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Using Time to Improve Student Performance

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Proponents of a year-round school year suggest that a shift in the time designated for teaching and learning will help students achieve more by minimizing summer learning loss, allowing for innovation and implementation of creative programs, and providing the time needed to assist children who need extra help. Many school districts around the country are in fact working toward increasing both the hours in each school day and the number of days schools are in session.

Many education leaders are open to the idea of increasing the number of days per school year up to an additional month, and some support year-round school programming. Some leaders suggest an extended school day and/or school year for schools that are failing to perform well. This suggestion seems to have some foundation in research, as data show that certain groups (including students from low socioeconomic backgrounds) are negatively impacted by the traditional summer hiatus. The proponents of year-round schooling claim that with extended time to teach, teachers will be able to help all students attain better performance results.

It is easy to understand why education reformers put so much emphasis on time spent teaching and learning. Research shows that time may be the most essential resource of the education system. However, it is important to recognize that merely increasing the amount of time students are in school is not a panacea for improving student performance. It is necessary to utilize the available time in the best possible manner. If teachers fail to convert the available time to quality teaching and learning time, the increased school hours will not improve student performance.

Parents have a stake in school hours as well. Some parents are already concerned with their child's academic progress, and thus prefer to employ additional educational services for their children that may offer better after school educational opportunities. Still other parents prefer to spend their own time educating their children after school. In these cases, the idea of increasing school day hours may not be supported by parents of students from affluent backgrounds, and may not be necessary. Still, by increasing high-quality education time, schools can provide help for students who cannot afford learning opportunities outside of school.

While there are many positives of a longer school day or year, there are also a number of concerns. Cost, for example, is an issue that must be considered. Increasing the number of hours and days in school can prove expensive since there are personnel and facility use issues that must be taken into account. This leads some educators to believe more emphasis should be placed on increasing the utility of available school time.

Some education leaders suggest that instead of increasing the hours and days in a school calendar year, it would be better to spread out the available number of school days in such a manner that the school services may remain available for the students throughout the year. This might mean offering three short breaks rather than one long summer vacation, or simply offering various classes or tutoring programs during the summer downtime. Either way, this will add up to increased costs in facility usage and likely increased staff costs as well. Despite some perceived negatives and specific issues that would need to be addressed, the idea of year-round schools is continuously gaining support in the United States.

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