Will more time in school help or hurt you?
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a chief proponent of the longer school year, says American students have fallen behind the world academically.
Five states will add at least 300 teaching hours per year. The three-year pilot project will affect about 20,000 students in 40 schools in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee.
Proponents argue that too much knowledge is lost while American kids wile away the summer months apart from their lessons.
Supporters also say a longer school year would give poor children more access to school-provided healthy meals.
Yet the movement has plenty of detractors, and these opponents aren't simply dreamy romantics.
Besides the outdoor opportunities for pent up youngsters, they say families already are beholden to the school calendar for three seasons out of four. Summer breaks, they say, are needed to provide an academic respite for students' overwrought minds. And breaks provide time to be with family and the flexibility to travel and study favorite subjects in more depth.
The debate has divided parents and educators.
Some places that have tried the year-round calendar, including Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and parts of California, have returned to the traditional approach. Strapped budgets and parental dissatisfaction were among reasons.
School years are extended based on three basic models:
1. Stretching the traditional 180 days of school across the whole calendar year by lengthening spring and winter breaks and shortening the one in the summer.
2. Adding 20 to 30 actual days of instruction to the 180-day calendar.
3. Dividing students and staff into groups, typically four, and rotating three through at a time, with one on vacation, throughout the calendar year.
At the heart of the debate is nothing less than the ability of America's workforce to compete globally.
The U.S. remains in the top dozen or so countries in all tested subjects. But even where U.S. student scores have improved, many other nations have improved much faster, leaving American students far behind peers in Asia and Europe.
Critical thinking challenge: Will more time in school help or hurt you, and why?
Define these words: proponent, detractor, overwrought
- Posted on January 13, 2013