Shortchanged by the Bell
By LUIS A. UBIÑAS and CHRIS GABRIELI
The minimum required school day in
For all the talk about balancing the budget for the sake of our children, keeping classrooms closed is a perverse way of giving them a brighter future.
What’s needed is more time in classrooms, not less. Our school calendar, with its six-and-a-half-hour day and 180-day year, was designed for yesterday’s farm economy, not today’s high-tech one. While many middle-class families now invest in tutoring and extra learning time, less-privileged children are left on the sidelines, which only widens gaps in achievement and opportunity.
Two years ago President Obama said that the “challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom.” Plenty of research suggests that one of the strongest indicators of scholastic achievement is the amount of actual time devoted to learning. Therefore, we need to move schools toward longer days and years. Ideally, increasing learning time by 30 percent would mean more individualized support; a more well-rounded education in a broader array of subjects, from science and foreign languages to arts and robotics; and less unsupervised after-school and summer time. For parents, it would mean a school day better aligned with the typical work day.
The good news is that more than 1,000 schools in the
Perhaps most surprising, some schools have shown that these changes can be made without spending more money. Brooklyn Generation School replaced most administrators with teachers and staggered all employees’ schedules, allowing it to increase learning time by 30 percent without additional cost. Class sizes have been reduced and the burden on teachers lowered. Last spring, 90 percent of seniors graduated on time. Remarkably, when these students entered high school, only about 20 percent were at grade level.
These ad hoc efforts are great for the students involved. But we really need a more comprehensive national effort to make expanded learning time the norm in American education, especially for our neediest students, through smarter use of local, state and federal resources. More hours of learning — not fewer — can make a world of difference.
Luis A. Ubiñas is the president of the Ford Foundation. Chris Gabrieli is the chairman of the
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs