Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

NCLB Outrages

Hold that final bell

Ohanian Comment: Before superintendents and newspaper editors jump on the longer school day bandwagon, they should take a deep breath and consider what it actually means to make U. S. "students competitive in the world market." It means working at the wages that are acceptable in Asia. Corporate America ships hundreds of thousands of jobs overseas not because U. S. students haven't gone to school enough hours per day but because of the real bottom line: corporate profits.

Before the superintendent of schools spouts off about Alaska schools not being "competitive" with other countries, she should try reading Gerald Bracey's research.

I read the same Boston Globe article as did the editors who wrote this article. And I phoned a Cambridge, MA school to check if kindergartners are included in the longer school day. Oh yes, not only kindergarten but also the new category Junior Kindergarten. To qualify for Junior kindergarten a tyke must be 4 years old by December. So three-year-olds are plunked down in a skills-driven curriculum for eight hours a day--to get them ready for kindergarten, which is getting them ready for the standardized tests required by NCLB.

Homeschooling looks better and better.


Anchorage School Superintendent Carol Comeau ignited some controversy when she suggested longer school days or a longer school year. She told Anchorage legislators recently that our school system is not competitive with many countries where students attend for 220 days per year, versus the 180 that are required in Alaska.

Comeau recommended the legislators set aside some money for pilot projects around Alaska to see if adding more school time would help students learn more. It's just an idea, not a plan yet, she said.

Even adding half an hour to an hour would give more time for students to get help, she said. In Anchorage, students attend school six hours a day, not counting a half-hour lunch.

With all the demands placed on schools under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, adding more time for students to learn makes a lot of sense.

The 180 days Anchorage kids are supposed to attend actually get whittled away to 170 days with 10 in-service days, for teacher training or prep. Plus there are days eaten up by state-mandated achievement testing.

"You can't help but learn more if you have more time," said Comeau. "We can't keep asking our teachers to teach more and more in the same amount of time."

One sign that students need more time in class is the exploding enrollment in Anchorage summer school classes -- up to 6,000, said Comeau.

Massachusetts did an experiment in longer school days in 10 public schools last year. School hours increased, typically from six hours to eight or nine.

The plan in Massachusetts was to give more time to reading, writing and math, with more chances for hands-on learning, according to a Boston Globe story Nov. 30.

A report late last year showed promising results. The number of students in the test schools who scored at least at the proficient level on Massachusetts tests increased by about 11 percent in English, 7 percent in math and about 5 percent in science over the previous year, the Globe reported.

The newspaper called the Massachusetts experiment the first comprehensive look at the effectiveness of adding time to the school day.

Massachusetts is now expanding the program to other schools, focusing on low-income and low-performing districts.

This experiment was not cheap. The extra time cost about $1,300 per student, or about $20 million for the 10 Massachusetts schools, the Globe said.

In Alaska, it's a battle just to get enough state money set aside so school districts don't have to lay off people, much less add teaching time.

But if adding time does
Published: January 16th, 2008 12:45 AM
Last Modified: January 16th, 2008 12:57 AM, it's an investment worth making. The state should create a pilot project and test it out.

BOTTOM LINE: Alaska should encourage some schools to add teaching time in an attempt to raise student achievement.

— Editorial
Anchorage Daily News


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.