Do you want more time in school for your kid?

What do you remember about summer vacation?  Sprinklers?  Summer camp?  Long afternoons of hanging out in yards and play grounds?

For many kids across the country, those seemingly endless months of free time and fun — or even summer jobs or chores — may be a thing of the past.

Here in New York, there is vigorous debate about a proposal by Governor Andrew Cuomo to extend the school day or school year — or both.  According to Cuomo, our current schedule is based on an agricultural society that has no relevance to 21st century family and economic realities, as well as our global competitiveness.

Supporters of changing the school calendar want either to stretch the current calendar (180 days) across the entire academic year– lengthening winter and other breaks and shortening summer vacation — or add more school days to the calendar.  Others want to lengthen the school day.  So far, five states have begun plans to add 300 hours to their school calendars.  1000 districts have already experimented with new schedule models, while others, such as Las Vegas, have gone back to the traditional schedule.

Supporters of more time in school cite many advantages, including:

Help for working families:  Most families now have at least one parent working outside the home.  Parents are forced to find creative solutions for long unsupervised summer breaks, such as babysitters and camps.

Help for poor children:  Disadvantaged children could have more time for academic support and to bridge the racial and class gaps in school performance.  They could also be provided access to nutritional meals and emotional support for more days of the year.

A well-rounded curriculum.  As budget cuts and a focus on standardized tests gut arts, sciences, and physical education programs, more time during the school day could provide a richer school experience for most kids.

Opponents also find many problems with these proposals:

Added expense to already stretched budgets with no clear academic benefits.  Many question the research about the effects of additional time in the academic year, pointing out that high-performing countries such as Finland have less school than Americans do.  And added quantity of schooling may do nothing to improve the quality of American education.

Family time with children.  Many families oppose shortening summer because they argue that it is the only extended time during the year to plan summer vacations and to focus on subjects outside of the school curriculum.

Economic consequences. Much of the American tourist economy is built around the family summer travel season.


Have I missed any other factors to consider?  Should students be required to spend more time in school?  If so, what should be done with that time?  What’s happening in your schools?


4 thoughts on “Do you want more time in school for your kid?”

  1. Spend more time doing what? Kids are already in school almost a full day, and the results are not great. Will spending more time sitting at a desk doing mind numbing work really help kids? It might keep them out of trouble on the streets, but I am not convinced that more will be better. I also would be concerned that having kids in school longer would eventually trickle down to homeschoolers, requiring us to school our kids longer, too.

    1. I agree! At this point, I think schools should focus on “quality” — of teaching, of curriculum, of facilities — rather than quantity. I think that there can be lots of programs and extra services in place for kids who need them before we start requiring all kids to go to school for extra hours or days.

  2. If I felt that the school system were maximizing the time already allotted to them, I might consider agreeing with the extended day or year. But they’re not. So much time is wasted. Kids leave early on the bus, come home late with piles of homework, and already have little time for unstructured play or family fun.

    As a homeschooler, the TIME issue is a major one for me. In NC, we’re not required to do 180 days like the public system. So I choose to do 160 days, like when I was in school. It was plenty then. I mean, they’ve already added an extra month of school to the calendar, since I was a kid. What benefits have resulted? So, for us: 160 days, school from about 8:30-1:00. My daughter has time for art class and chess club each week too, plus lots of outside play time building forts and playing with the dog, biking and boating in the creeks. We watch movies and documentaries together. She rarely has any homework to do; she does her work during school. We maximize the school time — no waiting or wastage.

    I know public schools can’t be that efficient, but I don’t think they’re even trying. I do not this change considers the whole child — his/her need for relaxation, time alone (goodness! what will the introverted children do?) The American family is already in crisis. How does taking more time from the family, help stop this crisis?

  3. I think kids need more time in family than more time at school quite honestly. Maybe instead of thinking to add more school days, we can look at the problem from the other way around… How about giving parents more vacation days during the summer to spend with their kids? School is an important aspect for the development of a child, but a balanced life is as important and the parents are the best models in that regard for their children.

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