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Bruno: Should Kids Spend More Time In School? Or Less?

2661425133_1328692483Proposals to increase the amount of time students spend in school are increasingly popular as educators and politicians look for ways to improve student achievement.

But are they good ideas?

Vicki Abeles thinks not, because she has "found no compelling research that supports the proposition that a longer school day improves educational outcomes". The problem, she thinks, is that test-based accountability has left students so unmotivated that they're not going to learn anything in class anyway.

This is a strange argument to make for at least two reasons.

First, though Abeles may not be aware of it, there actually is some research indicating that increasing school time improves outcomes. A 2010 review, for example, found that while the existing research does often suffer from weak methodology, the most rigorous studies suggest that extending the school day or year can be an effective way of raising achievement, especially for academically-vulnerable populations.

Second, if Abeles and others oppose increasing school time, why don't they explicitly endorse shortening the school day or year? After all, if time in school is essentially wasted, why not save money by offering fewer, shorter school days?

Abeles seems to want to say that drastically changing what happens in school could make the time more valuable because reform has rendered it educationally useless. She offers no evidence that that's the case, but doesn't the possibility of making school time more valuable strengthen the case for increasing school time? What about improving the quality of school time is supposed to preclude increasing the quantity of it?

It's certainly possible to make the argument that increasing school time is not worth the inevitable costs. It's trickier, however, to do so without also implying that kids are currently spending too much time in school.

It's an implication that opponents of increasing school time need to grapple with, because the plausibility of their opposition depends on it. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)


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