Adding hours to the school day has become a new mantra of the corporate education industry. At first glance, it makes sense. The "summer slide" apparently pulls students back months or even years (summer slides sound fun, though) and the net result is that students are falling behind.
My first reaction is to look at the nations that are beating us in education and point out that most of them have shorter days and shorter years. Certainly, that's the case in Finland. However, that's not a fair comparison. The United States has higher levels of poverty and a more diverse population linguistically.
However, there is a major difference. We test. All the time.
Here's what I mean:
My students take one full day of tests a week. These common assessments drive the intervention for the next week. It sounds like a great idea until you factor in the reality that twenty percent of the year is gone automatically. Given that these tests are on Thursday, there are weeks where we have Mondays or Fridays off and it becomes one third automatically.
Next, consider the quarterly benchmarks. Students spend five weeks a year on those. Add the state benchmark tests and it jumps up to six weeks. Add AZELLA (for ELL students) and my students have an additional three days knocked off their school year.
We take more tests, too. But let's just assume that this is all the tests we take. When I factor in half-days and another three or four days for assemblies, end of the year and first or second day "get to know you" days, I'm left with less than sixty percent of a school year.
I used to think I was in the minority here, but as I've talked with other teachers, I'm finding that this is slowly becoming the norm. So, maybe before we talk about adding hours to the school day, we should talk about taking away time spent testing instead.