Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Longer school days

Thanks to the efforts of a public/private partnership, 5 states are going to experiment with longer school days: 

NPR: Days to get longer at some low-performing schools

This is probably a good thing.  It all depends on implementation, of course, but longer instructional periods should roughly equate to more learning.  If we're going to make longer school days, I for one would prefer to eat into summer break, but that's not my call.  I understand why a district would opt for longer days instead.  Among other things, Secretary Duncan argues that longer school days also helps to keep students safe in districts with lots of violence, like Chicago, his home turf.  That aspect of it had never occurred to me, since I have the great good fortune of coming from a more-or-less violence-free upbringing.

 The thing that troubles me, though, is Sec. Duncan's attitude towards why we haven't adopted longer school days as a national model.  He treats the arguments of teacher compensation and "who's going to pay for the toilet paper" as minor nuisances.  Call me cynical, but when I heard him say that on the radio, I could almost hear his next line: "Teachers have to buy toilet paper anyway; they could just pick up some extra."  I'm not opposed to teachers working harder, working more, working better, working together, working differently, even buying school supplies.  We're all in this to do what's best for kids.  I'm opposed to decision-makers assuming we should do it for free with a smile on our faces, because it's what's best for kids.  During scheduled school times, an administration has the right to tell teachers what to do and where to be, as long as it improves instruction, and with the possible exception of planning period, depending on contracts.  Anything outside of that is kind of extra.  We all know we can't do our jobs well in 6 hours, but there are only so many hours in the day.  Now, if Sec. Duncan would like to wash my dishes....

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