Should we have a longer school year?

President Obama said Monday that the American school year is too short, and he noted that students in other advanced countries have about a month more of school each year. Today’s Question: Should we have a longer school year?

  • Gary F

    How do you pay for it?

    Right now, we can’t pay for what we have in a down economy, so you want to add more?

    Most schools don’t have air conditioning. Most of those schools couldn’t have air conditioning added at a reasonable cost.

    Of course, teachers unions and the politicians who get big support from the unions will be in favor.

    Not more school, but better school.

  • Dianne

    When I was a student, I wanted to go to school year around with shorter, more frequent breaks. While I support a longer school year, I see many problems with the cost of updating most school buildings. Perhaps we could start by lengthening the school day to include a final period for doing homework and getting help with homework.

  • Colleen Maiers

    Absolutely. Improved educational outcomes is key to the U.S.’s ability to compete successfully in the global markets. It’s one of the best public investments I can imagine.

  • Richard S.

    I don’t think we should have a longer school year. Kids need the summer break. I think it would be a good idea to lengthen the school day by one hour or so to help kids with thier homework. Also, we should have more opportunities for affodable summer camps. Kids are America’s future, and if we don’t support them, we will all pay a heavy price.

  • Jamison

    It depends. Is the goal to increase the quantity of things learned, or is it to improve the quality by teaching more in-depth?

  • Steve the Cynic

    Cost is not the problem, Gary F. It’s not that we can’t afford to lengthen the school year, but that we choose not to. The problem is political will. The trouble is, Americans have bought into the ideology of radical individualism to such an extent that the idea of paying to support things that promote the common good never gets enough traction among voters. Big-business funded politicians keep selling us the snake oil of the “invisible hand” of the free market to solve problems that don’t respond to market forces, and we keep buying it. Meanwhile, our roads and bridges are crumbling, millions go without health care, and we’re not adequately preparing our young people to take over the reigns of society after we’re gone. Market forces work very well for some things, but not for everything. For things the market doesn’t do a good job of providing, we need to work together, and government is how we do that in a free society. Unfortunately, “we” is sadly absent from some folks’ political vocabulary.

  • Sue de Nim

    A too-short school year is only one of the problems with our school system. The main problem is that we’re not attracting brightest and best of our young people to go into teaching. Young people who express an interest in teaching are often told things like, “You can do better than that; you’re so smart!” And it’s not just that young people can look forward to earning more money if they choose careers other than teaching, though that’s part of it. They also get more respect from their parents and peers if they plan to make piles of money in business than if they hope to have a positive impact on the lives of a few dozen children per year. As long as people see teaching as something they can settle on if they’re not good enough to go into business, we’ll continue to have a second-rate education system.

  • James

    No, keep government out of my personal life. All education should be done through private organizations that use the profit motive to encourage better teaching.

  • http://www.idealpolicy.com Rose

    School year round, with one week off each quarter.

    All students are not made equal, either by desire, motivation or skill. Therefore not all students need to be mainlined into the same scholastic curriculum. Offer different disciplines and honor vocation, apprenticeship and mastery. Not all learning is done in classrooms.

    In trying to become a leader, United States students, instructors and educational administrators have proven to be followers. It’s time to rethink the long term vision, mission and goals of an education system.

    I’m an instructor (higher education, not union, not full time).

  • Chris

    Absolutely!

    It seems like a pretty easy thing to do and most experts agree it will help. Sounds like a no brainier.

  • Glenn

    I’m wondering how many of these respondants have EVER spent an entire day at a childs school, perhaps helping with math and reading…

    I have, and I must say the parents are a huge part of the problems in the public schools. They need to understand it is NOT just daycare!!

    I’m convinced a longer school year is required, to keep the students “on task.”

  • Kelley

    We already pay the price for not having a competitive education system in this country. Many school on the east coast and private “prep” schools recognize the merits of a continuous year school program. Unfortunately the children left behind will be the ones who are in poor public schools with no meaningful activities in the summer, and without the benefits of public school lunch. Socially, year round school would do so much to close the racial achievment gap, and provide much needed stability for children.

  • Shingo Mathieu

    The world’s average school year is 200 days per year. In the United States it is 180 days; in Japan it is 243 days.

    Seems pretty obvious why they’re better at math and science.

  • Luke Van Santen

    Yes, it would be a win-win. More education, better / more consistent logistics, less dropping of skills over summer break, …

  • jim

    It is a good idea but the tourism industry would freak out. Just look at the trouble schools get into starting before labor day. Parents would freak out over loss of summer vacations. and kids are not widgets the business model and free market capitalism is not a good idea for children. I assume teachers would be expected to work 2 more months a year for no more pay. Teachers are NOT the source of all evil in the universe. If you think it can be done better quit your corporate job and go get a teaching job and show us how it it done.

  • Peter H

    Our experience with year-round school was that the kids liked it and retention was increased.

  • Tony

    As usual, ill-considered fixes to imagined problems in education utterly miss the point.

    The point is that our public education system is fundamentally sound right now, and whatever issues exist are all related to money.

    Suppose we had paid to implement a longer school year 20 years ago. Since the state has been issuing IOUs instead of money to schools, how would that look now? Would the Great Recession have been avoided if only we had implemented a longer school year?

    Or, imagine that we graduate a state full of math and science whizzes this coming spring. That’s an awful lot of eager and freshly “competitive” new workers. What are the names of the Minnesota companies that are prepared to hire every one of them? There is no subset of Minnesota companies saying “we’re prepared to hire all of these kids, and more, if only their school year had been longer, or had focused a little more on math and science.”

    A lot of people throw out buzz-phrases like “competitive in a global economy.” What, exactly, does it mean to be “competitive?” Would new workers, who presumably benefited from our “reformed” educational system, be the exact thing needed to stop companies from shipping jobs to elsewhere in the global economy where workers cost less?

    What assurance do we have that, should we “fix” an education system that isn’t really broken, prosperity for us all will magically appear?

    The teacher-bashing that has become so popular has got to stop. I just don’t believe the notion that there are too many poor-performing teachers that need to go.

    That’s not to say there aren’t things that could be better; there always are.

    I might start with the salaries that administrators make. Administrators and principals routinely make six figure salaries. One principal job costs the same as three teachers. Isn’t it reasonable to wonder, by making administrator salaries so high, to what extent do we attract short-term, career-centric ladder-climbers more than people who will better lead and motivate their teaching staffs?

    A benefit of lowering administrator salaries could be more teaching jobs, which could mean lower class sizes. In a smaller class more kids who struggle could get the additional attention they need to help them be successful in school.

    Right now there is a glut of unemployed and underemployed teachers. That glut will grow bigger still in the spring. Numerous school districts are already considering additional layoffs. In such an environment, it’s hard to justify such high administrator salaries.

    It’s also hard to understand how alternative licensure, which would add to the already-large quantity of unemployed teachers, would do anything other than lower teacher wages. A better idea might be to make school districts focus their recruiting efforts among the state’s already licensed teachers, and grant license variances to already-licensed teachers for any areas the districts feel are hard to fill.

    Other problems that could be addressed include putting less focus on math and science and more on social studies and language arts. Math and science are great, but most of the world’s problems are social or cultural clashes.

    At the moment what we have is high-paid management, and too many unemployed workers competing for too few low-paying teaching jobs. That is the American story.

    By the way, economics is a social studies discipline. A little more focus on social studies might include more focus on economics. A better understanding of economics actually might have helped us avoid the Great Recession.

  • kent brandt

    How about starting with a descent school day? Why are buses fully loaded and delivering students at 2:30 in the afternoon?

    And maybe fewer and shorter breaks during the school year isn’t a bad idea.

  • Noelle

    I don’t think it would be unwise to consider a longer school year. Our traditional educational schedule was initially implemented to accomodate farmers, so that kids were available in the summertime to help out on the farm and with the harvest.

    Thanks to big agriculture, that’s no longer an issue for most American families.

    Tony makes a GREAT point about placing more emphasis on language arts and social sciences, and I also agree with his stance on administrators. My parents are both teachers (well, one was, until his job was cut way back and he was essentially forced into retirement after spending his entire teaching career at a single school) , and had very different experiences at their schools based on what the administrative leadership was like.

  • Jennifer S

    Yes, school years should be longer if you have engaged, solid teaching. Otherwise, what would be the point?

  • Dan Mastel

    I think school should be year round with periodic breaks throughout the year. Students lose too much knowledge during their summer vacation and teachers are forced to reteach material that the student should already no. This causes an even shorter amount of time for new learning. The system we have no is outdated. The long summer break was for the farming student to be able to help their families during the busy summer season, but now most students live in urban areas that negates the need for the long summer break.

  • Ed Davis

    Answer to question = yes.

    As the previous posts have indicated, the problem with education is more complicated.

    The economics of our society (2 income families, single parent families, and unprepared parent(s)) has forced schools to have a large daycare and social work component. School days could be shorter and have less breaks from educational time. However, we would have a generation of kids without afternoon care since parents will not step up to the plate for economic and personal reasons.

    Teachers are a small part of the problem. Today’s children and their parents can do no harm and require entertainment in order to learn anything. Learning will not always be fun.

    Children are our future, but they are not saintly blank slates. They need respectfully implemented expectations that push their abilities and talents.

  • Kate N

    We should have a longer school year. Focusing on Minnesota for a minute (I realize Obama was addressing a national situation), at the very least we should require 180 days of school.

    Ideally, we should have year-round school, although I think Rose’s suggestion that students receive only a week-long break every quarter is too severe. While many students couldn’t take advantage of longer breaks, some could use breaks of two to four weeks to spend unrushed time with a far-flung relative (including spending time with a non-custodial parent who lives out of state), join their family for a longer-than-normal vacation, immerse themselves in a foreign language or work full time to save for college.

  • Chuck

    Absolutely, tailored to the seasons, and the ability of facilities to conduct learning in a comfortable environment (e.g. air conditioning for older facilities). Most two income households are already paying for daycare while they work, as well as when they are on vacation. I believe we could accomplish the education goals with greater consistency, conducted during a longer school year/year-around school, within facilities that would be utilized across then entire year. Scheduled breaks would still be appropriate based on advice of professional educators on the timing and duration of breaks.

  • Susan

    We should but I don’t think the districts can afford it. Right now, I am paid for 183 days a year. If we raise that number, I’d have to be paid higher and the districts are too simply strapped for cash now. Local taxes would go up – state taxes possibly too. And at least one of the gubenatorial candidates wants to reduce money to schools. Ok, just one. Local communities are also strapped.

    Many of our young teachers take a separate job in the summer to make it. Some of those jobs pay more than their teaching jobs.

    Teachers don’t go into teaching for the money, but we do need to support ourselves and our families.

    As to our administrators earning 6 figures? Not where we live and I’m in the metro area. And if they did, they earn it. They are here often 12 hours a day. They are in charge of teachers, cooks, janitors, support staff, STUDENTS, reporting to parents and the school board, dealing with the police and other agencies. You could not pay me enough to take on that job. I could not do my job without them.

    The idea that we are beholden to the state fair makes me crazy. It is a private organization – it is not a state run company. It’s a FOR PROFIT. So why is the tail wagging the dog?

    But if we are truly going to be competitive in the global economy, we need to be serious about more education. And we need to require a foreign language from elementary. We are so far behind other countries in language, it’s ridiculous.

    Just my musings sitting on my prep….

  • Tim in Rochester

    Yes. And I am willing to pay higher taxes to fund it. I consider it an investment essential to our future prosperity.

  • Vicki

    Absolutely. My oldest child have the opportunity to attend year-round school when I was stationed in San Antonio. For every 8 weeks of instruction they got two weeks off and went to school for 6 weeks in the Summer. The amount of material they were able to cover was greater, Adam never sang the “I’m so sick of school” blues and they did not spend weeks reviewing material that was forgotten over the Summer. When he went back to a traditional school year he complained of being “bored” and missed his old school. Only Americans think we can get the same results others get with less work.

  • Vicki

    I forgot. I think a longer day would also be important for longer periods in each class. Also the whole global competiveness thing? Companies such as Google,Microsoft and others request every year that there be more B1B visas approved. Why? Because they cannot get the quality of employees they need from US colleges and universities. THAT should give us all pause.

  • Mary Alice Harvey

    Yes, we need a longer school year and a longer school day. We need to make it a priority to figure out a way to pay for it. I would hope that those longer hours in school could be translated into more time for physical education, music, art, more time to use science labs, and do social studies projects, and be less high pressure and stressful for both students and teachers. Our neighbors the Canadians seem to make a longer school day and a 10 month school year work very well, and their immigrant children spend their summer vacations in immersion language programs.

    I am old enough to have been part of a generation that spent 3 1/2 summer months working in the fields, and city children came to spend the summmer with grandparents or aunts and uncles and do the same, but those days are long gone. I see today’s parents scrambling to provide summer day care or worrying because they can’t and their kids are on the streets. I know of private schools for disadvantaged inner-city kids that have a longer school day and longer school year with very good results.

  • A Concerned Parent

    Education is such an important issue and so many interesting comments, so many good points. I agree with a longer school year but not longer school days. My children love learning and miss school after about two weeks of summer vacation. We live in a rural area, my children have acres to explore, they can run, jump and play and build forts, we go on family vacations, all this to do and they still miss school. Children need structure, support and discipline and they need to keep their minds challenged. Schools provide this for our kids and it’s so important for those kids who don’t get it at home. Education benefits every single one of us but how do you pay for a longer school year? Our district was one of those that passed going to a 4 day school week because of budget constraints. As a parent I was so concerned and so angry over this decision. Thank goodness the state rejected our district’s application. One of the other cost saving measures they passed was to close one of our two elementary schools, this caused angry parents to enroll over 50 children out of our district. Three of our board members were parents that enrolled their own children out of the district and yet won’t resign from the board. How do you work together and solve problems in a situation like this? In my opinion our society has become so self-centered and self-absorbed, it leaves me wondering where as a society we are headed and where will we end up.

  • Kevin VC

    HECK YES!

    I hated the fact that during the summer you forget most of what you learned during the year and would have 1/3 of the year recapping.

    Summer breaks were for when we were all farmers.

    And even the Farmers are more industrialized that they are not needing ALL THAT time off.

    We should be year round and have 3 day weekends. Enough to either relax, catch up on school projects, or do our own thing.

    The countries that are ahead of us have this as the cornerstone of their success. We keep saying its something else and refusing to face the facts.

    And the reason is there are lobbyists who fight to keep the schedule the way it is.

    Real school reform will not occur until removal of lobbyists and heavy regulations on their activities is finally put into place.

  • Ellen

    YES!!!!!! As a Mom and Educator – today’s students need more consistent, on-going education! Many students and families can’t afford/access summer “enrichment” and these enrichment experiences don’t replace school!

  • Sara Y

    Yes! Asian schools don’t take three months off every year. If we are to compete, we can’t do it. It’s a throw-back to an agrarian society, and we aren’t anymore. They State Fair should be irrelevant to it all.

  • nick

    A longer school year will not do anything. I read that many schools have 200-day years, while we only have 180. Are those twenty days some magic bullet? GET REAL!!!

  • Lawrence

    If we want to compete with the rest of the globalized world, we’d better start sending our kids to school more often than 9 months of the year and probably for longer daytimes too. There’s a reason why Japan and China and socialist nations like Norway and Sweden, continue to generate top scientists after scientists after scientists. Their kids stay in school pretty much most of the year. Meanwhile, we Americans act like children are still coming home to farm chores after a 5 hour day of arithmetic, reading, writing, and gym. It’s embarrassing. Trouble is, teachers, parents, conservatives, and child care providers will balk.

  • Yesi

    Longer school year wont do anything. Does this secure students will pay more attention in class. We need better teachers that motive students to learn.

  • Yesi

    Many parents wait for the school year to end to travel as a family, this is part of the learning process too. Makes students stay longer in school during the day and develop more technology and science programs.

  • Christian Hahn

    I think the people who have commented on needing better schooling/teachers are missing the flaw with that idea. Just because you have a good teacher, does not mean that they are going to have ample time to cover a subject; or that students will be able to understand the material for that matter. I am currently a college student and I have a fantastic math professor, however, she covers 1-2 sections in the book A DAY. In other words, despite the fact that she is a very qualified professor, the rushed “learn-it-then-lose-it” atmosphere that is present is not beneficial to many students. We have spent quite a bit of time relearning material that we should have remembered from high school. I am in a pre-calculus class and I have trouble remembering basic concepts and properties that I learned in my PRE-CALCULUS class as a senior in high school. And for the record, I’m not the only one.

    If more time was taken to cover material that is crucial to further our educational development (especially at early ages), we (students) will be much better off in the future.

    Besides, how many people would incessantly complain if their winter break was shortened by a couple days and school carried on two weeks longer into summer? I say, if it helps us become more knowledgeable and prepared, then why are we waiting? As a child, I probably would have disliked this idea, but looking back, I realize now that it would have been an immense help.

  • Christian Hahn

    One other thing that I forgot to mention, it has been planted in our minds that as students we go to school for roughly 9 months out of the year. In reality, we only attend for about 185 days which is equivalent to just 6 MONTHS: not 9.

    So for all of those people out there saying that there isn’t enough time for students to do things with their families like vacations, you currently have (not counting weekends) AT LEAST 4 months (summer vacation and holiday breaks) of time where students are not attending school.

  • peace

    I think we should have people who want longer school days have it, and the people who dont dont. I think this because that is fair for people who objects and who agrees. PLEASE think about this because I think it WILL be a very best answer to this WHOLE problem.

  • michael L

    I believe that we should get a choice (school vote-off) to individually decide what we want to do!!!! I have a dream…of no more school!!!!

  • MICHAEL l

    everyone should have their own individual say in the matter!!!!!!!!!!!

  • jhfgjfdshgj

    hello, people

  • nathaniel

    no more school is boring im in 4th grade it is hell

  • James A.

    Damn it i hate school especially senior year of junior highschool….

  • Karen

    St Paul Public Schools 169 full days

    Anoka Hennepin Schools 172 days

    Rochester Public Schools 169 full days

    St Cloud Schools 167 full days

    Minnesota is one of the few states that can’t even require a minimum 180 day school year

    We need a minimum of 200 full days of school in a year.

    Practice makes perfect. You don’t become a better athlete or musician by practicing less.