Do Kids Need More Time in School?

President Obama recommends  shorter summer vacations for U.S. schoolchildren so they can attend school for more days than they do already, because he believes that they’re at a disadvantage compared to students in other countries.

His Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, says more school hours will “even the playing field” when it comes to comparing our schoolchildren to those in the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, homeschoolers excel with far fewer hours of instruction than most public schoolchildren receive. So is it really more hours of instruction that schoolchildren need?

First off, President Obama’s assertion appears to be inaccurate:

Obama and Duncan say kids in the United States need more school because kids in other nations have more school.

“Young people in other countries are going to school 25, 30 percent longer than our students here,” Duncan told the AP. “I want to just level the playing field.”

While it is true that kids in many other countries have more school days, it’s not true they all spend more time in school.

Kids in the U.S. spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the U.S. on math and science tests – Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days).

Apparently children in the countries that outscore ours in math and science attend school for more days per year but fewer hours per year. So the suggestion by Obama and Duncan that a longer school day results in “gains” (test scores, which do not necessarily equal learning) is not backed up by the foreign countries whose kids outscore ours. They actually have shorter school days.

But if you read the entire article, you find that merely educating kids isn’t really the point anyway. Here are your clues:

The president, who has a sixth-grader and a third-grader, wants schools to add time to classes, to stay open late and to let kids in on weekends so they have a safe place to go.

Summer is a crucial time for kids, especially poorer kids, because poverty is linked to problems that interfere with learning, such as hunger and less involvement by their parents.

That makes poor children almost totally dependent on their learning experience at school, said Karl Alexander, a sociology professor at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University, home of the National Center for Summer Learning.

Aside from improving academic performance, Education Secretary Duncan has a vision of schools as the heart of the community.

Those hours from 3 o’clock to 7 o’clock are times of high anxiety for parents,” Duncan said. “They want their children safe. Families are working one and two and three jobs now to make ends meet and to keep food on the table.”

Do you see it? What we’re talking about here goes way beyond merely educating a child. This is about raising children because their parents have been deemed unable or unwilling. This is about schools becoming publicly subsidized daycare centers for school-age children, even on the weekends.

What it’s not about is how many hours of instruction it takes to educate a child so he can beat the math and science scores of kids in other countries. Homeschoolers have already demonstrated that.

9 thoughts on “Do Kids Need More Time in School?

  1. This is another example of putting a band aid on things, trying to fix it with the wrong solution. Don’t know what the solution is for this, but I am thankful that homeschooling is an option!

  2. Wow. REALLY good post, Barbara. School as day care? Not the way it’s supposed to be!

  3. Pingback: Do Kids Need More Time in School? | America 20XY

  4. I figure Obama is disgruntled because his Socialist agenda was not accepted eagerly by the sheeple. I think he figures that the kids need to be retrained because of the summer vacation, so he wants to shorten it. Schools have been centers for indoctrination for decades, but, since kids want to learn, they have been less than efficient. Since it’s badly broken from former fixes, Obama’s ilk want to fix it further.

  5. Has anyone taken the performance scores of ONLY the homeschoolers and compared these to the scores of other countries? Is the US still near the bottom of the barrel when you do this? That would be interesting to know.

    Any way you look at it, I believe that one of the telling differences between homeschoolers and public schoolers is that our children are taught to value education and they attatch importance and responsibility to it. This is evident when you compare our performance with that of other countries. Their cultures take pride in achievement (sometimes it’s a bit off kilter the other way, though), whereas many of our public schooled children take more pride in their cell phones, what apps they have on them, and how many texts they have per month. My oldest son recently went to court to have his driver’s license presented and the lecture the kids all received was not about drinking and driving as I was expecting. Instead, it was about the irresonsibility of texting and driving…They have had many serious accidents in our county as a result of teens texting as they drive. The sheriff said he figured most of the kids in there probably sent 3000 texts a month…and most of the kids looked sheepish and did not shake their heads or look astonished. WOW! How can you learn if you do nothing but text and listen to an ipod? There is something wrong when kids move from REAL relationships to virtual ones. Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox now. Thanks for the interesting article. I can’t wait to share this with my husband and have a lively discussion about it.

  6. Pingback: Walking Therein » Our Home School: Carnival of Homeschooling #197

  7. Here’s another piece of information I just found out: apparently when kids enter school, they score about the same as kids from other countries on standardized tests. By the time they’re in middle school, they score quite a bit worse and then by the time they graduate, they score about half as well! So kids get stupider the more time they spend in school! How is giving them MORE school going to fix that? They’re just going to be worse than they are now!

  8. Thanks for all the great comments, everyone! And yes, Purva, I’ve seen those studies too. Let’s just keep throwing money at the problem instead of trying to figure out what they’re doing to make these kids dumber…./sarcasm off.

  9. Purva (and ,by implication Barbara)
    The standardized tests are a moving average score. The fact that kids score less well the longer they are in school is a measure of differential progress not absolute regression.
    These studies only go to show that the kids make so much less progress that they end up way behind kids who were at similar attainment levels at the start of school.What you should be addressing is this slow rate of progress not trying to make cheap points by misinterpreting the evidence.

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