Saturday, February 28, 2009

Longer School Year Up for Discussion

"Arne Duncan, the Cabinet secretary charged with overhauling America's educational system, is studying programs that keep kids in school longer to boost their academic achievements," reports CNN.

I agree.

First, summers are too long for most parents and they end up being costly in a time when most parents cannot afford it. Daycare, camps, babysitting, excursions, etc. all cost that parent money. How about feeding those kids when they are home and bored? I don't have any statistics, but I bet the ones sitting home alone eat more during the day than they do at school and become less healthy by doing so (but that's another reason).

Yes, we want students to have a break now and then, but American Summer Vacations are too long. Most kids I know are bored after two or three weeks and they want to see their friends. Believe it or not, many of them miss their teachers, their clubs, their activities...they miss their daily routines.

Now back to the "not so healthy" reasons. So many families simply cannot afford to send their kids away to camp and they become stuck at home and not allowed to venture outside because they are too young. So what do these kids do? For 2 1/2 months they sit in front of a TV, computer, game boy or other electronic device and never get outside. To me, this is call brain-rot. So, now not only are they eating more and probably less healthy than they would in school, they are also sitting around being lethargic and losing what they learned during the year. Now, for this there are actually statistics! The longer students are away from the classroom the more information they forget and have to re-learn upon entering school the next year.

Aren't teachers paid for the whole year too? They are! They get to choose how to be paid over the year, but they still get a whole year's salary. Granted, many get summer jobs to boost their annual salary, but we are talking about the kids here, right?

I could go on and on with a least a dozen reasons why a shorter summer makes sense. In my personal opinion we need to do a couple of things to make our student education more palatable for the masses: parents, students, teachers, and government.
  1. Shorten the school day. Kids are absolutely exhausted when the get home from school. Some kids are on buses at 6am and don't arrive home until 5-6pm. This is a ridiculously long day.
  2. Shorten summer vacation and add more "breaks". There are a couple of school districts that try to do this as best as possible. They start school earlier and give kids a "fall" break. Then they get the "winter holiday" break. Then they get "Spring Break". Parents in Seminole County, FL seem to appreciate being able to take the extra break in October which seems to be one of the largest months for vacationing.
  3. Spend more time in school. By shortening the summer and adding more breaks, let's eliminate a couple of those Summer Weeks and send them back to school earlier. Our students tend to go to school less than most other countries that are considered the "educated" and "intelligent". What do they call our country when 30% of students are dropping out of high school?

I wonder if the kids would agree?

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