Five states joined the movement to lengthen the school day to boost student academic progress next fall. American students continue to fall behind their peers around the globe, according to the Washington Times. A bi-partisan group of lawmakers joined forces behind President Barack Obama’s idea to add more time in the classroom for students and teachers.
The participating states have chosen a “handful” of school districts to participate in a pilot program that adds 300 hours of classroom learning to the academic year next fall. The five states that opted into the plan to drag American public schools away from a mediocrity include New York, Colorado, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, according to the Associated Press.
The 40 schools, many of which are in impoverished areas, offer instruction to nearly 20,000 students. The Obama administration education initiative is funded by the United States Department of Education, National Center on Time and Learning, the Ford Foundation, a multiple other community and non-profit groups.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan and President Obama are both reportedly long-time proponents of increasing the school day. The working theory of the initiative is that a spending more time in the classroom will help prepare students for the workforce and college.
Although spending more time focusing on academic lessons could enhance a student’s knowledge, it may not accomplish the stated goals. Teacher tenure policies in union contracts make it next to impossible for school boards to remove an unacceptable educator from the classroom. School districts need greater authority to mandate training or terminate teachers who score poorly on work evaluations.
The state and federal government can add hundreds of hours to the school day and throw billions at America’s troubled public school system and accomplish nothing if poor teachers are not removed from the classroom. Quality teachers deserve to receive performance bonuses when their students succeed and not the same across the board raises that are also offered to educators who have tenure or garner poor evaluations from their building principals.
A National School Boards Association report notes that United States students already spend more time in school than their international peers – and still score lower on assessment tests than children in some countries. Students in South Korea spent 703 hours less time in the classroom per year than is required in America and still have some of the highest assessment test scores.
Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy had this to say about extending the school day:
“This is an extraordinary idea whose time has come. We’ve been trying to push this as a national movement. This is the kernel of a national movement. This is a triumph of common sense, but as a country, we have not taken this step for a long time.”