Do schools need a longer school day? A debate

By Valerie Strauss
A policy brief released last month concluded that contrary to popular perception, most U.S. public schools require at least as much or even more instructional time for students than countries touted for their high performance on international tests, including Finland, Japan and South Korea. There were a lot of caveats in the report but the thrust of the brief was that calls for a longer instructional day for children in the United States to match what students in other countries get may be misguided.

I wrote about the brief and a short time after that posted a piece that referred to that brief and addressed the importance of strong afterschool programs, written by Jodi Grant, executive director of the nonprofit Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit organization that works to ensure that all children have access to affordable, quality afterschool programs. In that piece she wrote, “I’ve spent the past two years fighting efforts to divert federal support for already underfunded afterschool programs to instead provide a small number of failing schools with money to add an hour or two to their school day.”

That prompted a response from Jennifer Davis, co-founder and president of the National Center on Time & Learning, which supports expanding the instructional day. Here is a piece by Davis speaking to the policy brief and Grant’s piece, followed by a response from Grant.

By Jennifer Davis
A recent research brief from the National School Boards Association, an analysis of the quantity of instructional time in various countries, concludes by noting that what really matters with instructional time is “how effectively that time is used.” At the National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL), we agree with that point, and also agree that providing “extra time is only useful if that time is used wisely.”

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