Does Adding School Days Really Improve Learning?
When it comes to learning, just like anything else important in life, time really matters. Time is one of many resources that schools manage in order to be successful. Their other resources are the likes of transportation, facilities, development, training teachers, the curriculum and staff management. The people that make school policies must therefore find ways in which they can allocate time as effectively as possible in order to achieve the eventual result of improved learning and better performance. However, some people argue that increasing time for students in school would benefit students and improve learning. Others argue that the opposite is true, stating that students as well as staff and teachers would feel more exhausted and less inspired to perform better. So this raises the question: does increasing the number of school days improve learning?
How Students spend their Time
There are two easy to look at how time is spent in school:
The first dimension is the way time is allocated to different activities. This varies depending on the districts, the states, and the locality of the school. When they allocate time, it is important to ensure that as much time is located to learning and activities that assist in the learning process. Educators are asking, is it the time allocation as opposed to adding the school days that will effectively improve learning?
The second way in which they measure the time students spend in schools, is the actual amount of time-the hours on the clock. Usually it is about six and a half hours a day. They also attend school 180 days per year. Depending on the grade and the state in which the school is located, students spend about 720 to 1086 hours doing instructional activities in the United States.
The School Holidays-Pro or Con?
Increasing the number of school days is just one of many ways that people can increase the number of hours students spend in school. Other ways include summer school sessions, and after-school programs.
Which is the better option: Optimizing the already existing time or increasing it?
Is it better to optimize the already existing time as opposed to increasing it?
In case they would require to increase time, they may need to reduce the summer break that students enjoy. Some people argue that during the summer break, students undergo learning losses. Concepts get wiped from their minds-or cobwebs grow in them, like one teacher of mine used to say. This is the opposite of what learning should be. But then again, should relaxation be sacrificed for more and more studies?
Either way, if they choose to optimize the time students already have, or increase the school days, there are draw-backs and benefits. Educational researchers have carried out research and investigations in order to determine whether it is better to have more time or to utilize the already existing days.
Beneficial to some, Destructive to others
Some of the sought to find out the actual effect of increased learning times. According to research on increasing school days, time is important but not necessarily sufficient in order to increase the learning process and progress of students. This means that the relationship between learning and time is not straightforward. The teachers must utilize the time properly in order for it to be effective.
Their research also shows that for disadvantaged children, the effect of increased time differs from that of high and middle socio-economic status. It is more effective for them to have more school days. They also found out that it is more effective for students in secondary and primary grades than it is for students in middle schools.
What are the consequences of adding school days?
It is less costly to increase the school hours than it is to increase the number of school days. If a school resorts to increasing the number of school days, the extra time must be utilized in specific ways in order to increase learning. The school must have bold leadership, the teachers must have leadership skills and very good commitment and the school must engage its partners, the parents and the community in the process.
Additionally, the process must be data-driven and evidence based. This is especially important because the school must show that the process of increasing school days is effective in promoting learning. Finally, in order for it to work, the schools must focus on enrichment activities and core academic activities.
Schools manage a lot of resources, one of which is money and funding. Adding the number of school days is an expensive proposition. This raises yet another question, is it cost effective? The cost is an important factor because in the long run, the efficiency of the school affects the learning process of students. Did you know that with every ten percent increase of school days, there is a six to seven percent increase in the costs? This shows that there would be an approximate increase of $1300 per student if the schools increased the number of school days by 30 percent. This makes the marginal cost of increasing the number of school days ineffective when compared to the amount of time increased.
Advantages of Extra School Days
Despite the disadvantages on increasing the number of school days, there are several benefits. When school days increase, teachers can increase the amount of time that they spend on various tasks with students. This can help improve learning. This is as opposed to skimming through various tasks in the curriculum in order to complete them on time.
The second advantages is that the depth and breadth of learning increases. Students are able to learn about more things and learn more about those things. An increase in the number of days would therefore effectively improve learning. This however, is only effective if the teachers and students properly utilize the extra time.
Adding the number of school days increases the time that teachers and students have to plan for classes and for the teachers to develop professionally. This means that the additional time not only benefits the students, but the teachers as well.
Another benefit of increasing the number of school days is that it gives more time for experiential learning. It also increases the amount of time for enrichment.
Finally, with the extra time, the students and the teachers can develop stronger relationships. This is important in that it helps students learn from their teachers and it helps teachers understand their students.
So, are the Extra School Days Necessary?
Despite its advantages, teachers can experience all the advantages of increasing the number of school days if they properly utilize the already existent time. Instead of increasing the number of school days, they can allocate the time they already have to all the things that they deem important in assisting the students to learn more and learn faster. In the long run, the essential part of the learning process if the use of time and not the amount of time spent learning. Breaks from school are important for students because it allows them time to rest and take up other activities that may help build them socially or build their talents. It also helps increase the time that they spend with their families at home.
FlourishAnyway from USA on November 25, 2015:
I was appalled to learn that in some communities they're going to 4 day weeks to try to save money and take advantage of the all too short football season. Kids vegetate on the Fridays they are out and are often unattended and get into trouble. They need to be in school more, not less.
VationSays (author) on May 27, 2015:
Thanks! And I agree...there should be no kids without access to the internet in this day and time. And implementing a uniform policy is a sure way to go, but it will face a lot of resistance before its firmly in place. But then again, no good change ever comes easy.
CJ Kelly from the PNW on May 26, 2015:
This is a fascinating subject for me. As the husband of a teacher and a former school auditor, I can see both sides. I had an administrator tell me that increased school time is inevitable and that plans are already in place. But I fall into the "quality over quantity" category.
The kids who do well in school every year will continue to do so. Those children who come from disadvantageed backgrounds will really see no change whether they go to school 180 or 200 days a year.. So many factors outside of the building affect the educational experience. If your parents value education, it does not make any difference how long you are in school.
There are a few little things that could be done to help the overall school experience:
1. Uniforms - Even if it's just a pair of khakis and a blue polo shirt. That breeds a sense of unity, regardless of being a jock, nerd or outsider.
2. Mandatory Activities: Every student, particularly in high school, would have to participate in either a sport or other activity (drama, etc.) for two semesters/seasons or three quarters. I would prefer a sport because I think it toughens you (i.e. learning to deal with injury), but it takes guts to perform in front of an audience too. All of that will cost money, and it should be paid for by the districts.
3. Connect - That fact that there are children and teens without the internet in this day and age is disgraceful. I know there a lot of bad things online, but you need to use it. A poor kid with knowledge at his fingertips might become something he wants to be, not what he is forced to be.
Voted up. Great topic.