There has been much discussion in Washington, as well as in school districts around the nation, about how time can be used to provide expanded learning opportunities for students (especially those who are low-performing and at risk of dropping out). With a high school dropout rate that should keep all of us up at night and U.S. students underperforming their international counterparts, there is good reason for educators, communities, and policymakers to be thinking about how time is being used (or misused) in schools.
At this point, I am going to resist the urge to discuss at length the agrarian calendar. Truly, we have heard about U.S. reliance on an outdated agrarian calendar so much this summer that I for one am starting to feel resentful every time I visit the local farmers’ market. Let’s just say the majority of schools in the U.S. follow a calendar that may be in need of revisiting and/or updating. Right now the traditional U.S. school calendar consists of 180 six-hour days. According to an Education Sector study, this translates to 799 instructional hours. By comparison Finland has 861 hours in their school year; Netherlands, 911; Japan, 926; and Korea tops it with 1,079 instructional hours. It is also worth noting that students in these countries continue to outperform American students on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international assessment of the reading, science, and mathematical literacy of 15-year-old students.
Experts agree that if increased time is going to positively impact achievement it must be time well spent. Simply adding instructional hours that are more of same will not do much. The National Center on Time and Learning has done much to forward the discussion about expanded learning time, but how expanded learning time can make a difference at the high school level is still wide open for discussion.
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