The QiRanger Adventures

Is a longer school day what America really needs?

with 3 comments

In late September, President Barak Obama addressed the nation and its youth, stating the following:

Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas… But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan added:

Young people in other countries are going to school 25, 30 percent longer than our students here. Kids in the US spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the US on math and science tests — Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days).

It’s a noble idea and has some merit; however, the devil is in the details and rears its head in Secretary Duncan’s comment, “Kids in the US spend more hours in school than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the US on math and science tests.” This fact clearly indicates that the problem with US education is not low long children are in the classroom, but how education is delivered in the country. If America’s children are already in the classroom longer and getting lower scores on standardized tests, then throwing more seat time at them will do nothing.

The answer is to make the education system accountable again. Many think interpret this statement to mean we need rigorous tests in place to ensure that our youths meet academic standards. That, in part, is true. The other side of the equation is to empower schools to fail students and expel those that do not perform at the minimum requisite level.

America is soft on education. It may sound harsh, but it is true. The reason why Asian countries outperform students in America is because so much is riding on their grades, that not giving it their best shot may severely limit their chances at a profitable career. Furthermore, parents are actively engaged in the education of their youths and if a student brings home bad marks, then an attitude readjustment is made at home.

This isn’t to say that the Asian system of Education is flawless, but when it comes to assessing students’ performances, it is light years ahead of the American system. How many times have I read in US papers where a senior in High School sued the school district in order to graduate? I can recall three in the last few years… and that’s just in Arizona.

If the President and Education Secretary want to make a real difference in Schools here are my recommendations:

1) Set real education goals that every student must meet in order to graduate High School. These goals should include advanced mathematics, science, and reading at grade level. If the student can’t meet those requirements, then they don’t graduate. Period.

2) Do not tie education funding inversely to school performance. If the government continues to take money away from schools that “don’t meet” the DOE requirements, the last thing they should do is take money away from the faculty and staff. If anything, they need additional funds and resources to ensure the educational mission is achieved.

3) Students must be held accountable for learning. If a student fails, then they should be given a chance to redeem themself. However, students that cannot meet the standards of public education, should be eliminated from the school and be made to pay for the education themselves. When they can demonstrate sufficient proficiency, then they can be welcomed back into the fold.


Written by Steve Miller

October 12, 2009 at 12:22 pm

3 Responses

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  1. are you from the U.S ?

    Perez Christina

    October 12, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    • Yes. I lived and worked in the United States for a number of years in Higher Education (both at public and private universities). now I live abroad and continue to work in education and broadcasting.


      October 12, 2009 at 1:13 pm

  2. that’s cool !

    Perez Christina

    October 12, 2009 at 1:19 pm

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