January 14, 2014

"It is time to lengthen both the school day and school year in New Jersey."

Said Chris Christie in his State of the State address.
Our school calendar is antiquated both educationally and culturally. Life in 2014 demands something more for our students.
Why would penning up the students longer cause more achievement? Is this really for the students or is this a day-care proposal to benefit parents? Is it for the teachers' unions? I have a hard time believing this is better for children.

What about obesity? Childhood obesity, I mean. Shouldn't the kids be out playing — for the sake of their minds and bodies?

76 comments:

jr565 said...

"What about obesity? Childhood obesity, I mean."
Perfectly valid point.Wahts more important the benefit gained from more school work versus the gains lost from kids sitting in a classroom even longer.

But something tells me fighting obesity is not that big a priority for Christie.

JoyD said...

I've been an elementary teacher for 23 years, and before that I was at home raising three bright little boys. I very firmly believe that a child needs time to dream, to think, to wander, to examine, TO PLAN HIS OWN PROJECTS.
He even needs time to do, maybe, nothing...whatever it is he needs to be doing at that time in his own development. We were so thankful that we were able to give our children that time. I understand that it's not always a choice for parents. The schools are being asked by parents to provide more structured time.

Carol said...

I think the teachers like the *academic year* as much as the students! Sure they don't get paid for summer if they don't teach, but I believe they find creative ways to survive nonetheless.

Then there is the issue of hot classrooms and no A/C.

Gahrie said...

I think the teachers like the *academic year* as much as the students!

The 182 day work year was a definite plus when I was considering becoming a teacher.

Many of us use that summer "vacation" to go to school ourselves.

Gahrie said...

I teach high school in a surburban Southern California district. We go 180 days with the kids, 7:31 A.M. until 2:12 P.M.

We had a longer day the last three years, and taught an extra period. It gave many students a chance to catch up on missing credits, or take an extra elective. As teachers we all agreed that it was good for the kids, but it is amazing how much extra work it was for teachers. It was basically an extra 20% of our workload.

PB Reader said...

This is called being stuck on stupid.

Forcing students to endure even more time in a prison of indoctrination is counter-productive. It would be better to refocus the curriculum on real subjects of knowledge and skill. It would be better to make teacher pay and employment dependent on quantifiable success.

SteveR said...

The efficiency of the school day is already horrible, so adding more of them doesn't mean more education. We all know what the problems are and this is not one of them.

Dr Weevil said...

Maybe I'm cynical, but here's my prediction: Teachers grudgingly agree to a 10% increase in total hours worked per year in return for a 15% pay raise. Within three years, it becomes obvious that the new hours haven't helped student performance at all, and may have hurt a bit. Schools go back to the old hours, and no one but a few bitter bloggers even thinks to suggest a corresponding rollback in teacher pay.

AJ Lynch said...

So Christie shows he is a librul afterall.

FleetUSA said...

I am interested in what one of more interesting commenters, Freeman Hunt, has to say about this!

garage mahal said...

The teachers are against a longer day/year, so Christie is back to bully mode. I would want to talk about something different than GWB too.

Skyler said...

Proving yet again that Christie is all abut big government.

rhhardin said...

Early September till mid June.

Worked for me.

Unknown said...

Carbohydrates - not lack of playtime, are what's making kids obese.

Skeptical Voter said...

Kids out playing? Althouse you live in another world. When I was a kid I had the run of a small town on my bicycle; in the Northwest daylight in summertime lasted until almost 10 p.m.

In my Los Angeles suburb these days the kids are wrapped in tissue paper and locked up behind closed doors unless they're out on their scheduled after school classes, play dates etc.

In short--they don't know what unsupervised outdoors is.

Michael K said...

It's interesting how much education reformers, like Diane Ravitch, have regressed to the old education model, teachers' unions and all.
Once one of the conservative school-reform movement’s most visible faces, Ravitch became the inspirational leader of a radical countermovement that is rising from the grass roots to oppose the corporate villains. Evoking the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King, Ravitch proclaims that the only answer to the corporate school-reform agenda is to “build a political movement so united and clear in its purpose that it would be heard in every state Capitol and even in Washington, D.C.” The problem is that Ravitch’s civil rights analogy is misplaced; her new ideological allies have proved themselves utterly incapable of raising the educational achievement of poor minority kids.

I don't know what the problem is that is still infecting public schools but I avoided it with my own kids, sending them to private schools. Now, Obama is hostile to home schooling and I wonder at the ideology at work.

Paddy O said...

Lengthening school day and year is the antiquated answer. Schools have longer days and more homework than ever before, with lower performing students. Because far too much time in schools is spent on non-academic issues. Most of it is a waste of time. Combine class work with practice, 4 intense hours a day for 8 months a year. Give the kids time to rest their brains, participate in physical activity. Don't make schools cess-pools for dysfunctional socializing.

They're trying to be all things to all people. Education, social club, day-care. Bores the smart students, alienates the introverts, angers the troubled students.

Schools need a lean movement, not Christie's bloated approach.

Michael K said...

"In my Los Angeles suburb these days the kids are wrapped in tissue paper and locked up behind closed doors unless they're out on their scheduled after school classes, play dates etc."

In Orange County, my grandkids are out playing every day until dark. They do have more organized games than I did but they still are outside all the time.

harrogate said...

Gladwell made quite the persuasive case for what Christie is arguing here, in _Outliers_. He also ancitipates and respectfully engages most every objection I have seen in this post and thread.

I found that chapter where he talks about the US school calendar very persuasive.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Gahrie,

Many of us use that summer "vacation" to go to school ourselves.

If CA public schools are anything like OR's, you're required to "school yourself" to keep certification. Only of course you don't get to school yourself; there has to be some approved body sponsoring a course or a conference and a seminar.

The way to make a longer school day useful, by the way, would be not to add another period, but to make the existing ones longer.

Here, they've been juggling schedules every way they can think of to avoid laying people off, and one result was that classes that it was once possible to combine into a 100-minute block every other day are now 50 minutes daily.

If you're teaching an orchestra, set-up and take-down (getting instruments out and tuned, and stowing them again at the end of the rehearsal) is basically a necessary, fixed tare of time lost. Longer periods make it a smaller proportion of class time.

paminwi said...

Gahrie says:

Many of us use that summer "vacation" to go to school ourselves.

Isn't is amazing that other professions that also require "schooling" to keep their certifications don't shut down during the summer so they can get those credits? These other folks have to use vacation time or weekends to get those credits.

Let's not forget that teachers get 12 months worth of benefits for only working the equivalent of 71% of a regular job (about 1480 hours of a regular job of 2080 hours). And I don't want to hear about that they work hours outside of the regular school day with no pay because so do many other professions. Teachers want to be called professional yet they whine like kids when they have to extend the school day, write recommendations for students trying to get into college... I could go on and on.

Teachers may not have it easy with kids in the classroom but they have a good gig and I am tired of hearing how hard their job is. Get another job if all you can do is bitch about the one you have. See how YOU like working 12 months with 2 weeks of vacation!

Let's not forget that they have time off in Wisconsin for teachers convention (end of October), Thanksgiving (Novemeber), Christmas (December), spring break (usually March). Wouldn't we all love to not have to work more than 6 weeks in a row before we get a break from our jobs?

Smilin' Jack said...

Our school calendar is antiquated both educationally and culturally. Life in 2014 demands something more for our students.

Like conversations on subtle structural sexism.

Kelly said...

Does anyone have any experience with Year around schools? When we were stationed at Fort Knox they implemented the year round calendar and I loved it, so did my kid. The teachers were against it at first, but after a year they came around and admitted it was beneficial. They didn't have to do weeks of review after summer vacation and kids brains hadn't turned to mush.

Basically we went the same amount of days, but summer vacation was cut down to three weeks. We had two weeks of vacation in the fall, three weeks at christmas and spring break as well as the usual holidays.

A lot of specialized daycare programs popped up, so that wasn't an issue. I think year round schools would work well in urban settings, I don't know why more don't do it, but kids wouldn't be out long enough to get really bored and cause trouble, but long enough to recharge. My daughter was always ready to go back to school, even after the shorter summer break.

jimbino said...

It would keep kids out of the grocery store aisles, better for everybody.

When I was younger, kids were everywhere, and you could actually walk up to one of them in a park and talk to him without being arrested for being a prevert.

As it is, kids are just a big sinkhole for my tax dollars. They give me no joy, since I only meet encounter them blocking grocery store aisles.

Carol said...

They didn't have to do weeks of review after summer vacation

well that's a good point, especially for math. In college I learned to review on my own between terms but I doubt kids will do that.

AJ Lynch said...

Actually Christie was clever in throwing his weight behind this librul idea. The MSM will applaud him for it for about a minute or two.

Deirdre Mundy said...

It *would* help close the achievement gap. Middle and Upper Class kids continue to gain knowledge over the summer and breaks. Poor kids LOSE ground. So... keeping everyone in school all year would keep the middle and upper class kids from getting any further ahead than they already are.

MathMom said...

Kelly,

In Saudi Arabia my kids went to school year-round, three trimesters with three 5-6 week holidays in between. They did it so the company would keep running - if all parents left for summer holiday it would be a disaster.

That said, I wasn't a big fan of it, but since it's always hot as Hades there (except for maybe two months, about Thanksgiving thru the end of January), having the kids inside in air conditioning is probably better than having them all in the ER from heat stroke.

traditionalguy said...

Sounds racist to me...even structurally racist. The Yankees know that extra hour a day leads to successful reading and writing in schools which leads to increased voter registration and voting among the Jersey Shore Show demographic types thus diluting the African American votes with Italian votes.

MadisonMan said...

I am unpersuaded that having to relearn things is bad.

I have to relearn things all the time in my job, and I don't think that's unusual. The ability to recall -- with some prompting -- things from the depths of one's brain is a good skill to have.

It is insufferably hot here in the Summer. (Imagine being with smelly kids in heat and humidity. Ugh) Rehab in schools occurs all summer long (West High in Madison was completely shut down all last summer, and is scheduled for that this year as well). With aging schools, I have to wonder when repairs will occur if Summer is suddenly spent in the classroom.

If there is data that shows year-round schools benefit kids, then produce it. Otherwise it just seems like changing things for the sake of changing things (I will suggest that antiquated might also mean tried and true). First, do no harm, Governor.

D.D. Driver said...

"Gladwell made quite the persuasive case for what Christie is arguing here, in _Outliers_."

True. And Gladwell also devoted a chapter of Outliers to the ridiculous notion that Asians are good at math because their ancestors worked in rice paddies. So, you know, there's that. Gladwell is not necessarily an authority on anything.

D.D. Driver said...

"So... keeping everyone in school all year would keep the middle and upper class kids from getting any further ahead than they already are."

That is true. Keeping children in school in the summer is an excellent way to make sure they aren't learning too fast.

Birches said...

This will only lead to more homeschooling.

I have friends (public school teacher father) who decided to homeschool because the mom spent enough time in the classroom to realize just how much time was wasted on waiting around doing nothing. "School" took about 3 hours in the morning; the rest of the time was spent learning skills like cooking and music.

Alex said...

Who will be responsible for applying sunscreen to all the childrun so they can play out in the sun more?

Freeman Hunt said...

Is it surprising that so many of the homeschoolers I know were teachers?

Teach content in the most efficient manner possible, leaving much of the day open. Eliminate time sinks like video games and television. Provide thousands of books. Provide building toys, tools, art supplies, and science equipment. Facilitate while they do their thing. Have intellectual pursuits of your own to pursue at the same time. Discuss much. Enjoy music, the outdoors, and sport. Expect responsibility. When they're older, let them work part time.

What did I leave out?

As for institutional school, half days done efficiently with an emphasis on learning independent study.

Will that be best for kids in families that are unstable? Maybe not. Offer some other option. Ask churches and civic organizations to step in with mentoring programs. Don't design all of school around your worst students.

AJ Lynch said...

"Don't design all of school around your worst students."

What Freeman said!

Patrick said...

New Jersey schools suck.
Something must be done.
Lengthening the school year is something.
Lengthening the school year must be done.

harrogate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
harrogate said...

"If there is data that shows year-round schools benefit kids, then produce it."

Gladwell did produce it. After reading his book I went looking and found there are scads of academic and popular publications that also do produce this data.

Neither Gladwell nor most anyone I have read or listened to on this topic, goes so far as to argue for *year-round* school, but they do produce data to demonstrate the benefits--in terms of learning, anyway-- for lengthening the calendar considerably. These benefits are especially noticeable for lower income children.

Indeed, this argument makes people on both sides of the usual political divide in the US, very uncomfortable, because it uses date to confute talking points that people are used to chanting like rosaries.

"Oh, bring us our fainting salts, the schools and the teachers are so terrible, they are failing the children!"

"Oh, we don't fund public education enough, we need more money!"

Turns out both of these arguments are the ones that are larded with bullshit.

Pogo is Dead said...

"We’ve always had kind of a private notion of children. Your kid is yours, and your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of ‘These are our children.’ So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that ‘kids belong to their parents’ or ‘kids belong to their families,’ and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.”
Melissa Harris-Perry

Paddy O said...

"These benefits are especially noticeable for lower income children."

This is a key point. The trouble with public schools is it's a one size fit all option that adapts a general strategy to address a wide diversity of needs.

If parents are not interested in education or facilitating learning at home, or simply aren't home to do so (by working a huge amount of hours or just being absent) then school days and hours begins to be helpful as it provides the only environment that encourages learning.

Curious George said...

I have a hard time deciding what's dumber:

a)Is this really for...the teachers' unions? I have a hard time believing this is better for children.

b) What about obesity? Childhood obesity, I mean. Shouldn't the kids be out playing — for the sake of their minds and bodies?

The last group that wants to work more is a union teacher. The feel they are over worked now!

And the reason kids are fat is they sit on their asses and play video games and participate tin social media in their spare time.

I can't decide. Both moronic.

Revenant said...

I'm reminded of the joke about how awful a restaurant is -- the food's terrible, and the portions are small.

Public schools are lousy. Even MORE public schooling is not the answer to any problem we face.

Revenant said...

Gladwell made quite the persuasive case for what Christie is arguing here, in _Outliers_

You can build a persuasive case for anything if you cherry-pick your examples and shamelessly generalize from them.

mccullough said...

This would be good for kids with unstructured home lives. They can get their free breakfast, lunch, and dinner, have play/exercise time, do their homework, etc. maybe we should just have boarding schools for low-income, urban kids. We can pretend we're not taking them away from their families.

amielalune said...

But they're not out playing, Anne -- they're on the couch or on the floor playing computer games, or texting their friends.

Skookum John said...

Kids need more summer camp, not more school.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

What if this new summer school was 3 months of gym?

Gahrie said...

I have taught a year round schedule at the middle school level. I had similar experiences...the teachers resisted at first and thought they were going to hate it, but grew to love it, and resisted when we switched back to a traditional schedule. It was good for the kids too. We even taught intersessions (mini summer schools) during the trimester breaks. The problem was, the high schools were still traditional (have to accomodate sports schedules above all else) and parents were taking the traditional holidays so some of the kids were misssing way too much school.

Gahrie said...


Teachers may not have it easy with kids in the classroom but they have a good gig and I am tired of hearing how hard their job is. Get another job if all you can do is bitch about the one you have


Where have you seen me complaining? My only complaint with my job is that parents aren't paying enough attention to the education of their students.

As to being a hard job, the hardest part of the job is putting up with constant insults and disrepect from the intentional non-learners. Frankly, most people can't handle the constant abuse we put up with. But every job has it's difficulties.

Alex said...

How does Japan do it? We know they are high achievers? I'm pretty sure they don't allow their kids to take 3 whole months off from schooling.

Alex said...

Remember Americans, your kids are competing against the world now.

Gahrie said...

Wouldn't we all love to not have to work more than 6 weeks in a row before we get a break from our jobs?

If you had decided to become a teacher...you could. (Well not really, but it is admittedly a small exaggeration)

Gahrie said...

How does Japan do it?

1) They sort their kids onto vocational and academic tracks early.

2) The kids on the academic track are under emmense pressure to succeed. Kids routinely commit suicide if they don't get into the best schools.

Alex said...

2) The kids on the academic track are under immense pressure to succeed. Kids routinely commit suicide if they don't get into the best schools.

Define "routinely". I call bullshit on that fact-less assertion.

MayBee said...

Will that be best for kids in families that are unstable? Maybe not. Offer some other option. Ask churches and civic organizations to step in with mentoring programs. Don't design all of school around your worst students.

Love that last line. Also, don't design it around the worst parents.
I

Revenant said...

Kids routinely commit suicide if they don't get into the best schools.

According to this table, the suicide rate among high-school age kids in Japan is 5 per 100,000. That's less than half the rate at which American teens kill themselves, and well below the world average.

Bruce Hayden said...

Who really opposes year around school? I would suggest that these days it is mostly the teachers, and that is likely because they would lose the benefits of working maybe 3/4 as many days a year as most anyone else to get full benefits. The kids really don't have a voice, and a lot of parents would be quite happy not to have to arrange for supervision of their children during the summer break, while they, the parents, have to go to work.

My understanding is that the summer break was in response to the summer growing season, at a time when most kids grew up on a farm. They could work the summer on the farm, then go back to school in the winter. After that, we had a period when mothers tended to stay home and raise their kids, etc. As a baby boomer, that was the era that I grew up in. But since then, a large number of women entered the labor force, and making sure that the kids are supervised over their summer breaks has become a big problem for a lot of families. We had the money and interest to keep my kid gainfully occupied throughout the summer, but many families don't. And space camp, etc may be part of why that kid is now in a STEM PhD program, while many of those without this sort of advantage are unemployed.

The other part of this is that our kids really have fallen behind their international counterparts in terms of education. One reason is that school in a number of countries is a lot longer in the year - Japan was mentioned, with almost half again as many school days a year as the US.

Revenant said...

Who really opposes year around school?

Me. I liked summer vacations as a kid. I also like not having to pay the extra taxes that would be needed to fund year-round school.

Perhaps most importantly, I don't see why twelve months in a failed institution will be magically better for kids than eight months in a failed institution. Maybe we should make schools less-shitty first, THEN worry about how much time kids should spend in them?

Brando said...

Lengthening the school year has been suggested as a way to prevent the "backslide" that most students undergo during the course of long summer vacations, where they need to spend much of the beginning of the next school year trying to cover again what they forgot since June. This might be done with less expense though by replacing summer vacation with additional week-long vacations or administrative holidays through the year.

Elise Ronan said...

The USA has one of hte shortest school days and school years in the developed world. We are also falling behind other nations in math and science. This country needs to catch up in every avenue of education or the next genreation will not be able to compete on an international scale.

Now as far as "obesity." Most schools have cut out gym and or recess (never mind music and art too)so that they can implement the asinine federal educational standards (which most educators will tell are useless and inhibits learning). A longer day would put back into the school day the fun activities that create rounded individuals that, are now being cut from education.

But the question remains...longer school days will cost more, and not only in teacher salaries but operational expenses for the schools themselves, who is going to pay for it?

Larry J said...

When my wife attended school in the Philippines, the school year was 11 months long. Each school day was over 8 hours long, and kids graduated after the 10th grade. It works out their students in grades 1-10 have more classroom hours than American kids get from K-12 and a couple years of college. The Philippines is a poor country. It can't afford the luxury of prolonged adolescence. My wife was able to skip a year because she was raised speaking English in her home (along with Tagalog and several regional dialects), so she graduated high school at 15 and college at 19.

Glenn Reynolds notes in his new book that his daughter found that an average 8 hour school day only contained about 2 1/2 hours of teaching. She enrolled at an online school and graduated at 16. That wouldn't work for kids who lack motivation or self discipline but it seems a viable alternative to the factory school model.

JoyD said...

IMMENSE pressure to succeed... Not "emmense". That doesn't look like it might have been a typo. You're a teacher? Not naming names...

Brennan said...

Meh. This proposal is just an excuse to try to work with teacher unions to pay them more in exchange for additional labor flexibility.

This is Chris Christie trying to make the teacher unions look inflexible. It will work too and he can leverage that to pile on the unions as impediments to meeting demand from parents.

Brennan said...

But the question remains...longer school days will cost more, and not only in teacher salaries but operational expenses for the schools themselves, who is going to pay for it?

Outsource the labor cost for the non-traditional classroom physical activities. Frankly, I'd like to see private businesses take over many of these sports related activities that are very costly to run at schools.

MadisonMan said...

I think we need to have a conversation about lengthening school years.

(grin)

The two most important sentences in the comments: Don't design schools around the worst students. If schools are failing, how does extending the school year help?

Charles said...

What Birches said.

We have four kids. After two years of the oldest in the public schools, we're now homeschooling. Very improbably, too - we're not driven by ideology or politics or anything like that.

But the public schools assumed that every child was an only child, that parents had nothing better to do with their lives than attend mid-day recitals, and that the only learning was done during school time. Our kid got on the bus every morning at 7:30 am and got off the bus every day at 3:30 pm. And then was burdened with 90 minutes of homework a night - as a first grader. The arrogance of the education establishment, the mentality that they're there to educate and - as far as we could tell - the family was there to provide a place to sleep, was overwhelming.

Oh, you have soccer practice? Or a church function? Or an extracurricular class? Or simply would like to spend some time as a family talking about your day? Or want to spend a spring evening playing in the back yard? Try fitting that into the schedule I described. It's impossible. Everything is structured play dates and rigid schedules.

So now we're homeschooling. It takes about 3-4 hours, and we're flying through the subject matter. Our kids spend 2-3 hours a day simply playing. (Remember that? Playing?) They do all of the extracurriculars as well. And they run around the neighborhood, (usually restricted to after the school bus lets the neighbors off), finding things to do with other kids. They're also much, much closer to each other, and we're closer as a family.

Our vacations double as field trips. We can pick and choose the subject matter to match our lives (Planting a garden? Biology. Building a clubhouse? Math, drafting, budgeting and project managment.) Yes, there are some holes (neither my wife nor I does much in the way of "art projects" - although our kids are learning extensive art history), so we spend a few hours in a co-op each week.

As I said, we never even remotely considered homeschooling. We're not "them." But now I guess we are.

Longer school days? Longer school year? Talk about tone deaf.

Gahrie said...

IMMENSE pressure to succeed... Not "emmense". That doesn't look like it might have been a typo. You're a teacher? Not naming names...

Wow how nice to go through life never misspelling a word...even on something as inconsequential as a late night blog post....good for you!

acm said...

Instead of making school days longer, they should make them more efficient. I went to a high school with 4 90-minute classes a day (8 classes a semester, with classes on alternating days) and we were able to get more done in a shorter day. I hardly had to crack a book at home, because there was plenty of time in class to ask for help if needed and even to get most of the homework done. I had plenty of time to work a fast-food job, participate in cheerleading, and stare off into space. Other kids had time to do more involved projects, help out at home, etc. Besides that, we didn't have aching backs from carrying around 8 books, nor did we have to hassle with lockers, for the most part (I only ever used my gym locker). On top of all that, longer classes on alternating days is a more realistic preparation for college. It amazes me that anyone talks about making the school day longer to provide more instruction time without first moving to 90-minute classes for middle school and high school.

sinz52 said...

Charles: "So now we're homeschooling."

Charles, don't assume that your income and wealth, your own intellectual pursuits, and your own involvement with your own children is typical of children in, say, a slum in Newark NJ.

Public schools have to try to educate the most disadvantaged children in the area. You do not.

Charles said...

sinz52

Point taken. You assumption of wealth, income and intellect isn't exactly accurate, but I get your point.

However, someone already used the "the food is terrible, the portions are small" analogy. The schools in Camden are failing? And so the solution is "more"? More wasted time, lowest-common-denominator teaching, more time away from family or community? More time under the watchful eye of the same state that's already failing these children?

And, the retreat back to "it's not the schools of Camden, it's the home life of Camden" argument proves my point, to an extent: The schools destroy any CHANCE of home life, in Camden and beyond.

As for beyond Camden, my points hold. All-day control of our children is already destroying childhood and disrupting families. It's a constant, non-stop, overstructured weekday, with no chance for a family.

exhelodrvr1 said...

The biggest issue is that too many families don't make education a priority.
And then schools aren't allowed to discipline the troublemakers, and hold back those who don't reach the appropriate levels of achievement.
Other problems are important, but relatively minor compared to the above two.

Anglelyne said...

Elsie Ronan: The USA has one of hte shortest school days and school years in the developed world. We are also falling behind other nations in math and science. This country needs to catch up in every avenue of education or the next genreation will not be able to compete on an international scale.

The next generation as a whole may "not be able to compete on an international scale", but this won't have squat to do with school days being too short. (See, e.g., Finland.) Americans also perennially fret about "falling behind other nations math and science", but have traditionally preferred to respond to the results of international test scores by running around hysterically and throwing a lot of money at brilliant, utterly unprecedented (i.e., tried before and failed) reforms du jour, rather than analyzing the data.

For example, how much time have I spent listening to well-meaning hand-wringers who are convinced, absolutely convinced, that all those dumb redneck creationists in flyover country are putting our math'n'science scores in the toilet? They're not*, but I guess imagining that your problem is about minor pests like creationists and "intelligent design" promoters makes it seem tractable, just like blaming everything on not enough money, or not making childhood a cram-school purgatory, or not enough pre-pre-pre-kindergarten, or...

*Trigger warning for the sensitive: that link goes to a Steve Sailer post.

Larry J said...

Our vacations double as field trips. We can pick and choose the subject matter to match our lives

My wife and I were on a Med cruise last November. There were some families on board who continued their home-school lessons. The kids did their worksheets and reading assignments on sea days and at night, then visited places like Venice, Istanbul, Athens and Ephesus during the port calls.

Clorinda said...

Year round schooling may have an advantage in that there aren't as many large gaps between classes and learning times, HOWEVER, it is designed for small families. Kids are placed on a track - six weeks on, three weeks off, for example. So if you have more than one child in school, you could end up with children on more than one track. Trying to juggle 2, 3, or 4 schedules like that, with 1-3 kids off at the same time but for different lengths of time, drove parents nuts. It made vacations, weddings, funerals and all of those things much harder.

If you were lucky enough to get them all on the same track one year, it was no guarantee that it would happen again the next year. That is one of the primary reasons that school districts moved back to more traditional schedules, at least where I live.

Steven said...

Gladwell's problem is international test score comparisons are fundamentally worthless as a guide to policy. Test scores are reasonably predictive of individual future performance within a culture, but they don't predict success between cultures.

Persons of Asian cultural environment are notoriously strong in STEM subjects. And yet, while Asia does a lot of manufacture of electronics, chip design is dominated by the US. Software is dominated by the US. Tech startups are dominated by the US.

So, while imposing Japanese-style school years on the inner cities might help inner-city students, we also know that if we imposed it on the middle class, the kids would have less time to put in hours on things that aren't in the curriculum but which they personally love.

You know, that time that the rest of Outliers notes is so valuable to success? The kind of success that produces results that actually advance a whole society, instead of just delivering the kids into decent jobs?

Would society have benefited from the Beatles spending more time practicing math instead of music? Would society have benefited from Larry Page spending more hours learning to play an instrument than poking around with computer code?

Gladwell wrote a book about "Outliers" who changed the world . . . and at the end of the book prescribes something that, logically, would stifle them.