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Time in School

January 15, 2012

It’s commonly believed that the U.S. (including Michigan) is way behind other countries in classroom time. According to a brief just released by The Center for Public Education, this is incorrect. Some countries have a longer school year than the U.S., but daily seat time in classrooms is less, which allows time to even out. Here are the classroom hours (high school) per year, according to data from the OECD and World Data on Education:

  • Michigan: 1,098 hours
  • Finland: 856 hours
  • Korea: 1,020 hours
  • California: 1,080 hours
  • Massachusetts & New York: 990 hours

(Finland and Korea have among the highest student achievement in the world.)

The article asks that before education leaders decide to increase the time students spend in school, they should first consider these things from the Making Time report:

Determine how effectively school time is currently being used. For instance, states that are considering increasing instructional time should examine their academic standards along with all other requirements schools are expected to provide to determine whether they currently require enough school time to meet them.

Explore scheduling alternatives that use existing time. For example, school districts could consider implementing a year-round calendar with the standard 180 days as a way to offset summer learning loss.

If considering block scheduling, look at the research. Block scheduling is intended to increase time on task, but the research results are mixed, with the 4X4 block producing the least gains. However, block scheduling can also provide time for teachers’ professional development or pull-out time for struggling students.

Low-cost options, like four-day weeks, can prove beneficial to achievement as well. The research isn’t definitive, but some districts that have tried this are seeing unintended benefits in the form of higher test scores, decreased disciplinary problems, greater collaboration among teachers, and higher morale.

Logistics can be challenging, but are solvable. In considering any change to school schedules, the biggest hurdle will often be logistics. Cost and child care (for instance, in moving to a year-round schedule) can be two of the biggest hurdles. Look at school success stories like this one to see how some school districts addressed these concerns.

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