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Working Longer or Working Smarter?

The idea of a longer school day, reportedly favored by the President and the Secretary of Education (and now Malcolm Gladwell) has once again reappeared.

It’s not about working longer; it’s about working smarter.  A longer school day or even a longer school year might benefit children, but not if it’s just an extension of what we’re currently doing.Oliver-twist_350  

What if we poured our resources into primary education so that nearly every child could read by third grade?  What if every primary teacher was a reading specialist, specifically trained to work with all children no matter where they were developmentally when they entered school?  What if primary classes were small enough that every child had an individual educational plan with specific goals for the year?

What if we actually paid attention to the reams of research that show the benefits of early foreign language instruction and began foreign language in the primary grades?

What if basic technology wasn’t another course that students had to take, but was fully integrated into reading, math, social studies and science?  What if we refused to schedule study halls, but extended class time so that all kids would have a chance to practice what they just learned with the teacher still present as a resource?

What if we worked hard on attendance and keeping kids in school – because kids who don’t attend now aren’t going to attend when school is extended?  What if we made a serious effort to engage parents in elementary school and middle school because if we wait until high school it’s too late?

Well, you get my drift.  Unless we improve what we’re doing now, the extended day or year will just be more of the same.  The work expands to fill the time.









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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Practical Leadership are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.