When teachers, school board members and politicians complain about American children falling behind countries such as Japan when it comes to education, the idea of longer school days is often thrown around as the answer. While there are some clear benefits to longer school days, obvious problems arise when the needs of every person who is part of the educational equation are taken into account. The National Education Association suggests that policymakers take into consideration every positive and negative aspect, especially as it concerns the students, before making an extended school day the law in any state.
Extended school hours could benefit families in the area of child care. Having children in school for eight hours each day, as opposed to the standard six-and-a-half hours per day for most kids, means parents are less likely to need after-school care for their children. On the flip side of this, children who are in school for eight hours of instruction each day could potentially see their entire day away from home take up to 12 hours instead of seven or eight, when factoring in travel time to and from school in rural areas.
Your child’s dance classes, piano lessons and travel sports teams could see the greatest impact from an extended school day. If children are required to be in school for eight hours each day, the amount of time they can participate in after-school activities is greatly diminished. On the other hand, an extended school day could allow for more intramural, team sports and gym classes during regular instruction hours, which would cut down on the need for extra opportunities after school.
According to the National Education Association, one of the biggest complaints from teachers is not having enough time to work on projects or introduce children to content outside of the core curriculum. An extended school day would give teachers the time to thoroughly cover required content, as well as add in enrichment content to make education more enjoyable for students. But teachers would need to be compensated for the extra time involved, so an extended day would cost already-cash-strapped school districts money they do not have.
One of the most important aspects of making changes in the amount of time spent in school that is often overlooked is the impact on families. The Andover Townsman online newspaper of Andover, Mass., reports families in its school districts worry that more time away from home means less time for students to interact with their parents, eliminating many of the positive effects from parental involvement. Of course, if students are in school for longer periods of time, it should result in less homework, giving families more time to spend having fun together.
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