Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Longer School Year?

Every year, in the educational arena, there seems to be a new idea--or a new twist on an old idea, to enhance student learning. To that end, a longer school year has been suggested in the Philadelphia area. One area school has tried this and experienced little academic growth. I am not sure what the school used to measure this 'academic growth', but I believe it was the results of standardized test scores. But must EVERYTHING be measured by standardardized test scores? Yes, I realize that state tests are necessary to ensure accountability and to measure student achievement, but student learning can not and should not always be qualified in terms of standardized test scores.

To me, the real problem with student learning is the mediocrity that we are forced to accept. In many schools, teachers have to give passing grades and endure 'social' promotions. I am not of believer of giving a lot of 'A's, but students and parents expect it--even of shoddy or incomplete work. When I was a student, which was decades ago, getting an A was akin to seeking the Holy Grail...and when I received an A, I knew it was deserved.

Would a longer year help student learning? Would it reduce the acceptance of mediocrity. Here's another author's take on it:
Tweaking the American School Year
The American school year should be longer, with shorter days, and more vacations, because students could then acquire the sufficient amount of rest necessary for success.


brspeer said...

In order for this to be effective, I believe the teachers, administration and parents all have to be on board. I those three parties are all for it, the students would see the longer school year from a better light. Studies have shown that when students feel like their opinions matter, they do better academically (although, I am not sure how this is measured). Another thing that might be beneficial while putting this into place is to do it as a gradual process. Have the kindergartners and first graders (the ones who are the least accustomed to the 'old' schedule)begin with this practice, and continue to introduce it with the students continuing on. This would be beneficial because it will not be a drastic change for the older students (you could even start with 2nd and under) and the process will have begun. However, depending on how schools are set up, this might increase electricity costs and such until all students are on the same schedule. Another idea is start off with the lowest school and work your way up. Begin with the primary school and when those kids move on to middle and junior high, carry the programs over there.

writemind said...

That is an excellent idea! I never considered that a school could 'phase in' a longer school year. It makes so much sense for you to suggest that administrators start with the lower grades first because the school routine is not as cemented in them as it is with older students!

(And you're absolutely right, studehts do better academically when they feel their opinions matter.)