Since 2009, over 1,000 schools in the U.S. have increased the amount of time children spend in school. Now, five states, including Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Tennessee have decided to crank school time up a notch, adding 300 hours to the school calendar. While this change is part of the education reform effort to improve students’ achievement, is more time in school really going to make a difference?
Take Finland schools for instance. In the developed world, Finland’s students are in school the least number of hours. Despite spending less time in school, students in Finland have some of the highest test scores in the world, and over the past decade, Finland has improved its reading, math, and science literacy extensively. Given Finland’s success, some people think that making U.S. children spend more time in school is unnecessary.
Others take a different perspective on this new initiative. Many education officials believe that students who spend more time learning will have better performance. Adding more time to the school calendar will give students an opportunity to learn in areas that are sometimes pushed out of the school day or eliminated because of budget cuts, such as music and the arts. It is also hoped that this extra time will allow children who are falling behind to get individualized help.
The outcome expected of this new initiative for extended learning time is disputed. Sometimes, when it comes to learning, less is more. Additional time for learning and increases in funding are often assumed as a tactic to boost student’s achievement, but as Finland has demonstrated, students can succeed without an increase in school time and cost per child. In fact, Finland spends 30 percent less per child than the U.S. However, the U.S. and Finland are two entirely different nations; what works in one nation may not work for another, just like how one curriculum may not fit all U.S. schools.
If students’ achievement improves after this implementation, it would not be surprising to see expanded schedules spreading virally around schools in the U.S.
What do you think about increasing time in school?