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Reasons for Not Extending the School Day

by Tanya Lee

Advocates of a longer school day include President Barack Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, as well as many educators and parents. On the face of it, the suggestion seems logical: students will learn more if they spend more time in school. Proponents argue that all other nations in the industrialized world offer more free public education than does the U.S.— and most often, they are scoring higher on standardized tests and entering college better prepared than are U.S. students. Opponents, however, have presented several arguments against extending the school day.

Cost

Extending the school day is expensive. A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that of the 36 states that received federal School Improvement Grants and used some of that funding to extend the school day, only 10 said they would be able to do so after the grant money runs out because of the cost. An article in the magazine of the National Education Association noted that the state of Massachusetts, which instituted a longer school day in some of its low-performing schools, is spending about $1,300 extra per student to provide the program.

Uncertain Effectiveness

The research is far from consistent in its findings about the effectiveness of extending the school day. A CNN report notes that Miami-Dade County schools in Florida abandoned its $100 million-per-year extended day program after three years because test scores were not improving. A review of the literature cited by Education Northwest Magazine found that the limited evidence available provided evidence for a “neutral to small positive effect of extending school time on achievement," a finding that must be taken into account when considering the costs of extended-day programs.

Impacts on Teachers

In Boston, the superintendent of schools has argued that teachers have short hours and generous compensation and therefore should not receive extra pay for an extended school day. The Boston Teachers Union strongly disagrees. How teachers should be compensated for a longer school day and whether people other than teachers should be employed to work with students during an extended school day in order to lessen the burden on teachers are two major questions raised by school administrators, parents and teachers. Few schools have increased the length of the school day, there is little research to help resolve those issues.

Disruption of Family Life

An extended school day would have myriad impacts on family life, and many would be negative, according to anecdotal evidence such as that cited by the Chicago Tribune. Parents, especially parents in higher socioeconomic brackets, say an extended school day would mean students would have less time to spend with their families and to participate in extracurricular activities such as music, art and sports. Some parents noted that students in school longer each day would have to stay up later to complete their homework.

About the Author

Tanya Lee is a professional writer with more than 30 years experience. She has published extensively in the field of education and as a journalist, the latter in such publications as "High Country News" and "News from Indian Country." Lee holds a M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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