Calls are intensifying for longer schools days and years in American public schools. Mike McDaniel rightly wonders if more time in school would actually mean more learning time in “Wasting Time: The Hidden Public School Crisis.”
While I don’t share his aversion to testing, saying the Pledge of Allegiance or taking moments of silence, which he says amounts to 37 days and 21 days, respectively, I do think McDaniel is dead-on when he says, “Demands on class time come from within schools and from the community. All manner of groups covet large, captive audiences of students.”
Top global performers are…getting the job done in a fraction of the time and for pennies on the dollar compared to the United States. Among the 32 countries participating in the latest OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] assessment, the U.S. has the most teaching hours per public school year, 1,080 compared to the international average of 803. Top international performers have far fewer teaching hours per school year. Germany and the Netherlands have around 775 hours each. Finland has 600, while Korea has roughly 575. With 505 teaching hours per school year, Japan has the least of all OECD assessment countries. Quality time, not more quantity time, is what American students need to be prepared for the competitive global economy.
A few years and four stepsons later, I have additional insight into public-school time management. It seems barely a week goes by when there’s not some flyer about early release for teacher in-service, trips to the choo-choo train park, some classroom party, and forget about the last two weeks of school. It seems events involving baked goods are more important than books—that is, unless schools are trying to sell parents the latest J.K. Rowling tome.
Teachers have enough to contend with without making them event planners, too. Let them do their jobs: teaching children. Again, I believe testing is a critical diagnostic component that can help teachers help their students. Yet I do share McDaniel’s concern about misplaced priorities in the classroom:
In many ways, our schools are very much like our federal government. They’ve taken on far too many tasks and diversions unrelated to their actual mission: providing the best opportunity for learning that their resources and abilities can manage. The more they take on, the more constituencies are created demanding that those activities continue and expand. The more testing they do, the more testing must be done to produce even more data to prove the validity of the testing. More money spent on these distractions means more political power is created, and then more money is spent.