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Monday, August 26, 2013

Is Our School Calendar All Wrong?

(woodleywonderworks/Flickr)

(woodleywonderworks/Flickr)

Kids are just starting to go back to school from summer break, and some students will be in school even longer.

This year, five states have added about 300 hours of school time, with funding from federal and local governments and foundations.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is a big supporter of the effort and says more time in school will keep American students competitive.

Lots of teachers will tell you there’s actually less fatigue when you have shorter, more frequent breaks.
– Harris Cooper

Harris Cooper is a professor of education and psychology at Duke University who’s been researching school schedules for decades.

He says getting out at 3 o’clock and having long summer vacation is not good for today’s kids. Instead, he suggests kids go to school for 40 weeks a year, in four sessions of 10 weeks, with three two-week intersessions in the fall, winter and spring, and a six-week summer break.

“In many ways that’s best for kids and it’s best for families,” Cooper told Here & Now. “Most kids are growing up in families where there may be one parent or both parents work outside the home, so their mom and dad have to figure out what to do with them over the summer — how to make their summer both enjoyable and constructive.”

Most students experience some learning loss over the long summer break, Cooper said.

“The more frequent but shorter breaks will lead to less learning loss and therefore teachers won’t have to spend as much time reviewing material when kids come back to school,” said Cooper. “With regards to fatigue, lots of teachers will tell you there’s actually less fatigue when you have shorter, more frequent breaks.”

In terms of school hours, Cooper suggests something more similar to the work day, to be more conducive to parents’ schedules. Those extra hours benefit the kids, too, as long as the additional hours are of “high quality,” Cooper said.

Cooper acknowledges that extending school hours and the school year is expensive. But he argues that some of the cost will be offset by the savings on after-school and summertime child care and programs.

Guest

  • Harris Cooper, professor of education and chair & professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University.

Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW, and in some parts of the country, today is the first day of school. In others, school started weeks ago. And there are some places where school doesn't start until after Labor Day. But in five states, summer break won't be as long as usual from now on. They've added about 300 hours of school time with funding from federal and local governments and foundations.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is a big supporter of the effort. He says more time in school with keep American students competitive. Well, Harris Cooper is a professor of psychology at Duke University who's been researching school schedules for decades and says getting out at 3:00 and having long summer vacations is not good for today's kids. Professor Cooper, welcome.

HARRIS COOPER: Thank you for inviting me.

HOBSON: Well, you are suggesting that kids go to school for 40 weeks a year in four sessions of 10 weeks with three two-week intersessions in the fall, winter and spring and a six-week summer break, why?

COOPER: Because in many ways that's best for kids, and it's best for families. The way we send our children to school today doesn't really have a whole lot to do with what is needed for families. Most kids are growing up in families where there may be one parent or both parents work outside the home, so their mom and dad have to figure out what to do with them over the summer, how to make their summer both enjoyable and constructive.

And we find ourselves in situations where lots of activities grow up to fill those gaps in the school calendar.

HOBSON: So maybe it's easier for the parents. What does it mean for the kids to be in school for such long periods of time throughout the year?

COOPER: The long summer break has been shown to lead to some learning loss. All kids seem to lose mathematics skills over summer. Some kids, especially poorer children, will also lose reading as well. The more frequent but shorter breaks will lead to less learning loss, and therefore teachers won't have to spend as much time reviewing material when kids come back to school.

HOBSON: What about fatigue for the kids if they're in school for that much of the year? And by the way, the inability to travel, as they may, during the summer, a longer summer?

COOPER: Well, there are two questions there. Let me answer the second one first, and that's why can't kids go to Disneyland in the wintertime?

(LAUGHTER)

HOBSON: Or Europe. Maybe they want to do something educational.

COOPER: Europe in fall. But many families whose children go to school on the modified calendars actually discover that because they have some flexibility about when they'll get their vacation, that it leads to them being able to go and not have to fight the crowds that they fight in summer.

With regard to fatigue, lots of teachers will tell you there's actually less fatigue when you have shorter, more frequent breaks.

HOBSON: Would you have the students have longer school days, as well as a longer period of time during the year in which they are in school?

COOPER: Again, the same question is: How do most American families live today? And the eight-to-three school day doesn't fit with the way most Americans live. Lots of the kids are going home to houses or apartments where there is no adult supervision, or there's other after-school activity. So parents struggle with how to fill their kids' day, as well as their year, with fun and constructive activities.

HOBSON: It's interesting that you're talking about the parents and what this means for the families rather than the kids. Does it make them smarter to spend eight hours in school every day as opposed to six?

COOPER: That's a good question, and the answer, the first answer to that question has to be it depends on how you use that time. So if you're going to add additional hours to poor instruction, you're not going to get any payback for it. If you're adding additional hours to instruction that's of high quality and leads to positive outcomes, then you will get more bang for your buck.

It's also the case that we often bemoan at this point things that are getting crowded out of the school day because of the emphasis on basic skills like math, science, social studies, and perhaps if the school day was expanded, some of those activities, and physical education could be put back in the school day. All those things will help kids.

HOBSON: Would you like to see some of the extra time, let's say that the students are going to school until 6:00 p.m. instead of 4:00 p.m. - would those last couple of hours or few hours be for sports or ballet or music or something like that?

COOPER: I think for some grade levels, this is personal opinion, that's exactly what you want to do. But not at the - necessarily the expense of the basic skills. What I'd really like to see is the use of that time for individualized instruction, where there are multiple opportunities for children, some of which are remedial, if that's what they need, some of which are enrichment, if they're doing well in school already and they have - they're showing special skills in areas typically not covered in school.

Or some of it could be for acceleration, where kids who are doing really well in school have an opportunity for challenging work. So I would use the time for individualization, more so than simply treating every child the same.

HOBSON: Professor Cooper, I'm sure there are a lot of people listening to this, maybe they're teachers or principals or people who work in state legislatures who are saying, yeah, great idea, sounds wonderful, it's going to cost a lot of money.

COOPER: It's going to cost money, but some of that money is offset by public funds that we use at the moment for child care for disadvantaged children and sending them to after-school programs and summer school programs, and middle class parents are taking on the financial burden for those after-school programs and summer programs already.

So while I'm not going to try and make the argument that it is revenue neutral, I would make the argument that perhaps it's not quite as expensive as we might think at first blush.

HOBSON: So do you see this as a reality that we are going to see soon then? Will we see school districts going with a longer calendar, maybe a longer day?

COOPER: I think so, yes. At some point, because of the change in American families and the way we live, the pressure for changes in the school calendar are likely to follow. There's going to be resistance because of the economics and the shift in who's paying and how, but if we were Martians and we came down to Earth, and we looked at the way we send our kids to school in the United States today, one of the first questions we would certainly be asked is how come these buildings are all empty over summer.

And if we tried to explain that to an alien, we would probably suggest to ourselves ultimately that it really doesn't make a whole lot of sense anymore.

HOBSON: I'm not sure what the Martians do for their school calendars.

COOPER: I think that their schools are really small so they - because we can't see them.

HOBSON: Professor Harris Cooper teaches psychology at Duke University. And he thinks kids should be going to school 40 weeks a year in four sessions of 10 weeks. Professor, thank you so much for joining us.

COOPER: It was my pleasure.

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:

And Jeremy, we're getting a lot of feedback on this issue, as you might imagine, on our Facebook page. Lane Smith thinks that students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, can lose a lot of what they've learned during the long summer break and never catch up. So she votes for year-round school.

Brendan McTear, however, goes in the other direction. He writes: I would love to have all summer off and a big break for Christmas and Easter.

HOBSON: Well, we would love to hear what you think about this. Should kids be in school all year round? Are we sending kids to school for too short of time during the day? Let us know at hereandnow.org or at Facebook.com/hereandnowradio. Latest news is next, HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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  • gordon_wagner

    Whoa. As if children are “small adults” who ought to attend school 40 hours a week? This is nonsense.

    >keep American students competitive.

    Competitive? With WHOM? Kids go into science, good for them. They look for jobs. Biotechs hire Russian and Chinese PhDs at a fraction of US educated workers.

    No. Summer vacation should NOT be touched. There is NOT a dollar value on every second in the day. Having EMPTY TIME is a crucial GOOD thing.

    • Johan Corby

      It says nothing about 40 hours a week. It says 4 10-week sections, broken up by 2 week breaks and a 6 week summer. You’re freaking out seemingly without having bothered to read the article. Also, if you think US companies are getting visas you hire because it’s cheaper, you need to do a little reading. They’re doing it because there simply aren’t enough American-born PHDs in many high-demand fields. Remaining competitive means getting kids prepared for intensive secondary education that will allow American companies to hire at home.

      • gordon_wagner

        When I was WORKING IN BIOTECH it was the policy to hire Russian and Chinese PhDs since you could hire seven of them for what you’d pay ONE US PhD. Remaining competitive? Put the Kool-Aid down.

        And the overall flavor of the story was most definitely that we ought to increase the amount of time our kids spend locked up in school, PLUS their three-four hours of homework… as if six hours of school a day isn’t enough time.

        • Johan Corby

          Does “working in biotech” mean stocking adult diapers at CVS? No company is going to waste 7 H1Ns because they want to “save money.” You have no clue what you’re talking about. There’s no sense in arguing with the mentally deficient.

          • gordon_wagner

            Ooh, was that an ad hominem attack, meaning you have conceded the point? Yes, H1Ns are GOLD to cheap startup companies. More bang for the buck. And if one of the imported PhDs discovers something major? Can you imagine the Lilliputian bonus they are given? *I WAS THERE AND SAW IT WITH MY OWN EYES OVER AND OVER*.

        • linda Operle

          So we should all hire chinese workers because they take minimum wage?? They also live 10 to an apartment, eat nothing but rice and bike to work. This is not china thank goodness!

      • Sally Wallach

        Perhaps YOU did not read the article: “Cooper suggests something more similar to the work day…”. In my world, that’s a 40-hour week. My children attended senior school in England, and their days were 9 hours long. Three of those hours were games, music or theater. Each school had a student symphony orchestra. Each school had outdoor adventure units. In the equivalents of American seventh and ninth grades, they studied literature, a language other than English, physics, chemistry, biology, and history every day. The cost of such a program would hardly be offset by fewer after-school programs. Would that we were ready to pay for that kind of education.

        • linda Operle

          Thank you! I guess many parents want the kids at home sitting around playing video games. These are young people with lots of energy that should be used up doing something besides sitting around a computer facebooking and getting fat.

    • linda Operle

      Empty time leads to empty heads. Summer vacation is fine but a 3 month haitus is going to far.

      • gordon_wagner

        Nonsense. Free time leads to play and imagination. Drawing, swimming, going to the library, working on jigsaw puzzles… do you know any kid who says they were BORED during summer vacation!?

        • ende

          Yes. At pandemic scales.

  • Kelly

    My concern would be for the high school students who rely on the income from an after school job.

    • linda Operle

      Jobs for high schoolers should never be a priority education and family time should be. My child worked weekends only while is HS.

  • Frank Kurowski

    I concur with Dr. Cooper.

  • Jeff

    Maybe I missed it, but did anyone mention that North Carolina schools are not on a “the whole summer off” calendar. Actually I believe it is similar too the type of system being discussed and I am surprised it was not mentioned by your guest.

  • John

    We now live in a globalized country.
    I think that all we have to do is to look around the world and see what our “competition” worldwide is doing and how it works.
    Did you know that in China they had more Honor Grads “graduated with more than 95% grades average” than the United States had total graduates? We are outnumbered in the world theater, so we need to have a higher quality education to stay competetive.
    I think year-long education would be HATED by the children, but it’s what they need.

  • NotSureHowToFeel

    I don’t think mandating a longer school year would work out, especially
    financially. Every time our politicians argue for the need of budget
    cuts, schools are hit first.

    When I was in school, I always took classes during the summer. Maybe parents should just make their kids take summer classes if they feel they should be in school.

  • Mom in Michigan

    Yes! Our children should have year round school with breaks. Children need downtime, but that down time should be spread throughout the year. We have friends who have children in year round programs and both the children and parents love it. It would help with “brain drain” during summer months. We have 2 children, ages 7 & 9. We sign sign them up for educational summer camps to continue their education. They love it, because they don’t view them as work. However, not all children are afforded the same opportunity. At the same time, I believe that they need a few 2 week breaks during the year to bounce back and engage in learning again.

  • Lindsey

    From personal experience, I can say that going to school year round was incredibly advantageous for me. Though at first the thought of having “no summer” was scary, I was only afraid of the change. Once settled into 10 weeks on, 3 weeks off, I realized the benefits far outweigh a long summer break. I was free to travel more often (and much more economically), I felt better prepared to resume studies after each break, and I stayed interested in my course work during the 10 weeks on. One note: This was my college schedule so I cannot speak to advantages for younger children.

  • Julie Sorensen

    The word is “continuity”. I am a former educator and I have been in favor of a 4, 10 week long school year for a long time. In fact, I have written letters along with a proposed calendar to Arne Duncan with a “distant” response. The difference between my calendar and most proponents is that mine has its longest break between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day since nothing much gets done during Holidays anyway. The benefits of this calendar are numerous. Weeks would be contiguous with only weekend breaks, no other holidays. There would be a spring break and an autumn break with a little longer break in summer. Opportunities for varied vacation experiences would abound. Instructional time would improve from less review. Teachers would take their professional development out of the breaks and would suffer MUCH less turnover. I hope I get credit for this genius at some point with adoption into a “common cause”/common core school system!

  • Raymond Gipson

    I have taught for 30 in different kinds of schools but mostly taught high school students locked up for crimes and the summer always brings in the most kids. These students tend to be quite undereducated as they do not stay in school. I have taught in normal schools of normal year and year round. Hands down the year round school is a better setting and the kids retain more from session to session. If you have doubts looks up peer reviewed educational research on the subject and find out what a scientific approach to the question found out.

    • gordon_wagner

      “Peer reviewed” and “scientific” are modern witch doctoring terms. I don’t want my kids programmed more than they are now. You’ll NEVER find anything controversial or new “peer reviewed” because whoever someone’s peers are won’t touch anything that remotely smells like it would endanger their career by endorsing anything but the status quo, no matter how ineffectual it is.

  • Lori Hegerle

    The main point it seems is that the school year should be expanded along
    with the school day so as to create a “day care” situation for working
    families. The secondary points seem to be that added time will increase
    our students academic functions. Educating our children has nothing to
    do with convenience to families it has to do with educating our
    children. Using that as a selling point for this agenda needs to be
    separated immediately. Education should be the only point. So, looking
    at education only I would like to see the data that shows that other
    countries that use this system have students that graduate and have
    successful employment and not only that, but successful and fulfilling
    lives that are free from anxieties of the overworked and overstuffed
    mind that have not had a chance for down time. We need to also look at
    the data from not just the expanded times, but the content of what and
    how they are educating in these other countries. It is not just about
    quantity it is about quality. If our content seems to be lacking in
    quality than maybe that is a starting point not quantity. I just hope
    and pray that my 7th grader and 4th grader are long out of the system
    before the implementation of an 8 hour day at school with at least 1 to 2
    hours of homework. That my friends equals up to 10 hours a day for our
    youth….more than what we endure. Year around school is a different subject which a lot of our schools already participate in and seems to work out nicely.

    • Kristin

      We’d also have to start putting more money into education, for teachers’ salaries alone. Making under $40k a year with longer days (let’s not forget that teachers have work to do outside of the school day, too) and fewer vacations? The only people who will take that job will be people we don’t want responsible for the education of the next generation. In many other countries, teachers are well-paid and, probably even more importantly, well-respected. We need to make teaching a job that intelligent, hard-working people want to fight for. I’m a teacher myself and it makes me cringe at how lazy or seemingly uneducated many of my colleagues are. Until teaching becomes a highly sought-after position where schools can pick the cream of the crop and don’t have to stoop to hiring the ones who couldn’t get jobs until the day before the school year starts, the education of our children will suffer. Spend as many hours as you’d like in a classroom with an ineffective teacher, the results won’t change.

    • linda Operle

      If we had longer school days there should be no need for Homework which I think is ridiculous anyway. Expecting parents to help children do work they themselves don’t understand leads to frustration and an erosion of important “home time”. Time with your family and involvement in family responsibilities very important education also. If the teacher wants more work out of the students then perhaps they should do it while at school not at home.

      • ende

        Agreed 100%. It seems like homework is just a cruel foreshadowing of an entire lifetime of working coming home with you, preventing you from spending quality time with your family. There needs to be a clear separation between work and home, both with school and careers.

        A longer school day needn’t take place in the traditional classroom. “Homework” should be built into the school day, and used strictly for remedial purposes, with assignments personalized as much as possible to individual students’ learning styles; we have the software to do this. This extra time could take place in larger spaces, like the school library or cafeteria, and provide an opportunity for students to connect with more ubiquitous tutoring, peer tutoring, and individual observation and guidance. It would be an excellent time for parent volunteers to participate, as well as our library and media technology personnel who so often are stuffed away in remote sections of our schools and only brought out for special occasions. Their specialized knowledge in research methodology and library sciences could be instrumental in teaching our youth how to go about their studies. This would also be a good opportunity for guidance counselors and special education (or “personalized education”) professionals to interact with the larger population, on a roaming and scheduled basis.

        Wishful thinking. We are far too entrenched in our industrial age public education system. We need more experimentation.

  • sandy

    I think year round school is a great idea. However, I do not like the idea of having longer school days. I keep hearing how this would work better for parents. But what about what is best for the kids? Kids need time to be kids. I understand that this may be better for disadvantaged children whose home life is lacking, but what about those who have a good homelife? Finland’s children spend much less time in school and are consistently in the top rankings for education. But, parents there also know they have a part in that education. Maybe it’s time we rethink our prioritities. Just because parents are working long hours, doesn’t mean that children should be too.

  • Ed Skarbek

    Continuity would be the best utilization of resources for both human capital (our valued teachers) and the physical plant (the school buildings) to provide the greatest benefit to those served, the students . Education is the art of building knowledge and connecting information for practical use. As an analogy we see the impact of construction delays and restarts in cost and time. The same can happen when education is stopped and restarted after “summer vacation”. Knowledge is lost and more review is required to get back to the same level. I support Dr. Cooper’s comments.

    • Kristin

      What about the teachers who need the summer break to get those summer jobs to supplement the low salaries they earn? Nobody needs to hire workers for two weeks here and there and six weeks in the summer.

      • djbemom

        Oh please….I know many teachers and none of them work summer jobs. The starting salary for a teacher in my school district for 9 months worth of work is $48,000.00 per year. According to CNN Money the average salary for a 2013 college grad across the country is $44,455.00 per year. So, starting teachers in my school district make more for 9 months of work than their average classmate who was not in education and will work 12 months a year. Add the benefits and time off….a teacher is making a very nice living these days. Now I realize there may be other areas that do not pay this well but the cost of living in those areas are not as high either. Teachers do not need summer jobs and, as was referenced in this article, it was stipulated that the cost to implement this plan would be expensive….ie teachers would get paid more.

        • Kristin

          Are you considering private school teachers? Many don’t make nearly $48,000. At my school, you don’t break $30,000 until you’ve been there for a few years or have gotten a Master’s (which is usually enough to brake the bank). And what would states do if those school closed because they couldn’t keep up with public school schedules and the pay difference was even greater? All those kids would have to go to the public schools. And states would have to use the same amount of tax money (private school families already pay taxes for public education, they just don’t use that service) to educate a lot more children.
          I’m all for year round school, so long as the money is there to make it work.
          (Let’s also not act like teachers don’t work when they aren’t in the school building. Just because it seems like a short day and like they get lots of vacation, we bring work home most nights, weekends, and vacations – including summer.)

          • djbemom

            I am not diminishing what teachers do. Most of them do a fine job, The question posed here was a longer school day and year. I am for both. It was stipulated in the article that would come at a higher cost and I agreed with that statement, too. I just pointed out that in my area of the country, the northeast, a starting teacher’s salary is on par with the average college graduate.

  • SKG

    Longer school days are interesting – however, I would not want “more of the same” all day. We need to change how schools educate our kids – more student-centric and REAL differentiated instruction. Learning should be FUN and not boring. I’m afraid that longer school days in this climate of standardized testing would just mean more test prep.

    And summers are great opportunities for other sorts of learning. What about the camp experience (either day or away camp)? My kids have had numerous experiences at a number of different camps that they loved and learned from.

    Also what about family vacations? I feel that my kids get more out of our family trips than they perhaps do for weeks at school. I know not everyone can afford trips out of state or abroad – but things like going car camping are a great, inexpensive experience.

    And before I’m accused of being elitist – our school system also runs a daycamp that is very inexpensive as well as several sports clinics (one or two weeks long). And our local Boys & GIrls clubs run excellent programs in the summer and are also relatively inexpensive.

    If school was year-round and was just more of the same – I would not be for it.

    • gordon_wagner

      Standardized testing is a nightmare. It benefits bureaucrats at the State level and DOES NOT benefit students. It’s like trying to make schools across the country into the equivalent of fast food franchises, all preparing the same mediocre food identically from sea to shining sea.

  • fun bobby

    perhaps we should just have them work in factories for 12 hours a day

  • fun bobby

    with no summer when will you have summer school for all the losers to catch up?

    • Grainger

      GG troll post. Lets step it up where failure no matter the external influence equals soylent green. Best population control policy ever.

      /sarcasm

      • fun bobby

        what does that mean?

  • djbemom

    I agree with the 10 weeks on 3 or 4 weeks off approach. I also agree with a longer school day. I am the mother of 4, 3 of whom have graduated and the 4th is autistic and qualifies for ESY (Extended School Year). My child that attends ESY has always been far better prepared to start school in the fall than my “typically” educated children. There is very little review that needs to be done and she slips right back into the routine. The “typically” educated children took at least 2 weeks to get back into the groove and down to business. The problem I have with this article is the reference to the cost being expensive but would be offset by savings on summer-time and after school child care. This is puzzling to me since the last time I checked it was a parental responsibility to pay for child care, not a public obligation. So to my way of thinking, yes, it will be more expensive. Yes, resources will have to be juggled and budgets revamped. And yes, taxes will most likely have to be raised to accomodate some of the cost but it will definately not be offset by reduced childcare costs since many, many tax payers have no child care to offset. So tell it like it is, if this is done right it will benefit the child by making them more engaged in their education, more likely to graduate from high school and go on to some kind of higher education to better prepare them to enter the workforce in a substantive, meaningful way so the country can better compete in a global marketplace. It is not a substitute for childcare and should not be looked at as a cost savings or replacement for their parents. It will mean a combination of tax increases and budgetary changes for the common good of all.

  • yopod

    Having attended school in Germany and in the US, I can see no advantage to the long school day already employed the States. My German school day was shorter but balanced with more homework – the advancement in learning was equal if not better than what I experienced here. Also, more frequent smaller breaks were I felt more enjoyable than the huge summer break balanced by little else. As a parent of two children attending grade and middle schools, it is a complete act of frustration trying to keep kids focused on homework after they’ve spent a very long day in school. Summer breaks are a struggle to keep filled with solid engagement; while our area offers good summer camps, these are also little better than glorified babysitting. Shorter, more focused days, more frequent breaks, better utilization of ‘homework’, and more societal support for real parenting (wage increases, lessened work week, employer recognition of the importance of parenting).

  • http://www.odonnellweb.com/blog/ Chris O’Donnell

    We educated two kids on about 3 hours a day of formal(ish) instruction, doing half-time through the summers and taking a week or two off whenever we had something better to do, or felt like doing nothing at all. The amount of time in school is not the problem. It’s what the kids do while they are there that is the problem. 2, 5, or 20 more hours a week of the same will not change the results. Although I do agree that eliminating the full summer vacation and spreading out the breaks likely will make the exercise more tolerable for all involved.

  • logic23

    There are two different proposals here. The first is to abandon the agrarian calendar of having summer months off from school and replacing it with the same amount of time disbursed throughout the year. This makes sense as far as fatigue but parents will still need day care options for the time the kids are not in school. Summer program providers will need to adjust their programs which could be a problem since providing cheap camp like programs is much easier ( read as cheaper) in the summer than in the winter where playgrounds are not an option.
    The second is a longer school day to benefit the schedule of working parents. The education part is secondary. Providing meaningful activities for kids is a great and laudable idea, but not one that should be provided by the tax payers under the guise of education. If we are interested in having kids learning more then deal with the poverty issue ( 22% childhood poverty) plaguing our cities. This can include high quality day care , but don’t include it as part of an overhaul of all education and don’t just stop there if lowering poverty is the goal.
    .

  • 2roads

    The real reason for this necessary change is the Global World we live in today. And our educational system has not adapted with that fact, if parents want to take their children out for a vacation that’s their decision on the impact that will make on the kids. It’s a 24/7 world and we have not been competing with the present educational system for a very long time. Anyone who has had to hire and manage these graduates recognizes the great lack of reality, logic, and commitment as it has been missing for more than 2 decades.

  • Diane

    I taught 13 years in the inner city, and think Cooper’s proposed schedule is truly best for kids. As an at-home mom now I believe my children would also benefit from that schedule.
    We no longer need to work the school calendar around farming needs like we did when “traditional” school routines were developed.

  • Aussie parent

    That is exactly what we do in Australia. 4 ten week terms and a summer break over xmas of 6 weeks.

  • Naama Goldstein

    When exactly did state takeover of parenting become normalized? Folks should keep in mind that for us public school parents in large urban districts, this glib banter about the optimal use of childhood represents the threat of radical policy change being put into effect right now, quietly supplanting parents as decision-makers regarding our children’s formative years. It is grimly amusing but not surprising that NPR and the “expanded time” lobby would sooner bring Martian opinion into continued promotion of the Arne/Gates Taylorist agenda for our children than give a platform for actual parent input on our children’s upbringing.

  • JPreudhomme

    Our children are being preached about creativity, while stuffed with useless information. No recess in middle school, no time to socialize or unwind, no physical exercise, which would actually improve retention during the school day. Children need more time outside the classroom, certainly not more. They need travelling, exploring, playing, etc. If parents do their job properly, children will make excellent use of their “free” time. They don’t need to be overloaded with information in order to be great leaders. We cannot ask them to think outside the box, if they are bombarded with stuff, day in day out, if we give them homework just to keep them busy, and enroll them in countless activities after school, out of fear they might otherwise get bored and into trouble. The problem then lies in how much effort parents put into educating their children, so they see what is in their best interest.

  • susan

    I think it’s brilliant, but I also think mandated recess and silly time (like unstructured play so that kids form their own habits about in/exclusion) needs to find its way back into the equation. We all see what sitting at a desk 8-12 hours a day has done to their parents, so let’s make sure kids aren’t just sitting there 6-8 hours a day without quick, intermittent breaks.

  • Liam

    The four 10-week terms would total up to 200 days. Considering that some of those days will fall on federal and local holidays, this ultimately won’t end up being a significantly longer school year than the 180-day school year we have now. In fact, Dr. Cooper’s plan may just be more rationally distributing those 180 days.

    I’m in favor of a longer school day, but only if the extra time is dedicated to more physical activity (both a lengthy recess and PE), arts, individual tutoring sessions, and time for assignments and studying (in place of homework).

  • Sus@n

    I also think the school day should be shifted outward. Later starts later ending. 7 am is too early for everyone. Move sports to morning before classes. More time for lunch and recess too. End of school day should be around 5.

  • Liz

    Improving continuity could easily be done by removing all of the senseless “professional development” days. Last year, between October and January, my kids only had five “full” weeks. The other 7 had either holidays or 1/2 days for “teacher training”. And of course, each holiday was proceeded by a 1/2 day party. I understand the need for ongoing education of teachers, but there are currently 10 weeks in the summer that would not interfere with learning to do that.

    I’m all for a revised calendar, but as long as the teacher’s union exists in it’s current form there will be absolutely no meaningful change in our education system. It is broken and the union has a vested interest in keeping it that way.

  • Susan

    So much better to have a year round school!!!!

  • Makesmegiggle

    I am in favor of changes to our school calendar, but am not convinced that this approach is feasible especially with constant budget cuts. We live in a school district where out of the forty weeks of school, our kids only attend approximately 16 full weeks of school. Between half days, late starts (10 Wednesdays of the school calendar are dedicated to “PLCs” – public learning communities – for the teachers to attend so school starts two hours later), early dismissals, and holidays, I feel like the kids are rarely in school! Then, they get 12-13 weeks off in the summer. Are you kidding me!! Changes definitely need to be made. I would like to see some consistency in our schools. Kids need and thrive with consistency. Year round school is a great idea in theory but the districts with year round calendars are generally overcrowded. I don’t want teachers burned out or crowded classrooms where my child is just another face. I truly hope our school district can come together and do right by our kids – and soon.

    • Makesmegiggle

      “PLC” is actually professional learning communities – not public learning communities. Sorry for the typo!

  • Kristin

    I never had a learning loss during the summer, if we have these so called learning loses then school would not be much good and I would have g=forgotten most o what I learned by now. I can’t imagine expecting kids to stay in school until late in the evening, to much pressure is placed on young kids. Schools are uncomfortable, with damaging fluorescent lighting, poor seating and hard desks; there are no plants and no water fountains. I think schools are a bad environment to learn in; kids are treated like second class citizens.

  • linda Operle

    I AGREE! Kids spend the first semester re-learning what they forgot over the long summer. We should also start school later for HS and earlier for Elementary. HS students by nature need that extra sleep in the morning and don’t need to be released at 2:00 in the afternoon!

  • ell

    “Year round” school or whatever you want to call it has been around for at least 20, count them – 20 YEARS – it is NOT a new way of thinking. I am an educator of 20 years myself, and have MANY teacher friends who have been teaching throughout the school year – so please don’t call it a “new way of thinking”, or a “new approuch” because it’s not new – oh brother

    • ell

      YES I meant “approach”

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