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Just Say No to Longer School Years

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One mom fears we're pushing kids too hard.

boy asleep on table

Momlogic's Julie: Education Secretary Arne Duncan says we should have longer school days and longer school years so we stay competitive with countries like China and India.

My son already has one to two hours of homework a night ... and he's in second grade! Even my daughter has homework, and she's only in kindergarten.

My husband and I cannot even figure out some of the homework my son brings home, and we both have college degrees. My son is being pushed much harder than I ever was at his age.

My son doesn't go to some fancy college-prep school -- he attends the local public school in our neighborhood. But there is so much pressure for the students to perform well on district-wide standardized tests, the teachers end up piling on more and more homework.

I guess this isn't good enough for Arne Duncan. He wants our kids to go to school LONGER (and get even more homework, I'm sure), plus have shorter summers.

Don't get me wrong: I want my son to get a good education. But what happened to just being a kid?

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20 comments so far | Post a comment now
Uly March 2, 2009, 3:16 PM

I’d be *glad* for a longer school day, because parents often are working when their children are let out from school.

But then there has to be some sanity. More hours in school shouldn’t add up to more time drilling for tests, it should add up to more recesses, less homework, more time for art, or music, or gym.

More days in school? Same deal. I’d be glad for it if and only if they were implemented sanely.

Uly March 2, 2009, 3:18 PM

By the way, if your son has two hours of homework in the second grade, that’s too much. The NEA and the National PTA both say no more than 10 - 15 minutes per grade per night, which means your son’s homework should be capped at half an hour.

You’re the parent. Be your kid’s advocate. Talk to the teacher honestly about how much work this is and the fact that homework in the early grades isn’t correlated to increased understanding or test scores.

Charles March 2, 2009, 3:32 PM

They’ve done studies over and over that show that homework has no beneficial effect until after 7th grade. So any school/teacher giving your kids homework before then is just trying to avoid having them actually learn while they are at the school.

Longer hours, sure, more homework, no way.

Brooke March 2, 2009, 3:38 PM

I don’t know where you read this study Charles but that is entirely not true. Homework is present to reiterate what children learned in school. It’s purpose is to allow children to practice the new math they learned or study the definitions of new words.

Psychology major March 2, 2009, 4:08 PM

The fact of the matter is that the U.S. is falling behind other countries intellectually. I have not heard of any studies on the effectiveness of homework that are not chock full of confounding variables—other factors that could be causing those results.
The problem does not seem to be the homework. It’s a few things from what I can tell. Firstly, the countries whose children outscore ours have longer school years, not all of which include longer school days.
Secondly, in the United States our expectations for our children’s success are based largely on the potential inherited from birth. This is not the case worldwide. Families in Asia—this is a cultural generalization here so forgive me—expect that their children’s success will come as a direct result of how much effort they put in.
On top of all that, countries like China and India have a far greater cultural respect for teachers than we do in the States. For starters, they pay their teachers more. In the U.S., having a good teacher is sort of hit or miss in elementary schools, and if a child experiences one of those misses they may have to play catch-up in the years to come. That is not the case for most of the countries with test scores outranking the U.S..
So the Education Secretary isn’t wrong in calling for a change in the American Educational System, just in how he’s going about it.
If you’re still of the opinion that too much studying in elementary school is obscene, stop going after Arne, and look into hothousing. Those parents are the real psychos. I believe there is even a video on youtube of a 4 year old girl answering quote-ID questions on Shakespeare with perfect understanding. Parents drilling their tiny children for hours on end, flashcard after flashcard…

Wendi March 2, 2009, 6:50 PM

I have 3 kids and 2 of them in middle school and I do believe that if they are doing hours on end of homework it does them no good at all. They get frustrated, tired and learn to hate it. Most people that work do their jobs and then go home after putting in 8-9 hours a day. Now you send a kid to school in the morning and then have them come home only to do more work late into the night…well that in itself should tell you that is to much for them. They need time to rest and relax too. I know that there are exceptions, like when they have special projects and such, but daily doing hours of homework is just wrong. I believe that all children would benefit from year round schooling.It breaks up the vacation time so the kids do not forget what they have learned over the summer. One of the biggest problems that I see year after year with my kids is that the first 2 months of school (at least) after the summer is being spent “reviewing” what they learned the previous school year. That is a waste of time, the should take at most 2 weeks and then get right into learning new things. Having year round school would prevent this waste of time.

Daryl March 2, 2009, 8:10 PM

I agree with Wendi, when I was in school the refresher period was mind numbing. When you start the school year off with kids thinking why pay attention we already learned this, you set up their attitude for the rest of the year. In high school I was a fan of year round school if you just dispersed the days off throughout the year. I also don’t believe that kids should have homework until the 4th or 5th grade. Also, send the kids outside. Studies have shown that kids learn more when they have time to run around and expend some energy.

Misty March 2, 2009, 11:16 PM

I am currently a senior studying elementary education at a University in Louisiana. I agree that some homework is a good idea so that the students can help to reinforce the new skills that they learned that day. I absolutely do not believe that making our days or school years longer will solve our problems. To compete with other countries that are much more advanced in areas such as math, we need to start using the same methods that they use. Instead of harping on students to be able to do the basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts as fast as possible we need to be focusing on making sure that the children understand how and why those applications work the way that they do. In Korea they may spend a whole day on one math problem but in America the focus is on how many and how fast.

Jen March 2, 2009, 11:35 PM

As a teacher, one issue with the homework can be parents (not always but often). They often request more and more homework. I really don’t put much stock in homework. One reason is that I can’t be sure that the student is the one doing the work. I can’t tell you how many times a student’s handwriting suddenly improved overnight! LOL. I teach 4&5 grade special education. I send a sheet of language arts and a sheet of math and it is all work that we have been working on or just to keep their skills sharp. I agree with the recess issues. Our school does not allow a second recess in the afternoon. Being a special ed teacher, I’m hard to replace so I thumb my nose at them and take my kiddos outside anyway. When we come back inside we are all ready to learn and finish our day. Recess really makes a big difference.

Bec Thomas March 2, 2009, 11:39 PM

I think it is a horrible idea. What really ticks me off is when they compare us to China and India. While the wealthy in those countries have great educations, the vast majority of their populations live in 3rd world conditions and are bit highly educated.

Anonymous March 2, 2009, 11:49 PM

Well I think it is a horrible idea. I do not think that a longer school year is going to help. Having more qualified teachers will help. Another reason we are falling behind is that parents do not care, too much emphasis is placed on standardized test scores and teachers do not care. Children are being taught to memorize and not learn. Schools are more worried about test scores than what students are actually learning. I think it is a societal problem and not a problem with the length of the school year.

J March 3, 2009, 12:50 AM

Forget year round school, longer days, or more homework. None of that helps with learning or giving students any more of an advantage. If we want to see a better educated America then we have to look at and demand accountability, respect for our educators, and most of all, we have to stop teaching to the standardized tests. Before you all yell at me and remind me that those test track progress and help schools attain funding, let me remind you all that teaching to the tests forces students to memorize facts etc for the moment. It does nothing to instill a natural curiosity or appreciation of learning. Those test teach them to memorize the facts. They do nothing for the application of those facts. That’s true learning. We also need to refocus ourselves. The traditional liberal arts education has been lost and that needs to be readdressed.

Sara March 3, 2009, 2:10 AM

I run an after school program for elementary aged children, and I witness every day how physically and mentally exhausted the children are after a normal school day.
Lengthening the school day isn’t going to give the children more opportunity to learn, it’s going to make them cranky and unwilling to co-operate. It’s also going to leave less time for after school activities, and unfortunately cause bedtimes to happen later than they should.

Michelle March 3, 2009, 4:55 AM

I’m actually in favor of SHORTER school days with a LONGER school year. My child who is 5 years old and in kindergarten is absolutely exhausted if he doesn’t get to bed by 7pm so he can be in school by 8am. With a 3pm dismissal time every day, there is very little time left for him to be a kid. The summer breaks were initially in place many years ago so that children could help on their respective family estates/farms. This isn’t the case anymore, so year round school with longer holiday breaks are ideal in my opinion. But if school were to go on through the summer, money should be put invested in making sure every classroom is air conditioned, it’s not easy to learn in sweltering heat.

Kristen March 3, 2009, 9:30 AM

This is why we homeschool, I don’t want to have to deal with never being around my children. Longer school days is not the answer!
I also understand that not everyone can homeschool so I agree with the previous poster that shorter school days and longer school year would probably be better.

dee March 3, 2009, 10:13 AM

children learn by playing. forcing them to put in the hours that an adult puts in at work will not cause them to be better educated. someone wanted longer hours and more days to alleviate the need for child care! i understand most families need two parents working but having children in school working the same hours as their parents do isn’t the answer. we have been fortunate to be able to home school our children. as adults they are productive literate citizens. they are happy and healthy. what more can you ask?

Heather March 5, 2009, 8:08 AM

I usually like the blogs I read on this site, but this one seems to be a bit overexaggerated. There is nothing they are doing in second grade that you shouldn’t be able to figure out. If there is, a quick email to the teacher should help. As far a two hours a night of homework, is your child really working the entire time? Most of the kids I teach who complain about exorbitant amounts of time spent on homework also practice poor study habits: they watch TV while reading, they wait until the last minute for projects, they don’t have an organized area to do there work, or they live in a house where a quiet space isn’t available.

I give homework because there isn’t enough classtime to have students do the amount of work they need in order to show improvement…realy improvement not testing improvement. Students need to read everyday and need to write most days. In the 45 minute span of time I have (I teach 8th grade, but elementary teacher are pressed for time too), this is simply not possible. Whether a longer day would help or not, I’m not sure, but for now, homework is necessary and there is research that supports that.

Les April 4, 2009, 3:46 AM

I agree with the post regarding unfair comparisons. Many of those countries we are being measured against are not required to give every child an education. We have to, which I’m fine with except for a few issues. Ongoing discipline problem kids that take up the majority of class time being disruptive and unruly with no consequences because we have no discipline capabilities any more other than suspension. So they get time off for bad behavior…GREAT IDEA. We also combine ESL learners and Special Ed learners in the mainstream classes which is not fair to them because they have needs that are not met in the classroom as a result. Those learners are also part of the stats that we are unfairly measured by.

Stop treating all learning as equal because it’s not.
Bring back discipline and responsibilities. I used to have cafeteria duty where we would have to wash dishes, serve food, clean the tables…and we WORRIED about going to the principle’s office for fear of being paddled.

Kids laugh at us now, threaten to sue over every little thing and have no consequences when they are disruptive, destructive, or disrespectful.

Meanwhile the other 90% suffer because time is lost in class with these disruptions.

Take back control of the schools and quality of education will increase dramatically.

Kids need time to ENJOY their childhood. If we could actually teach while we have them, then they could still enjoy their breaks. And by the way…those teachers need the breaks too! Put them all together for even longer periods with the way things are now and the stress will only get worse.

Lizzie April 9, 2009, 4:28 AM

Personally, my son who is in fifth grade, and is dyslexic has a horrible time in school. He has night terrors about school with 180 days, he enjoys his time off. I love it when he gets out for break, because it’s the one time where he can have fun, and relax. A longer school year would be torture for him.

Michel Ferre December 14, 2010, 7:38 PM

I needed to say that it is gtreat to know that somebody discussed it.

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