Not every district needs to increase the length of their school day. Where I live, student test scores show kids at the top of the state charts. One of our two high schools made a U.S. News and World Report list of top 100 high schools in the United States. Students in local schools are doing fine with a 180 day school year, and a school day of average length.
The same can not be said for the high school in the district where I work. Those kids are in the bottom 10% of the state. Many of them never make it to college. A substantial percentage never graduate from high school.
I can identify one vital difference. The kids where I live do a great deal of homework. My children and their friends frequently had homework. They expected to do that homework, too. Where I work, the homework load is much lighter and problems with lack of completion dog teachers and administrators. We are supposed to identify those students who are not doing homework and issue Friday detentions in the school where I teach. An elaborate system has been put into place to force homework completion. Yet I still hear teachers in the teachers’ lounge complaining about low rates of homework completion. I know teachers who give little homework for this reason; they never expect to get most the homework back anyway. Another reason for lack of homework has been the district’s lack of paper. When you have to buy your own paper to make copies and less than one-half of those copies come back — many only partially done — a real disincentive exists for the assignment of homework.
(If you are new to this blog, please read back for recent posts about the paper crisis.)
Eduhonesty: Homework problems argue for a longer day where I work. If the work does not get done at home, the work should be done in the afternoon at school. I would suggest required, daily homework in core classes, with a 3:30 to 5:00 mandatory tutoring period during which students were expected to finish their homework and then read age-appropriate books from classrooms or libraries.
As America’s schools become more diverse, we need to start thinking outside our traditional boxes. If a district can’t deliver results in a 180 day year with students going from 8:00 to 2:45, then maybe that district ought to try a 200-day year with school days that end at 5:00. More instruction and more homework time can only help underperforming students.
Changes in school funding might be required, of course. Any extended school day and year will require increased funding. As it stands, ironically, the districts that can most afford to lengthen school days and years tend to be the districts that have no need for those extra hours and days.
I’ve heard reports that these better-funded districts even supply teachers with paper.