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Volume 72, Issue 101, Tuesday, February 27, 2007


More time in desks won't help system 

Zach Lee
Opinion Columnist

The time-honored tradition of staring at the big clock over the chalkboard and willing its hands to turn past 3 p.m. is in danger of becoming irrelevant. So is the custom of counting down the days until summer.

Many other grade-school rituals may also fade away as schools across the nation experiment with longer school days and a longer school year, The Associated Press reported Sunday. Massachusetts is leading the pack, but lawmakers in Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Washington, D.C., and parts of Florida are toying with the idea of keeping children in their desks longer.

The idea behind it is simple: American children don't spend all that much time in school. The children themselves might disagree with that statement, but the average U.S. student goes to school for 6.5 hours a day, 180 days a year. Those numbers are somewhere near the middle of the pack among industrialized countries, and buried somewhere within the political quagmire of No Child Left Behind is the fact that we have an education system struggling to tread water, much less keep up with competing schooling systems across the industrialized world.

Though extending the school day and year for American students is a good idea on paper ? especially if we aim to improve the standing of an American education in the international consciousness ? it's too simple to truly be effective at whipping our schools into shape.

The assumption that more time in school will add value to an education is based on the assumption that all time spent in school is completely utilized, but it's not. To say the least, spending an extra hour a day teaching to the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills is not a reason to delay the afternoon buses.

The inaccuracy and well-rounded uselessness of standardized tests, the ineffectiveness of methods used to attract competent teachers to public schools and the distractions that come with living in the information age all need to be taken care of before all kids can benefit from more time in the classroom. 

Maybe that's not true in some of the areas considering these changes, but it's certainly true in Texas.

There are, of course, students and even entire schools that would benefit from the longer hours, but an extended schedule needs to be seen as one of the tools available to education reformers instead of a cure-all that needs nothing more than its own implementation to lift American children out of their educational rut.

Lee, an English/Spanish senior, 
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