someone brings it up, yes, Japan also has a warped university admission system that requires Saturday cramming sessions, but that is not reflective of a bad school system.

    When my daughter taught in an extended day and year school in the South Bronx, her kindergarten students got virtually no time to go outside or to the gym, and theoretically weren’t supposed to be wasting time on music and art. This is madness for little children. Fortunately, my daughter is a fabulous teacher and structured her kids’ day as much as possible according to what she knew they needed at their stage of development, and surrounded them with books and reading aloud. Unsurprisingly, they did very well on tests and almost everyone emerged reading at a second grade level.

  88. 88
    aimai says:

    @NonyNony:

    I don’t suspect that at all. I think this is the start of negotiating better school options for everyone. Teachers hate taking time away from teaching for drilling so they aren’t going to be accepting the exgtra hours as drill prep unless they are taking back the main hours as regular teaching with, you know, ideas and fun and stuff. A whole lot has to change in order to create a longer day–like the ACA this is probably just the start of thinking about the school year in a more rational and productive way. Parents and teachers need to start weighing in and fighting for a bigger share of the tax pie and for the enrichment hey want to see and I think they will.

    aimai

  89. 89
    prufrock says:

    @gypsy howell:

    Add more music, art, drama – courses that require kids to use a different part of their brain and creativity. Of course, that would assume more funding, wouldn’t it?

    Of course. Even expanding things like science, or social studies would be useful. However, that’s not what happens. Even the school my wife teaches in now, which does not have the extended hour, the majority of her time is spent on the three R’s. While that is important, seven year old kids can only spend so much time on that stuff before they lose interest.

    When my wife was at the failing school, she had a four hour long block in the afternoon that was supposed to be dedicated to nothing but reading, writing and math. No breaks were allowed to be scheduled by the administration (although she would sneak in one or two).

    By way of comparison, I took an honors interdisciplinary course in college that was also a four hour long block. We had ten minute breaks every hour. In what world do we expect seven year old kids to maintain concentration better than adults?

  90. 90
    peach flavored shampoo says:

    Also too, Cole, you’re an idiot

    Basic reading comprehension is not strong in this one.

  91. 91
    Walker says:

    Before someone brings it up, yes, Japan also has a warped university admission system that requires Saturday cramming sessions, but that is not reflective of a bad school system.

    Japan is weird when it comes to education. Great pre-university, absolutely horrible universities. I think some of that is the undue corporate influence in their universities.

  92. 92
    Punchy says:

    He has Art, Music and PE once every 6 days

    Unless this has been changed recently, the state of Ilinois is the only state in the nation to require PE every single day from 1st grade thru 12th. I never realized it was unique until I went to college and met so many out-of-shape peeps that hadnt seen a basketball hoop since prom night.

  93. 93
    Mnemosyne says:

    @chopper:

    secondly, extracurricular activities are great because they’re voluntary even if they may be strongly encouraged.

    I have a strong suspicion that you went to a middle-class or better high school, because in poorer schools, you have to pay for extracurricular activities, and a lot of parents don’t have the money. Middle-class or better public schools that have funding can offer things like French Club or Chess Club for free, but schools with less funding can’t do it.

    When I was in junior high, I was able to go to summer school thanks to our excellent (and highly funded) school district. Not the punishment summer school that one of my brothers had to go to, but summer school where we got to do really fun things like learn Spanish or read plays or do gymnastics. That kind of stuff is the reason poor kids lose so much education over the summer — they do not have those opportunities available to them.

    If people are worried about losing extracurriculars, let’s officially build them into the day instead — at 4:00, either you go to your sports team, your chess club, or you go for extra (free of charge) tutoring/homework help. But our current separate-but-equal system where middle-class kids get free French Club after school and poor kids get to walk home and then lock themselves inside the house and work on their homework alone because no adult will be home for another three hours is not working.

  94. 94
    dcdl says:

    would love my kids to be in school longer. I would prefer more days in school in the school year than hours. As it is there are unpaid cut days, early release once a week, and a lot of Monday’s off. Most of November there was no school on Mondays, early release Wednesdays, and a week off during Thanksgiving. Now December is here with about 2 1/2 weeks of school before Winter Break. Also, the teachers even said they don’t have enough time in the day to spend as much time as they would like on subjects like science, history, social studies, etc. They spend 90 minutes on math, 60 minutes on reading, and 60 minutes on language arts/writing everyday. Then they have P.E., technology, music, library, 2 to 3 recess depending on grade, 20 minute lunch, and a brief time on science, social studies, and the like that the kids have on different days. For awhile there wasn’t a music teacher. The teachers decided to not take their raises and other cuts so the money could be used to hire a music teacher. The teachers also don’t like spending so much tome testing. The kids have district tests and state tests.

    It would be nice if extracurricular activities like sports or music was more affordable.

  95. 95
    dcdl says:

    would love my kids to be in school longer. I would prefer more days in school in the school year than hours. As it is there are unpaid cut days, early release once a week, and a lot of Monday’s off. Most of November there was no school on Mondays, early release Wednesdays, and a week off during Thanksgiving. Now December is here with about 2 1/2 weeks of school before Winter Break. Also, the teachers even said they don’t have enough time in the day to spend as much time as they would like on subjects like science, history, social studies, etc. They spend 90 minutes on math, 60 minutes on reading, and 60 minutes on language arts/writing everyday. Then they have P.E., technology, music, library, 2 to 3 recess depending on grade, 20 minute lunch, and a brief time on science, social studies, and the like that the kids have on different days. For awhile there wasn’t a music teacher. The teachers decided to not take their raises and other cuts so the money could be used to hire a music teacher. The teachers also don’t like spending so much tome testing. The kids have district tests and state tests.

    It would be nice if extracurricular activities like sports or music was more affordable.

  96. 96
    aimai says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    You are radically behind the times. I don’t know of any public middle class school that has any extracurriculars or after school activities “for free” and at my children’s private k-8 you pay for afterschool and those activities at the school, or you pay to do them privately. All th epublic schools I know have gone to a fee for service model in which the various extra curriculars need to come up with the money for their activities/uniforms/chaperones/competitions by themselves through the sale of stuff (which, of course, has been corporatized and is largely a rip off).

    aimai

  97. 97
    aimai says:

    Also, on the subject of something like dance or art it ought to be cheaper to club together and put an art or dance teacher on salary to teach 10 kids at once than for each of those families to contract seperately with such a teacher, bring their kids to an art center, have that teacher pay for the overhead of the building and etc..etc…etc… It just doesnt’ make fiscal sense to turn art and dance teachers into private contractors. We should be fighting to get more such people into the schools.

    aimai

  98. 98
    vestigial says:

    Mistermix — Haven’t read all the comments, but let me agree with your update and maybe rephrase it.

    I worked at an inner city school and the teachers had identified the most crippling learning disability at the school. The disability is called SLS and it effected about 10% of all the students at the school. It caused poor academic performance, dropping out, poor attendance, etc.

    SLS stands for Shitty Life Syndrome: unemployed parents, drug addicted families, moving to a new place every month, friends being shot on the front porch, three uncles and two aunts living with you, autistic brother sharing a bedroom, etc. You could spend a trillion billion dollars on school programs and it would not be any help for those suffering from Shitty Life Syndrome.

    The way to help kids, you’re saying, is to support the non-school environment of the students. And that means social programs addressing all the things you mentioned.

  99. 99
    dcdl says:

    Sorry, for the double post. Swear I only hit ‘publish’ once. Silly tablet.

  100. 100
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Oh, and this should go without saying, but obviously the teachers who are running the extracurriculars or supervising study hall should get bonus pay for those hours at a minimum, if not a bump in actual pay.

  101. 101
    Suffern ACE says:

    Are the tests really so bad that teaching to them hurts the children? Just wondering if there might be some residual benefit to keeping kids longer and teaching to the test.

  102. 102
    Brachiator says:

    @mistermix:

    Second, I do not believe for one second that any of this will lead to more music or art or any other expensive program. The additional time will be spent by either overextended teachers, or newly hired teachers’ assistants of questionable qualification, drilling kids on standardized test skills or just being glorified babysitters..

    Yes, we know that you believe that this will happen. But you really can’t say for sure, can you? No matter how emphatic you are, it’s still just speculation.

    Finally, community mental health, early childhood programs, better social work, community clinics, better daycare, after school programs that aren’t school-based, etc. are some of the things that could be funded instead of pouring more money into schools. Focusing all this attention on the schools strikes me as myopic.

    You do realize, dont’ you, that these alternate activities don’t have a big union behind them.

    And “non-school based after school programs” sounds like the Christianist crap that wingnuts love.

    Be careful of what you ask for.

  103. 103
    feebog says:

    This has to be the stupidist post by a front pager ever. Longer school days and longer school years equals better learning. As proof I offer my Alma Mater, Granada Hills Charter High School. GHCHS has been a public charter for over ten years. The school is controlled by a community board of parents (parents with children currently attending the school are not eligible), teachers, administrators and Community leaders.

    GHCHS has an extra class period each day, the school day starts before 8:00 a.m. and ends at 3:20 p.m. While the Los Angeles Unified School District has cut days and hours for several years due to budget constraints, GHCHS has maintained and expanded both the school day and the school year. Additionally, incoming students are requried to attend a six week summer session before entering 9th grade.

    Last year GHCHS had an API of 878. That is 130 points above the LAUSD average of 748. The scores of the english as a second language students and students with learning disabliities are even above the LAUSD average most years. The school has a 98% graduation rate. 97% of grads go on to a community or four year college.

    GHCHS is not some small elite private charter school. It is the largest charter high school (over 4K students) in the country. As a public charter, they must take in every student within their boundaries. They have a yearly waiting list of 2500 for about 500 students. And yes, they pay their teachers more than LAUSD. longer school hours means opportunities for learning and teaching, and the results of this school prove it.

  104. 104
    Ash Can says:

    Mistermix, I generally like your posts, but you just plain clanked this one.

  105. 105
    Karmakin says:

    A couple of things. First, there’s a bit of classism in the thread that people should be aware of. Not everybody works an 8-5 job. So extending the school day may not be a benefit for, in fact it’s pretty crappy for the parent who is working say 5pm-1am (which I was working until a few weeks ago, as an example), as if you extend the school day you’ll pretty much never get to see your kids.

    It’s not a terrible idea, extending the school day, but it has to come with a lot of systematic changes, as other people have mentioned. If you DON’T make those systematic changes you’re only making the problem worse. Remember the #1 goal of primary school should be to infuse the youth with both the tools and desire to continue learning. #1. Everything…EVERYTHING else is secondary.

    First, that extra time has to be constructive. No worksheets, no make-work, it has to be different, interesting things. I like the idea of adopting a club system, to be honest, let kids choose (or form their own) group to do what they want to do during that time.

    Second, there needs to be the funding to do those things.

    Third, less homework. Less home time means less time to do that homework. The people who fetishize homework need to be told to shove off. (I’m not anti-homework, but there has to be a limit.)

    Fourth, you need to pay the teachers more, and hire mores staff for the additional time.

    And that’s what I can think of at the top of my head. But without those things, extending the school day is a social catastrophe in the making.

    Edit: Oh and by the way yes. We do expect different results in terms of primary education and adult education. In order to get adults to learn you basically have to baby them into it.

  106. 106
    Walker says:

    @Brachiator:

    And “non-school based after school programs” sounds like the Christianist crap that wingnuts love.

    It includes things like outdoor clubs and other things that keep kids from becoming couch potatoes (I would say Scouting, but Scouting per se has gone to hell).

    Also, depending on how you define “non-school” based, almost all secondary ed exposure to computer science comes from after school programs. Even the best of schools have very weak computer science.

  107. 107
    aimai says:

    @Brachiator:

    I have to agree with Brachiator here. The thing that Mistermix is missing is that the schools are already in existence–they already have facilities (buildings, lights, custodians) and therefore it is easier and quicker to turn them into “community centers” and the focus of enrichment activities than to create those things in a poor community that lacks good, clean, public spaces. It would be easier and cheaper to bring doctors and dentists to the schools than to open up new clinics, for example. It would be easier and cheaper to bring dance and art to the schools than to try to create a new public/private partnership and build or refurbish decayed private spaces. In some places the school is the only public space left since malls destroyed main street. And the children are already going there during the day–the logistics of getting the consumer/child to the provider (teachers, medical staff, art staff) has already been solved.

    We should be fighting to pour money into the schools to counteract “shitty life syndrome” as someone described it upthread.

    The problem we are having as a country is the fact that taxpayers think of schooling and its costs as a one time event–they are like people who say “i ate breakfast yesterday, why am I hungry again today?” Of course you need lots of money to house, feed, clothe and educate a large population of children–and you need to appropriate it again and again and again. Every year, even! And you need more and more and more teachers and providers of other things just to bring parity to a decayed infrastructure and a poverty stricken population.

    If we poured and wasted money on th ebuildings, the grounds, the gardens, the PE classes, the music and the art we would still be better off. Its not possible to overspend on our children. Because even the waste wouldn’t be waste since the pay would be going right back into the community and into the infrastructure. The one thing we shouldn’t do is privatize schooling since under that system the “wasted” money simply gets funneled upwards and out of the community to the rich owners of the private schools.

    aimai

  108. 108
    MikeJ says:

    @Suffern ACE:

    Are the tests really so bad that teaching to them hurts the children? Just wondering if there might be some residual benefit to keeping kids longer and teaching to the test.

    If the tests are the minimum the kids are supposed to know and they’re still failing them, it seems like doing anything else would be wrong.

  109. 109
    Princess says:

    In Chicago, where the school day has just been lengthened, the day was so short there wasn’t even time for recess in most schools, and the lunch period was only long enough for kids to quickly gobble their lunch. Can you imagine having to teach a room of third graders all day long who have no time to run around for a bit? Even if the longer day adds nothing but more free blocks within the day, it is a win for education.

    The broader point, that poverty is the problem with the schools, not the schools themselves, is very well taken, but that doesn’t mean the schools don’t need work.

    I am guessing mistermix doesn’t have children.

  110. 110
    WereBear says:

    Those stupid tests were nothing but a scam to funnel money into Bush family pockets. Who do you think owns the company?

    Scam, pure and simple.

  111. 111
    chopper says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    that’s certainly true. my schools weren’t great, and there were constant budget fights, but we could afford after-school activities without my lower-middle class parents coughing up extra cash they didn’t have.

    i assume that everyone is down, first and foremost, with the idea of actually funding public schools.

    i mean, a lot of this talk is unfortunately pie-in-the-sky ‘what i would do’ sort of stuff. funding schools, expanding the school year, actually paying teachers a living wage, etc etc. only in america are these ideas considered ‘liberal fantasies’.

  112. 112
    chopper says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    also:

    but summer school where we got to do really fun things like learn Spanish or read plays or do gymnastics. That kind of stuff is the reason poor kids lose so much education over the summer—they do not have those opportunities available to them.

    still, even if summer school is that sort of fun stuff (i did a number of things, including marching band, until i realized that marching around for hours, in a heavy polyester uniform holding a trombone perfectly level, in 105 degree midwestern summers, sucked. jazz band was inside and much more fun) i still walked back into school in the fall having lost half a year’s worth of math skills, and i was really good at math to begin with.

  113. 113
    Walker says:

    Suffern ACE Says:

    Are the tests really so bad that teaching to them hurts the children? Just wondering if there might be some residual benefit to keeping kids longer and teaching to the test.

    Standardized testing (together with the mad race of getting everyone to Calculus) is one of the many things that has absolutely crushed math education in this country. You cannot assume that even the best students from the top high schools are capable of writing a proof (which cannot cheaply be tested with standardized testing).

  114. 114
    Short Bus Bully says:

    This post is all wrong.

    For working families these sideways school days (half days, early release, in service training) and kids coming home in the middle of the afternoon wreck havoc with your work life and cost a FORTUNE in babysitting.

    Longer school days are WIN, pure and simple.

  115. 115
    mistermix says:

    @Brachiator: My argument for school resources going to test prep and babysitting is simple: that’s the cheapest thing available, and it’s what they’ve been spending money on already. Music, art, etc. are consistently cut, test prep is consistently financed. Thinking otherwise is just wishful thinking.

    @aimai: In the areas of urban poverty in my city there are clinics, daycares and other examples of the programs I mentioned, with physical buildings. They are just underfunded. There are also boys clubs, girls clubs, community centers, etc. The school is not the only public or semi-public space there.

  116. 116
    Felonius Monk says:

    Predicted Outcome: Another failed experiment in education that just pisses some more money down the drain. It will fail because it will be underfunded and under-resourced and thus will give conservatives more ammunition to continue the destruction of our public education system.

    The stated goals are worthwhile and I think the intentions are good, but I will be very surprised if this effort really does any measurable good. I hope I’m wrong.

    Since New York is one of the participating states, it really makes me wonder. New York State has significantly cut education funding at the state level and with a property tax cap now in place, many school districts are in terrible financial shape. Some on the verge of bankruptcy — and these are not just in poor, urban areas. I just don’t see how schools here, especially the poorly performing ones, could afford to do any of things mentioned in the article.

  117. 117
    Cacti says:

    @Sasha:

    No other advance school system includes a summer break of this length because it is counter-productive; the first month of each school year is essentially dedicated to refreshing the students’ memories. Our school year consists of 180 6 hour days. I think there’s room for expansion.

    I’m with you.

    Though I would have pitched a fit at the idea of getting rid of it when I was a kid, having a 10-12 week summer break hurts more than it helps. I’d favor a move toward a year-round model nationally, with no more than a 3 week break at the end of any term.

  118. 118
    dcdl says:

    @vestigial: My friend who teaches 3rd grade in the poor elementary school in my town says the same thing and so does my other friend who is a principal. The third grade teacher gets mad as hell when she hears her students regurgitate all the negative crap their parents say about school.

  119. 119
    Bostondreams says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    When I was in junior high, I was able to go to summer school thanks to our excellent (and highly funded) school district. Not the punishment summer school that one of my brothers had to go to, but summer school where we got to do really fun things like learn Spanish or read plays or do gymnastics. That kind of stuff is the reason poor kids lose so much education over the summer—they do not have those opportunities available to them.

    I got to ‘teach’ during summer school a few years ago at my former place of employment. This is how it worked. The day was 9 am to 2pm. I sat at a desk with a computer, while the kids sat at their desks with a computer. It was a classroom of about 20 kids, as that was all we could afford that summer.

    At the computers, the students ‘retook’ courses they had failed at some point in order to make up credits. So they would retake American history or algebra one, year long courses, in about 4 weeks. My job was to ‘check their work’ and click the box that would allow them to move on to the next chapter or section. Some kids made up 3 classes in 4 weeks. There was nothing to keep them from cutting and pasting or copying in the computer programs that were being used, and as a social studies teacher, I had to rely on the computers to tell me if the math answers, for example, were correct.

    This is what it was like in my county and I am sure in others throughout Florida.

  120. 120
    aimai says:

    @mistermix:

    In my city too–we have the old settlement houses–but they don’t have a public funding stream like the schools do so how do you expect to start raising money? And one of the things they do is all the after school enrichment activities that the schools stripped out under budgeting pressure. Another thing they do is take on the role of the tutors for those kids whose families can’t manage it. But you have to get the kids from the schools to the afterschool programs–its counterproductive to keep doing that and wasting time and money getting kids from one environment to another when you could pour your focus into the one that already exists, wehre they already are.

    I’m talking about a city (Cambridge) where there is relatively high investmen tin the schools because of a borad tax base of businesses, btw, and tons of fundraising and investment in the 6000 kids who are in the public schools. And the middle class parents who still send their kids to the cambridge schools are incredibly grateful for the possibility of the extended day while the lower class parents desperately need it for all the reasons we’ve outlined above.

    If a kid is from an immigrant family and english is not their first language throwing the kid out at three o’clock and expecting his mother to then get him, on public transportation, to community clinics and afterschool programs just doesn’t make sense.

    aimai

  121. 121
    Cacti says:

    @Suffern ACE:

    Are the tests really so bad that teaching to them hurts the children?

    Standardized tests can be a useful tool for gauging certain core competencies.

    The problem is that in many cases, they seem to have become the be all/end all of the education experience.

    If most of what you do is teach to a standardized test, you’ll have a class full of students who are good at taking standardized tests and not much else.

  122. 122
    aimai says:

    @Felonius Monk:

    My cousin is a principals in one of the many small new highschools that NY city put into the old big highschools (my father in law who went to highschool during WWII was in a highschool that had 10,000 students and ran on three shifts). The new small highschools are nested in a single building. You can not believe the stupidity and the incoherence that underlies this move even though the move makes great sense. For example: they didn’t think through having a single custodian and single administrator for the buildings/grounds to manage the demands of three separate schools. So the principals spend tons of time just kind of arranging stuff–who gest to use which room when, how much of their budget goes for the joint building, who fixes what?

    In addition, and this boggles my mind, no provision was made for the taking over of the records for the previous schools which wen tout of existence as the new schools came into existence. No money was appropriated and no centralized “all new york” agency came into being to hold and handle those records. If your highschool went out of existence ten years ago and you needed a transcript its not at all clear who holds it or how you would get a copy of it. The new principals were asked to take on that job, without extra storage facilities or money, while running their own new schools. Unbelievable.

    The numbers of kids in these systems are staggering and the inability to handle all their needs in a streamlined and thoughtful way is also staggering. Its just a huge job, largely done in an incredibly technological unsophisticated way, and in crumbling buildings which are handled in a totally irresponsible way themselves.

    aimai

  123. 123
    WereBear says:

    Once upon a time, the standardized tests were three times in the 12 years. They were used to ID students who needed more help or a more challenging curriculum; that is how I got into a gifted program which was important to me.

    Now, it’s all about pressuring everyone into regurgitating the same facts. I don’t know a single teacher who thinks they are doing anything but bad things to the system.

  124. 124
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt:

    The majority of parents have to work, and trying to figure out what to do with the kids when school kicks them out at 3pm is a huge problem for those working parents. Make schools 8-5.

    I don’t think an 8-5 schedule necessarily accommodates working parents, who are as likely to be working irregular shifts as they are an office job.

    If you want to shut up shop later, though, make the hours 9-5. There’s increasingly good evidence that the idiotically early start to American school days — again, tied to the vestigial needs of agriculture — isn’t conducive to learning, because the first hour or so is spent clearing the cobwebs from the brain.

  125. 125
  126. 126
    Brachiator says:

    @mistermix:

    My argument for school resources going to test prep and babysitting is simple: that’s the cheapest thing available, and it’s what they’ve been spending money on already. Music, art, etc. are consistently cut, test prep is consistently financed. Thinking otherwise is just wishful thinking.

    You may be making an educated guess, but it’s still a guess. There is just no point in treating a guess and speculation as a fact.

    However, you are wrong when you say that babysitting and test prep is the cheapest thing available.

    And hell, even the babysitting might be of value to working parents who might otherwise have to leave work early to pick up their kids.

    In the areas of urban poverty in my city there are clinics, daycares and other examples of the programs I mentioned, with physical buildings. They are just underfunded. There are also boys clubs, girls clubs, community centers, etc. The school is not the only public or semi-public space there.

    In areas where there are already budget cutbacks, using the school buildings might make a lot of sense.

    And the bottom line is that you have to know how much money is available and how it can be allocated, what existing programs might be funded, and what new programs would have to be started to make any of this work.

  127. 127
    mistermix says:

    @Brachiator: Since we’re talking about programs that haven’t been implemented yet, of course I’m guessing, as are you. The difference is that I’ve given a reason for why I think the way I do (namely, bureaucracies tend to spend money in the future the way they have in the past) but you don’t give a reason why we should think otherwise.

    If I’m wrong about the cost of test prep and babysitting, name something cheaper. You can’t. Both can be accomplished by low education low paid teachers aides using test prep materials or just watching kids, which is exactly what I’m arguing is going to happen. Other programs (music, sports, art) require supplies, equipment and better educated and motivated supervisors/teachers.

    Using school buildings for community health clinics, early childhood education and most of the rest of the things on my list makes no sense because those activities take place at the same time as school. And buildings for those activities already exist – what goes on inside them is underfunded.

  128. 128
    taylormattd says:

    @mistermix:

    I think it takes a special sort of idiot to think that kind of special attention is what will happen when a few more bucks get thrown at urban schools to extend their hours.

    Second, I do not believe for one second that any of this will lead to more music or art or any other expensive program.

    I don’t understand this.

    The article to which you link *literally* specifies what would happen with the money you say is being “thrown” at the schools:

    The time will be used for core academic instruction, extra tutoring for struggling students and cultural activities like art and music.

    What is your basis for believing this won’t happen? If the legislature here in Washington appropriated money for this, progressives around here would be *ecstatic*

    You wrote a post about a story reporting five different states will be appropriating additional money for extra tutoring, art, and music. And then simply declared with zero evidence that you don’t believe this will happen.

    As a bonus, you now use one of the phrases favored by anti-public school, pro-charter school advocates: “throwing money at” public schools.

  129. 129
    trollhattan says:

    It (added school hours) sure isn’t occurring in my little corner of Californistan. In the six years redhead.edu has been in school, class sizes have nearly doubled because of teacher cuts, vacation days have been extended and half-days have become far more common.

    There’s also no janitor on weekdays, no nurse and the part-time librarian is paid by the PTA–the district has no money for such frills.

    Prop 30’s passage removed the threat of lopping two to three weeks off the end of the school year.

    Adding class days and hours? Not when we’re spending per-pupil sums similar to Alabama.

  130. 130
    Felinious Wench says:

    Husband’s a teacher. His school is both a high school and something of a community center. They have after school activities but also classes for adults at night. That’s what a school should be…it should serve the community. Many schools in the inner city Houston area operate this way. They’ve been around for a long time and have people in the community that went there themselves.

    Schools should be the hub of a community.

  131. 131
    stormhit says:

    @feebog:

    A waiting list like that might not say anything about being “elite,” but it’s basically the definition of a highly motivated and invested student body with high levels of parental investment. That’s 3/4 of the battle.

  132. 132
    MathInPA says:

    @mistermix:
    I think here, and with your other reply, you’re missing the point by addressing the most hostile responses. Kids don’t suffer in most countries for the extra hours; indeed, they thrive. You can assume that they’ll get extra drills, but based on what you linked, it looks like they’re going to at least try for more than just that– art, music, core classes.

    I think you may be idealizing the childhood experience a bit here. It’s no different than idealizing the 50s Leave It To Beaver experience, frankly, and similarly requires reliance on labor that either isn’t there for economic reasons or shouldn’t be required. Like the slow foods movement, I would be extremely wary of arguments that rely on a world view that traditionally leans on unpaid female labor.

    There’s nothing magical about three to four hours a day of unsupervised time and three months of the same. Kids getting the opportunity to do music, arts, all the rest of that– it helps them live and grow. As for time… Remember, we’re not in a situation where one parent is forced to stay home because no one will employ her seriously, and we’re not in a situation where one parent can _opt_ to stay home. We’re living in the real world, where women want careers and accomplishments on the positive side and very few people have the freedom to choose to pursue life paths that allow them to stay home and monitor their kids on the negative.

    If we have more time for our kids, if I can add projects in because I know they’re getting work time or even just if I don’t have to reteach in the first month or two, they’ll learn better. All the real research shows that we lose immense amount of information over a summer that we simply don’t need, whether from a sanity side or an academic side.

    If our theoretical allies treat schools like prisons and ignore the scientific research on what helps kids, we’re left with the test-and-drain money crowd on the right. Don’t castigate schools for making the attempt to do what works; even if they end up doing drills it will be better for their education than doing nothing. And if we can get support to do this right, it will knock it out of the park.

    Think of it this way: we might get the Obamacare of education out of this as compared to a European-style single payer here.

  133. 133
    Brachiator says:

    @mistermix:

    If I’m wrong about the cost of test prep and babysitting, name something cheaper. You can’t.

    I don’t know what portion of the school budget or teacher time goes for tax prep. Do you?

    Both can be accomplished by low education low paid teachers aides using test prep materials or just watching kids, which is exactly what I’m arguing is going to happen.

    This makes no sense. A commuting buddy teaches second grade. She bemoans the time she has to spend on standardized test prep, which she doesn’t even think is worth the time for second graders.

    However, she is hardly a low education, or even low paid teacher. And I seriously doubt that a school is going to bring in a second stringer for this. It’s a fixed cost in terms of teacher salary and time.

    And yeah, “other programs (music, sports, art) require supplies, equipment,” but your point should be that if a district doesn’t have the money to hire additional personnel, it’s not going to happen. It’s not about “better educated and motivated supervisors/teachers.”

    Using school buildings for community health clinics, early childhood education and most of the rest of the things on my list makes no sense because those activities take place at the same time as school.

    Not necessarily, and you don’t know what facilities are available in the school buildings.

    And again, you don’t know what money would ultimately be available for the other activities you propose.

    Bottom line: good speculation on your part, but there is no particular reason to believe that it is as doable as any other proposal. And issues of hiring additional personnel apply as much here as to any in-school program.

    Also, I don’t know if it’s an either/or. You keep wanting to insist that what you propose would be a better use of some unspecified amount of money than adding to school programs. But it’s really a question of what specific communities need. And neither of us know what this might be. In California, for example, money allocated for mental health programs either went unspent, or went for programs of dubious value. But because funding was narrowly specified by ballot initiative, it could not be shifted where it might be used more effectively.

    Also, in many Calfornia communites, library hours have been cut back drastically. Some days the buildings are closed; other days they are closed after 1 pm. But libraries, and schools, are often more conveniently located than other state and local community facilities.

    As poster Felinious Wench notes, “Schools should be the hub of a community.” So, I am suggesting that not only do communities have to consider what programs they need, but how public facilities can be used more effectively during continuing tough times.

  134. 134
    Suffern ACE says:

    @taylormattd:

    As a bonus, you now use one of the phrases favored by anti-public school, pro-charter school advocates: “throwing money at” public schools.

    Yep. I think we’ll repeat that.

    I think he might have been bullied a bit in school and now spends his time worrying that the money spent on schools should be going to solve all of our other social problems first (Yes! Lets end Poverty before doing something like “babysitting” children in our empty public schools!).

  135. 135
    aimai says:

    @Brachiator:

    Children used to get dental appointments in school. With an extended day a whole lot of stuff could be moved into the school rather than taken out of school and placed on the parents to provide. Its unbelievably complicated to get your kid in to see the eyedoctor, the dentist, and the regular doctor for shots–a working parent has to take literally half a day–a full day if their employer doesn’t permit them to take half days–just to get that stuff in. It is sometimes scheduled for afterschool hours but those aren’t, by definition, after work hours. It makes way more sense to have nurse practitioners come to the school to administer eye tests–not that anyone is suggesting anything that sensible!

    Ditto for art classes. As opposed to the people on this thread arguing that “no child can learn for an entire day” I’ve found the opposite to be true–all children learn constantly, as long as they are learning through play and through teamwork and games. Children in an urban environment, especially–but children in rural ones too–are basically prisoners of their homes if they are not in school. At school they could be having life enriching experiences of all kinds: cooking class, woodshop, field trips. Read about the French approach to education and weep–even preschoolers are taken to the museum and taught appreciation of high culture.

    aimai

  136. 136
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Bostondreams:

    I think you got roped into teaching the “punishment” summer school that my brother had to go to. My school district had two kinds — catch-up tutoring for kids who were doing poorly during the school year and “fun” summer school that was basically a substitute for day camp.

  137. 137
    Some Guy says:

    I am not sure schools-not schools is the right lens. More and better teachers and better facilities and materials rather than extended hours seems like a better solution. The idea that schools generally are fine is absurd. To tack on more hours rather than reinvesting in the basic human and institutional infrastructure seems questionable. “More” when “now” is limping along does seem strange. Yeah, some schools are fine, many are desperate for basic help.

  138. 138
    MathInPA says:

    Education is the silver bullet. Period. Standardized testing does hurt education, but that doesn’t change the fact that even in our downturn, while education is being delinked from income, there is still a strong link. It makes better voters. It reduces abuse. If we combine core education with the important humanities, it creates stronger psyches. And I’ve found the ‘throw money at it’ and associated lines offensive. If the problem is chronic under-time, chronic under-staffing, and chronic under funding, then yeah, throwing money and time at the problem WORKS.

  139. 139
    Felonius Monk says:

    To add another slant to this discussion consider this press release:

    FULL-DAY CONFERENCE
    Tuesday, January 15, 2013 | 8:00 am – 5:00 pm | New York City
    Private equity investing in for-profit education is soaring, and for good reason — the public and non-profit models are profoundly broken.
    This is why for-profit education is one of the largest U.S. investment markets, currently topping $1.3 trillion in value.
    Look at the current state of K-12 public education. School districts across the U.S. are underfunded, underperforming, and well behind the curve when it comes to adopting quality technologies.
    Many simply lack the expertise to treat today’s applied technologies as not just gadgets or strategic opportunities, but as real solutions for expanding their capacity to teach students.
    And in the post-secondary world, non-profit institutions are finding that very few enticements are bringing in money. Not sports. Not research. Not classrooms.
    Public funding and private endowments are both down, and neither will be particularly reliable in the future.
    So 2013, and beyond, will see numerous for-profit companies making inroads into public and non-profit education by taking over large swaths of the market. What’s more, they’ll prosper in the corporate training and continuing education marketplace as well.

    Private Equity Investing in Education Conference

    See what is currently happening in Michigan right now.

  140. 140
    Brachiator says:

    @aimai:

    Children used to get dental appointments in school. With an extended day a whole lot of stuff could be moved into the school rather than taken out of school and placed on the parents to provide. Its unbelievably complicated to get your kid in to see the eyedoctor, the dentist, and the regular doctor for shots—a working parent has to take literally half a day—a full day if their employer doesn’t permit them to take half days—just to get that stuff in. … It makes way more sense to have nurse practitioners come to the school to administer eye tests—not that anyone is suggesting anything that sensible!

    Yep. Makes a lot of sense.

    Sadly, I get the sense that many school districts view arts education of any kind as a luxury that can be easily sacrificed in favor of other programs.

  141. 141
    different-church-lady says:

    I know this ain’t gonna be a popular comment, but I gotta say that I’m pretty sick of hearing a perspective that boils down to, “I had kids, now what the heck am I going to do with them all day? Jeez, if I could just get someone else to take care of ’em for another couple of hours without it costing money out of my pocket that would be fantastic!”

    Reactions might also be simple as projecting the individual experiences one had when one was a child. Personally I would have seen the “opportunity” to spend another two hours a day with the cast of Lord of the Flies to be psychologically equivalent to the prison sentence Mistermix eluded to. I guess most BJ’ers didn’t suffer a lot of bullying back in the day.

  142. 142
    different-church-lady says:

    @MathInPA:

    Education is the silver bullet.

    Now do you mean “education” as in “a child actually learns something from this effort”, or as in “a child is taking part in an educational system.”

    Because if it’s merely the latter then simply doling out more of it ain’t no cure for nuthin’.

  143. 143
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  145. 145
    Bostondreams says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    It wasn’t the punishment summer school. It was the ONLY summer school. There was no other, sadly.

    ETA: not really much tutoring going on either. It was all online catchup courses for a grade.

  146. 146
    Older says:

    I don’t know why everyone thinks “throwing money at a problem” is such a bad idea. If someone were to throw a bunch of money at me, I could pay my bills off faster. Maybe I could eat a little better. If they threw another bunch of money at me, I could make more repairs on the house.

    I’m pretty sure schools could also find constructive uses for money “thrown at” them. Where I live, the old high school (since replaced) had leaks in the roof such that buckets had to be placed in the halls. This problem was fixed with money. I can’t imagine how else it could have been done.

  147. 147
    Mnemosyne says:

    @different-church-lady:

    Personally I would have seen the “opportunity” to spend another two hours a day with the cast of Lord of the Flies to be psychologically equivalent to the prison sentence Mistermix eluded to. I guess most BJ’ers didn’t suffer a lot of bullying back in the day.

    I did get bullied, though I was probably more in the lower third on the social scale than at the absolute bottom. That’s why I would think that the extended day would work better as electives than just more and longer test prep — it would mix the students up a bit more and hopefully alter the social dynamic for at least a few hours a day.

  148. 148
    Monala says:

    There are public school buildings in which medical professionals, social service professionals, art & music instructors, etc. come in and offer services. They’re called “community schools” and they usually set up in low-income communities where the childen otherwise would have little or no access to such services. http://www.communityschools.org/

    Transportation is a huge issue for schools, for after school programs, and for low-income communities generally. I have worked for schools and after-school programs for years, and it’s no good having a program available if the kids can’t get to you – or can’t get home afterward (because the buses stop running at a certain hour).

  149. 149
    denvercook says:

    word to aimai. it’s a little frustrating to see a string of comments and hardly a one mentions the time & financial burdens that the current school schedule & school-year puts on working parents, primarily women. the current school year and schedule assumes that at least one parent, cough cough mom cough cough, doesn’t work full-time.

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