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Obama Makes a Push To Add Time To the School Year 1073

Posted by kdawson
from the ok-ok-fix-healthcare-but-leave-me-my-summer dept.
N!NJA sends in a proposal that is sure to cause some discussion, especially among students and teachers. Obama and his education secretary say that American kids spend too little time in school, putting them at a disadvantage in comparison to other students around the globe. "'Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas,' the president said earlier this year. 'Not with Malia and Sasha, not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom.' 'Our school calendar is based upon the agrarian economy and not too many of our kids are working the fields today,' Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. ... 'Young people in other countries are going to school 25, 30 percent longer than our students here,' Duncan told the AP. 'I want to just level the playing field.' ... Kids in the US spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the US on math and science tests — Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days)."
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Obama Makes a Push To Add Time To the School Year

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  • Waste MORE time!? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Charybdis3 (1362369) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:39PM (#29586325)
    No thanks, I waste enough time in school already. Of my 6 classes (3 of which are AP) and can already get my normal day's worth of homework done during downtime before I leave school. If anything, get better teachers and better courses. Don't waste money on longer school hours.
    • by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:41PM (#29586347) Journal

      I agree. While my school days are long over, I doubt it would had made any sense to make them longer. It would probably had a negative impact actually.

      Extending the school time only works so far. Those who want to learn, do it anyways. Those who really want to learn or are interested, even more so (thats pretty much where every programmer comes from).

      Personally, I would hated to spend more time in school. It would even be more off from my learning to program and about computers, since those are still so shitty in schools compared to learning it on your own.

      Maybe better solution is to optimize the time you spend in school? There's lots of useless things already, religion being the first one that comes to my mind. And make more choices to the students to take the classes they're interested in. World is too big to teach everything to everyone, so people need to specialize in their area.

      • Re:Waste MORE time!? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by sleigher (961421) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @07:48PM (#29587099)
        I don't think longer time in school is the answer. I do think we should make fundamental changes in the way school works though. I think K-12 should all exist on the same campus. I think older kids should be involved in teaching younger kids and also take part in supporting after school programs. I think everything from wood shop, auto shop, and associated trades to advanced math and science programs should be available for students who excel or are interested in said areas. I also think that if you do bad in one subject it shouldn't necessarily keep you from progressing with your class. Maybe you need to re-take that subject again, but no reason not to continue with your peers and apply more work where it is needed.

        I guess I live in some type of dream land.....
    • by Dr. Eggman (932300) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:42PM (#29586355)
      I'm not certain, but I believe the president is talking about adding days on to the ends of the year rather than hours on the ends of days. As someone who is no longer in school, I say lets add some days. Just make sure we give the schools the budget necessary to make good use of them...
      • by Wolvenhaven (1521217) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:50PM (#29586459) Homepage
        They don't have the budgets necessary to use the days they currently have, adding additional school days will strain already thin budgets, and it will just make the kids who slack off, slack off more. Reducing the pointless waste of time and resources and increasing the schools ability to get and keep good teachers who can engage their students would be a much better use of the proposed legislation and budget. I was in highschool when No Child Gets Ahead was implemented and it encouraged schools to push kids into higher level classes they weren't able to keep up with. Have higher than a C in on level, take honors, have higher than a C in honors, take AP, have higher than a C in AP, take gifted; and it pushed kids who were doing well at the classes for their level into classes which they performed worse in, and it burned them out causing the kids to not like school anymore.
        • by Zenki (31868) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:57PM (#29586543)

          Hey, think positively. It prepares students for the real world, where people get promoted until they fail. Then they get fired or laid off for not meeting expectations.

        • Re:Waste MORE time!? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by scoove (71173) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @07:25PM (#29586869)

          Wolvenhaven's comment about budgets is on target; our small, rural Iowa district had to let 8 teachers go this spring because of declining tax inflows due to the economy. Funding teachers across more time would be a financial benefit to our family (my wife is a teacher in the district and doesn't receive compensation for when she's out of school not teaching as would be expected), but it'd cause the district to lose more teachers. In a small district, this would be devastating.

          But there's another aspect some (including Obama) are missing. The United States is a highly diverse nation with a diverse workforce. Like a fool who would prescribe public transportation to replace all motor transportation in the U.S. -- a proposal that simply fails to understand the large spaces the U.S. covers and treats Wyoming like Berlin -- the educational system has similar heterogeneous aspects. During the summer months, our system is not to "send the kiddies to the field" as Obama's inept education administration official claims, but rather to supplement education in a highly diverse, non-governmental-decreed manner.

          Yes, many kids get summer jobs, and there is considerable education for those working in a shop, grocery store or other light skill or service economy function given the probability that such students will be moving into this workforce upon graduation. In case you didn't notice the recent unemployment statistics, this demographic (16-24) now suffers over 50% unemployment, mostly due to the recession and the increase in minimum wages (which causes employers to substitute an unexperienced teen with an adult with experience for the same higher wage).

          But many kids destined for college go off to specialized camps. My son spent 5 weeks of the summer at one of the top national debate institutes, working harder in the summer than he did during the year. Music camps, international travel, student summer foreign exchanges and local university summer programs all round out the options available for the college bound to receive much more intense and specialized education, necessary for their advancement in higher education. Obama's plan would replace that with more of the same -- as Gilles Deleuze would say, smoothing terrain by pushing more of the same hegemonic, institutional programme and eradicating diversity education that predominates summer break.

          While it's not appropriate to debate this on the terms of "more education vs. kids sitting around watching tv" (those kids are also preparing for their future career through the choices being made), it is appropriate to debate this on the terms of whether we desire the heterogeneous workforce we're encouraging through the current model, or seek a more homogeneous model (ala "sameness"). Should further globalization be desired, as Obama's administration advances and his financial backer George Soros promotes, then perhaps the United States would be better served by creating more interchangeable service sector jobs. Given that both political parties desire a global model, Americans are less likely to be programmers, system engineers, architects, creative thinkers, product designers, etc.; even finance and legal professions are increasingly being offshored with great financial benefit to the global corporation. Preparing students for a career where they're part of a replaceable, worker-commodity workforce may be more appropriate in the long term, given the unified desire of Americans through the expression of those pro-globalization representatives they continue to elect.

          • by weston (16146) <westonsd@canncen ... g minus caffeine> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:48PM (#29588623) Homepage

            During the summer months, our system is not to "send the kiddies to the field" as Obama's inept education administration official claims

            I don't think that's the claim they're making. The only marginally close statement I can find is one by Duncan which agrees with you: "Our school calendar is based upon the agrarian economy and not too many of our kids are working the fields today," e.g., our calendar has some agrarian roots, but by and large we don't have that population anymore.

            The key in where the president is actually coming from is probably in this paragraph:

            "The president, who has a sixth-grader and a third-grader, wants schools to add time to classes, to stay open late and to let kids in on weekends so they have a safe place to go."

            It fits with the President's roots as an activist for the urban poor, which probably shape his perspective. And a lot of the research does say that poor/disadvantaged kids do the worst in making progress during the summer. Institutional support during summers could do a lot to help them become more productive and self-sufficient adults.

            Those differences aside, I'd say you have a good point. Summer vacation isn't just downtime from school, it's still an opportunity to work (even if it isn't in the fields) and learn. Moreover, slack has value as recreational time and as a catalyst for creative foment -- not just for the kids, teachers use the time to refine their approaches as well. Extra days could put more into the curriculum for achievers or allow for a gentler curve for stragglers, but narrowing it down is going to have tradeoffs.

            It sounds to me like the fifth grader in the article seems to have the balance about right: summer programs offer opportunities to kids that they might even enjoy (and which would meet Obama's goals), but don't force everyone into one particular tradeoff.

            So: are we smarter than a fifth grader? :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by PlusFiveTroll (754249)

        Not too long ago the state of Texas shortened its school year to reduce cooling costs/electricity usage. The electric usage difference in Texas public schools between the months of April and September is over 100 million kwh *(Spring/Summer Electricity Usage by TXU Public School Customers 1997 and 1998[3]). This does not include the bus rides for children in 100F+ degree heat in the summer months. Does a longer school year make ecological and financial sense in hotter climates?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by HangingChad (677530)

        As someone who is no longer in school, I say lets add some days.

        I agree. Shorten summer vacation to July. US students spend less time in school that most industrialized countries, so the baloney about them learning less just doesn't wash. We're losing ground in science and engineering and if that means more time in school, then pack your books, kiddo.

        What some of you are really saying is won't have as much time to spend on a WoW server or run up your score on Guitar Hero.

        Cry me a river.

      • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @07:23PM (#29586839) Journal

        Has anyone considered adding a bit of science to the discussion? Not as a curriculum subject (no doubt covered in other threads) but rather - applying a bit of science to the question of "what is the optimum schedule for learning?"

        Think about it - there must be a series of attention "ramps" during the day, week and year, where the ability to absorb knowledge is better than at other times.

        Do we do math better before or after gym class? Is there any point to having a math class at all immediately after lunch? Are business classes enhanced after physical competition?

        Would a 6am start kick start the day or is 10am better? Note that we have evolved to have half our numbers awake and on guard at night [citation somewhere].

        Should we survey people in some way to determine whether they're day learners or night learners (and teachers too, to match the learning profile).

        There must be hundreds of questions and answers to this. I suspect we've refined our way into a low-energy orbit, and it isn't getting us anywhere very quickly. We need to learn smarter, not longer, from the stats in TFA.

        • by arb phd slp (1144717) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @09:58PM (#29588203) Homepage Journal

          Has anyone considered adding a bit of science to the discussion? Not as a curriculum subject (no doubt covered in other threads) but rather - applying a bit of science to the question of "what is the optimum schedule for learning?"

          Think about it - there must be a series of attention "ramps" during the day, week and year, where the ability to absorb knowledge is better than at other times.

          Do we do math better before or after gym class? Is there any point to having a math class at all immediately after lunch? Are business classes enhanced after physical competition?

          Would a 6am start kick start the day or is 10am better? Note that we have evolved to have half our numbers awake and on guard at night [citation somewhere].

          Should we survey people in some way to determine whether they're day learners or night learners (and teachers too, to match the learning profile).

          There must be hundreds of questions and answers to this. I suspect we've refined our way into a low-energy orbit, and it isn't getting us anywhere very quickly. We need to learn smarter, not longer, from the stats in TFA.

          Isn't what you propose exactly the sort of soft social science that engineers make fun of here on Slashdot?

    • by couchslug (175151) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:58PM (#29586559)

      Instead of wasting the time of gifted students in order push the herd through a longer school year, we should spend money on more programs to help the high achievers. We don't need to waste more time on the many who amount to nothing, but we do need to nurture the intelligent and motivated, for it is they who move society forward.

      We also need more school choice legislation so people can rescue their kids from the public school system and the thug trash that often infests it.

      • by Kozz (7764) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @09:04PM (#29587715)

        We don't need to waste more time on the many who amount to nothing, but we do need to nurture the intelligent and motivated, for it is they who move society forward.

        I see, so the theory is that those who are worthy will lift themselves up by their own bootstraps, and those who cannot shouldn't be lifted by another. Pretty clear cut. Very much a social "Darwinism" approach. Say, can I borrow your crystal ball this weekend?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Quality of education is important, not quantity.

      And the education secretary might want to get their facts right [pdkintl.org].

      From that article:

      There is a homespun myth, treated as fact, that the annual school calendar, with three months off for both teachers and students, is based on the rhythm of 19th-century farm life, which dictated when school was in session. Thus, planting and harvesting chores accounted for long summer breaks, an artifact of agrarian America. Not so.

      Actually, summer vacations grew out of early 20t

      • Re:Waste MORE time!? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @07:14PM (#29586731)

        It's on the internet, so it must be true? I see one flat statement being contradicted by another flat statement. Tell me - why should I believe Kappan magazine over the secretary of Education? Or heck, vice versa? All I know is that long summer breaks were common for a long time where I'm from - where a long time is end of 19th century. And they certainly could not have been influenced by american urban middle-class parents.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by phantomfive (622387)
        That should be obvious if you think of it, because planting happens in spring, and harvest in autumn; those are by far the two most labor intensive times on a farm; in the summer there would be relatively less work to do.

        And of course, one place I lived had a day off from school on the first day of hunting season every year. Gotta take time for the important things.
    • by pete6677 (681676) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @07:16PM (#29586745)

      My thoughts exactly. It would be different if teachers would use the extra time to teach more reading, writing, math, science, etc. but we all know they'd either have another study hall period or more fluff like environmental issues awareness bullshit. Obama is obviously doing this as a favor to the teachers unions as more hours worked means more pay.

    • by exley (221867) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @07:40PM (#29587013) Homepage

      Of my 6 classes (3 of which are AP) and can already get my normal day's worth of homework done during downtime before I leave school.

      Sounds like you could stand to "waste" a little more time in English class...

    • by SimonInOz (579741) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @07:53PM (#29587145)

      I don't understand this.
      First Obama says kids in the USA don't get enough schooling. Then the article says kids in the USA do get more than most and STILL don't do well in international testing.

      Surely the conclusion is not the quantity is wrong, but the quality.

      You know, if there's one thing I'd like to change about school - it's homework. There is too much of it, and it's far, far too boring.

      My daughter (14) has been leaning about trigonometry. Well, actually she hasn't, she's been learning to use sines and cosines (looked up on a calculator) to solve simple trig problems. But she isn't leaning why it works, what it means, and what really cool things you can do with it. No, it's boring rote work. And she hates it.

      There's that crucial word - boring.

      Learning isn't boring. It's brilliant. Learning new stuff is hard, but often the most wonderful thing in life. How hard must the teachers has struggled to make it boring. Maybe it's the administrators, those destroyers of joy in life ...

      Makes me sad. Maths - boring rote work? ... when e raised to the power of i time pi is minus 1 ... what happened there? Boring? sigh

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @09:10AM (#29592225) Homepage Journal

      No thanks, I waste enough time in school already.

      Thats not the only problem with this. My local cartoon government here in Springfield [illinoistimes.com] has been talking about year-long school for a while now.

      First, it gets damned hot here in the summer. They're going to have to inatall air conditioning in all the classrooms. There's no way to concentrate or learn when the temperature is 95 degrees and the humidity is 100%. The cost is prohibitive, especially since the city and state are having severe budget problems.

      Secondly, there are things kids need to learn that school can't teach. That summer vacation is actually a valuable learning experience, especially for younger students.

      Thirdly, why can't we let kids be kids? The best times of my life were when I was a kid and it was summer vacation. It's cruel to take this away from children.

      They seem to be creeping toward year-long school anyway. When I was a kid (a long, long time ago) school started in late September and ended in early May. Now it starts in early August and doesn't let out until June.

      I had hope for this President, but I'm far less hopeful than I was when he was first sworn in. Yearl long school is a stupid, STUPID idea.

  • by russotto (537200) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:40PM (#29586337) Journal

    ...it's quality.

    It's not a matter of there being not enough time in the school year to get learning done. It's a case of the pace of learning being too low (essentially zero in some cases).

    • by Penguinisto (415985) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @07:12PM (#29586707) Journal

      Even compared to the secondary education I received, things are very dumbed-down today - with existing curriculae preferring to push boutique ideologies instead of the actual history, science, and mathematics. Rhetoric, Civics, and Logic aren't even taught anymore in most high schools, and a second language (no, not ESL) is usually Spanish if you're lucky enough to even get that as an option.

      The teachers' unions like to blame the class sizes (e.g. they're not hiring enough new union member- err, teachers), and everyone else finds it convenient to blame the budget (in spite of private schools doing far more with far smaller budgets).

      Personally, and from experience? I blame the districts and state management offices. There are far too many support personnel than there are teachers in a school (my last teaching position was at a regional college that had 150+ employees and 38 actual faculty - not teachers, "faculty"). There's too much middle management, too many niche positions (no, not special-ed teachers, I mean the really damned niche positions, like "state licensing facilitator", "curriculum specialist" and similar). Most school district employee lists read more like a who's-who of political favor recipients than of employees who actually contribute something useful towards educating a student. Sure a teacher's salary is crap - because the millions of dollars aren't going to them - it's mostly going to that great big grey hole down at the district office (and to vendors at exorbitant rates... if you think software vendors are greed-driven in the enterprise IT realm, you ain't seen shit).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by netruner (588721)
      It's the fundamental problem with schools - divide the students along two lines - intelligence and discipline.

      High IQ/Disciplined - fast track to higher learning
      Low IQ/Disciplined - fast track to skilled job training
      High IQ/Undisciplined - try to salvage them but not at the expense of those above - there may be diamonds in the rough here, but don't mess up the good ones finding them.
      Low IQ/Undisciplined - just keep them away from the rest

      There needs to be a method of changing groups as well. A stude
  • So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AequitasVeritas (712728) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:41PM (#29586349)
    ... spending more time in class is going to help the kids perform better?

    How about we require them to actually pass the classes they do attend before letting them move on...
  • Misleading stats (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AdamInParadise (257888) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:42PM (#29586363) Homepage

    Many kids in Asian countries also spend a lot of time at private institutes, after their regular classes.

    Nevertheless, yes, American kids no not work hard enough to compete on a global level. The Economist had an article about this very issue [economist.com] a few months ago.

  • by amightywind (691887) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:44PM (#29586389) Journal

    The problem is not the length of the school year. It is the profound incompetence of the public school monopoly and the lack of accountability of the teachers unions.

    • by v1 (525388) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:55PM (#29586519) Homepage Journal

      From everything I've read about it, it's very hard to fire a teacher. It's all but impossible to fire them if they are tenured. The only halfway pleasant and effective way to get rid of a teacher that needs the sack is to take them off any class they can do damage in and make their job as unpleasant as possible until they leave.

      Have read several accounts of superintendents trying to fire a teacher that really needed to go. Typically involves over a year of gathering as much dirt as possible, building what would appear to be an "airtight case" against them, then spend the next four months fighting the union, school board, appeals, etc etc until you can finally shove them out, kicking and screaming. And then they just sue (usually more than once) and it just drags on and on. Altogether probably the most challenging aspect of being a superintendent. All you can do is try very hard to hire winners, and pray you don't get started in the hole.

    • by panthroman (1415081) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @07:17PM (#29586773) Homepage

      Yes, the educated benefit from being educated, but everybody benefits from having educated people around. The former is why private schools are seductive to many, but the latter is why we should embrace education as a public good - external to the market - and support/fix our existing socialized system.

      So you're right, the problem is the incompetence of public schools. But privatization ain't the solution.

      Libertarians, who are often persuasively consistent (and I really do appreciate your consistency), have given monopolies, governments, and other non-market institutions a bad reputation. Even the term for something that doesn't jibe with a market - "an externality" - belittles the importance of things like pollution, basic science, education, overfishing, national defense, a judicial system, national highways, and on and on and on.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by anglophobe_0 (1383785)
        What about proposed voucher systems, which hope to bring the success of privatization to families who can't afford private schools? Granted, I would much rather, from a philosophical standpoint, have vouchers be funded by private charity rather than government coercion, but from a pragmatic standpoint I think publicly funded voucher systems would at least work better than the union/mafia-dominated status quo.
  • by jlechem (613317) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:44PM (#29586393) Homepage Journal
    Most parents send their children to either a public or private institution. According to government data, one-tenth of students are enrolled in private schools. Approximately 85% of students enter the public schools,[14] largely because they are "free" (tax burdens by school districts vary from area to area). Most students attend school for around six hours per day, and usually anywhere from 175 to 185 days per year. Most schools have a summer break period for about two and half months from June through August. This break is much longer than in many other nations. Originally, "summer vacation," as it is colloquially called, allowed students to participate in the harvest period during the summer.[citation needed] However, this remains largely by tradition. The other option available and being taken up by some schools is Year-round school.

    From wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]

    It doesn't mean it's more quality but I think it's a start.
  • by Chibi (232518) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:49PM (#29586455) Journal

    In South Korea, after going to "normal" school, a lot of students go for additional studying/tutoring. These are called "Hagwon" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagwon [wikipedia.org])

    I believe Japan has something similar with their cram schools [wikipedia.org].

    Not trying to say more amount of time in school is either better or worse, but it'd probably be useful to look at how the total amount of time in school was determined before relying on it too much.

    Some people criticize these other school systems as stressing memorization and test-taking abilities over individual/creative thought. Of course, that's an anecdotal statement, so take it for what it's worth...

    • by T Murphy (1054674) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @07:31PM (#29586927) Journal
      The problem isn't hours spent studying so much as motivation. The stereotype for asian students (however accurate) is that they get pushed by their parents close to their academic limit. Contrast with the stereotype for American students being sports-centric and studying just enough to get those C's and D's needed to stay on the team.

      Somewhere in between is where we want our average students to be headed. Unfortunately most students see they are neither valedictorian quality or star quarterback material and become disinterested, settling with 'just enough' and getting by with minimal effort.

      NCLB seemed to try to address this, but is the wrong answer. More time in school would be a good idea if only we weren't already using so little of the current school hours- a wrong answer. Not sure what the right answer is, but until the average student sees benefit to working hard for those A's the smart kids earn in their sleep, I won't expect our education system's report card to improve.
  • by way2trivial (601132) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:50PM (#29586465) Homepage Journal

    LEAVE SOME CHILDREN BEHIND

    sorry- is that too callous?

    http://factsanddetails.com/china.php?itemid=338&catid=13&subcatid=82 [factsanddetails.com]

    " According to government statistics, 95 percent of all children start school but the drop out rate is high. Only 80 percent graduate from elementary school. In poor rural areas the enrollment is only about 60 percent, with only 70 percent completing the first four years of primary school. Fewer than 35 percent of China's youth enter high school, and of these the drop out rate is high."

    individual circumstances aside, with limited resources, don't you think it far more likely that the really good students, somehow find a way to be among those who remain.

    The evelopmentally disabled ones are the ones who fall by the wayside and do not continue their education to the point where these internationalized standard tests are taken?

    drop the ten% worst performers results from the US kids "math and science tests" and you may find that they don't suck after all.. APPLES & APPLES COMPARISONS PLEASE!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by interkin3tic (1469267)

      LEAVE SOME CHILDREN BEHIND

      sorry- is that too callous?

      It is callous, but my bigger problem with it is that it's stupid.

      drop the ten% worst performers results from the US kids "math and science tests" and you may find that they don't suck after all.

      First of all, unless you're going to be executing that 10%, I think you'll find they create problems. The chinese are willing to take the necessary steps to keep their dropouts in line, we are most definitely not.

      Second, that goes against something intrinsically american. And for several good reasons, not the least of which being academic performance in grade school and high school doesn't exactly correlate with academic performance later on

  • by Myji Humoz (1535565) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:50PM (#29586469)
    President Obama seems to conveniently overlook the large differences in educational structure and cultural attitude between the USA and the countries producing the highest test scores. Unless having a larger economy results in more money for education that is well spent on quality teachers and actually useful programs (looking at you, No Child Left Behind), there is no reason to expect the USA's students to do better on average than other countries. Throw in the fact that the highest scoring countries include those with either a pervasive cultural respect for learning or a relatively homogeneous population for whom centralized education control is beneficial, and one begins to wonder why President Obama expects the USA to be able to compete for the highest average.

    On top of that, the USA produces a fair number of top notch scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and computer scientists right now, but those top notch individuals tend to be results of family pressure, personal ambition, or sheer-jealousy-inducing talent. Forcing those top level people into more hours of classes that tend to bore the living daylights out of them is not helpful. Mandating more school time for inner city or rural kids isn't going to be terribly useful for obvious reasons. The only students it might benefit are those who are capable and talented, but just a bit slow on picking up new concepts.

    Of course, the biggest issue is what happens when you multiply the current school times by 25-30%. As best as I can remember, I spent about 9.5months in school in Virginia (a state in the USA.) If that time increases by 25%, that results in students spending roughtly 11.85 months in school. Alternately, students can spend 10 hours away from home for school, which I'm sure will work really well.

    All in all, no thanks, the problem isn't the quantity of time spent in school, but rather the quality of said time.
  • by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:52PM (#29586491) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, I have to call BS on Obama's idea and theory as to deficiencies in America's education. The problem with our education system does not come from spending too little time in the classroom. It stems from numerous factors, the least of which do not include, low teacher salaries inspiring more competent people to avoid teaching, lack of creativity in teaching techniques (really, not all children learn the same and A's - F's is just a stupid arbitration), inability to inspire young kids (I would bet that 9/10 American kids view school as a combination of social time and the child equivalent of 'boring work'), and a suppression of curiosity in those who do ask questions (completely anecdotal, but I can name 7 people I know right now that were actually punished for asking too many questions in the classroom).

    The article and even the summary states that countries which continually outperform America in tests send their children to school for less hours than America. That doesn't even warrant the correlation vs. causation fallacy that's just crappy incomplete analysis by Obama's Secretary of Education. Forcing students to spend more hours in the mindnumbing clusterf*** that is the modern lecture system in America is not going to educate them or make them learn more, its just going to push them closer to brainless downer activities after school like more TV. I mean really, who wants to go home and play with an electronics toy/learning kit when they just spent 8+ hours listening to someone they hardly respect drone on about a bunch of topics that they haven't been given a reason to care about?

    Don't increase the schoolyear Mr. President, increase teacher salaries giving intelligent people a reason to teach other than philanthropy and find a way to inspire invention and innovation in the classroom. Increasing the time spent in a broken system is just going to increase the number of broken children's minds.
  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:56PM (#29586539)

    This is stupid for several reasons:

    1) Countries don't do an even job testing their students. In the US, everyone gets tested, even kids with severe emotional disabilities (meaning from broken homes and such). In some countries, only kids who are in the "college track" schools get tested. Yes, in some places young kids are tracked like that. In Germany students go to the Gymnasium, Hauptschule, or Realschulabschluss depending on ability. The Gymnasium is for kids who are going to university, the Realschulabschluss is for kids going directly in to the work force. Unless they changed it since last I checked, they only test kids in the Gymnasium with these higher level math tests.

    2) Standardized tests don't do a good job of measuring things that are really useful. You can have pupils that do very well on them if you spend a lot of time teaching specifically for the test, and if you have a curriculum that emphasizes memorization heavily. Yes well that is not so useful in this day and age of computers. What is more useful is the ability to creatively problem solve. So just because countries produce kids with good math scores, does not mean they are producing the kind of workers you want.

    3) Studies consistently show that the biggest factor in kids doing better in school is parental involvement. If their parents care, the kids do better. A simple measure of this is books. The more books parents have in their house when they have kids, the better the kids do. Not because the kids read the books, but because owning the books is heavily correlated with bright, involved parents and THAT produces better achieving kids. So what seems to be needed isn't more school, but more parental involvement.

    I get real tired of crap like this because what they seem to want to do is work hard to turn kids in to little calculators. "Oh let's make sure our kids can score really high on number crunching tests!" Ya, how about not. We get students like that in university (I work for a university) in particular some of the foreign grad students form China and India. They are great at memorizing and slogging through formulas, horrible at doing any real world problem solving.

    To them, knowledge is learning what other people know. If you don't know something, the answer is to find someone who does, or find a book with the answer. You look it up and then you know it. The idea of solving a problem through trial and error is totally alien to them. Thus they have a lot of trouble understanding what our group does (I do computer support and as such trial and error is a large part of the job). If you tell them "I don't know," they look at you like you are an idiot and want to know who does know.

    We really need to stop worrying about how our kids do on contrived tests so much. Yes, they have uses to make sure kids aren't learning nothing, but we shouldn't have this penis contest over who gets the highest scores. It just doesn't matter. If we want to only test our best and brightest and tell the rest of our kids "Sorry, it's a life of menial labor for you," and spend all our time teaching those bright kids how to do the very best on the test, well I'm sure we could have top scores in no time. I'm also sure that we'd find the quality of our workers would decline.

  • Outliers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chris.flesher (1646791) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @07:01PM (#29586591)
    It seems like somebody from the Obama camp has just read "Outliers: The Story of Success" by Malcolm Gladwell. There's a chapter discusses this topic -- Basically it says that kids from poor families score just as well as rich ones when they're young. The scores diverge over time because the kids from rich families are pushed by their parents to take classes, summer camp, etc. over the summer.
  • Money (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tsotha (720379) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @07:12PM (#29586717)

    Where's the money going to come from? Adding a few days onto the school year will cost the states billions of dollars. I dunno what state you're living in, but here in California we're already in such a big hole we can't see the sky. Is Obama planning to raise federal taxes for this, or is it going to be another one of those unfunded mandates?

  • by srothroc (733160) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @07:16PM (#29586757) Homepage
    Almost anyone who works here knows that their education system is practically broken for the public schools. Children are legally entitled and cannot be denied their education; this precludes disciplinary measures such as in-school suspension and detention. There are no demerit systems -- after all, if you can't be given detention or suspension, how will you punish someone? The harshest punishment is usually a stern talking-to by the principal and homeroom teacher; a referral to a parent may or may not be as harsh.

    From personal experience, many of the students who go to juku go because they don't pay attention in class. They sit around and draw pictures, stare out the window, or talk to their friends. There are students who simply sit and cross their arms, refusing to do anything in any class despite coming to school. And of course, there are students who just don't come to school, because there's nothing that can be done to them; they will move up through the grades and graduate from junior high regardless. There are also students who DON'T go to juku, or go once/twice a week. These students are the ones who actually do their homework and listen in class. Guess which of the two groups generally has better test scores in my school.

    I don't really believe in the whole longer school hours argument, either. We have school from 8:50 AM to 3:35 PM; at my school, it was 8:10 AM to 3:10 PM, slightly longer. On top of that, they only have six periods in a day, with a lunch break after fourth period. And on top of THAT, Monday and Friday only have FIVE periods. I fail to see how Japanese children spend more time in school unless they count club activities (generally an hour before school and an hour or two after school). Or perhaps they're counting juku, which SHOULDN'T be counted; it's completely optional and you pay for it. Basically you're paying to go to a classroom with a cubby where you're forced to do what you should be doing in school to begin with.

    For another rant, a lot of students who get good grades are simply memorizing and regurgitating facts, especially in liberal arts courses. They aren't learning how things fit together, or how to apply their knowledge, or even how to use their knowledge outside of regimented series of tests. If you think the SATs are bad in America, come here for a bit. This is a land where tests are God, so you learn to please God.

    If that's what Obama wants America to aim for, I don't think I approve. At all.
  • Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BitHive (578094) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @07:31PM (#29586939) Homepage

    I have to seriously wonder why so many people here are so passionate about not needing an education.

    • Re:Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

      by couchslug (175151) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @08:21PM (#29587391)

      "I have to seriously wonder why so many people here are so passionate about not needing an education."

      Many geeks are autodidacts and will learn much more when less impeded by conventional formal education. We may show up to get the certificate, but what drives learning is passion.

      Many of them (self included) were bored by school and despised many of the people they were forced to go to school with. A system that would help such folk would work less well for the torrent of retards that make up most of the public.

    • Re:Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

      by iknowcss (937215) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @08:24PM (#29587415) Homepage
      I hope (and I know this is optimistic) that the mods who modded this jackass as "Insightful" read this comment before any of the others. Over simplification much? Most of the comments here are discussing quality, quantity, private schools, public schools, etc. Even in pointing this out I realise that I'm feeding a troll. I'd like to think you all can see it, too.
  • by kupekhaize (220804) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @07:46PM (#29587063) Homepage

    For starters, how about we repeal that idiotic, asinine "No child left behind" act, that does absolutely nothing of the sort. The only reason this passed is because of the name. Everyone thought, "Oh, that sounds like a good idea!".

    Know what this thing really did? It penalizes those schools with the lowest test scores. If your students can't make the grades, it means you lose some of your funding.

    My ex girlfriend teaches at a school that serves the lowest income demographic in my area. She had recently graduated from college and this was the only teaching job she could get anything remotely in the local area, and she still had to beat lots of other applicants. Kids come into the school not knowing how to read basic words or do any arithmetic from families with parents that are spending more time selling drugs in the evenings then they are with their kids. The school, surprisingly enough, was already one of the lowest funded schools in the area, and had some of the lowest scores in the area before it passed.

    When "No child left behind" passed, know what it did? It cut the schools funding even further, when they already didn't have enough money for books and other things. The school is so overcrowded that several classrooms are actually "temporary" buildings that have been present for years. The principal started yelling more at teachers about bringing test scores up and having less money to do it with, upsetting the faculty. They didn't have enough money for school supplies. My ex started having to buy (some) of her own paper to use for class projects and other things because funding was so short. Some of the few decent teachers the school had left decided on early retirement or other career changes because they became so fed up with it.

    The net result, of course, is that the students scores have not improved, they are losing good faculty left and right because everyone is tired of the crap, and their funding isn't getting any better because neither are the scores. Nice, big, circular cluster-****. Last I had heard, morale was at an all time low and things aren't getting any better.

    "No child left behind". Right. As one semi-famous teacher would put it, "Crack is bad, mmmmm'k?"

  • by nathanator11 (1515859) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @08:23PM (#29587413) Homepage
    I'm 12 years old, and a regular Slashdot reader. I'd like to offer my opinion on this: We don't need longer school days. We need more courses and teachers. Specifically, we need more separation of classes based on ability. To Heck with this 'fairness' stuff. We really need at least two classes: advanced and less-advanced. Sure, some kids will feel bad when they don't make Advanced, but it's worth it. Allow me to elaborate. Longer days don't make an ounce of difference if half the kids are bored out of their skulls. All my fancy, expensive, private school has managed to do is bump me a year up in Math. And I'm still ahead of the class. In all the other classes, I'm stuck where I am. I spent half of 5th Grade correcting other kids' work for the teacher. And it's not just me. There are plenty others in the same boat as I. We don't learn much (especially on a time-to-learning scale), and longer/more days won't help. If we separate by ability, eveyone wins (except the schools, who have to hire more teachers): The kids who are ahead have engaging and new stuff to do and learn, while the kids who aren't ahead have things tailored to their needs. And, everyone gets smaller classes and more time with the teacher. If we're going to do anything, I suggest we, in some way or another, give kids material that is at the right level for them. Maybe once we get that done, we can think about longer school years or days. Actually, I'm not strongly against a few extra weeks, as long as the school curriculum is challenging. If anyone reading this has any say in this kind of thing, please think of me. -Nathan
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:08PM (#29588743)

    If you are really concerned with having a better outcome, and better education, with kids learning more - give us vouchers.

    Let people go to private schools who would never be able to otherwise.

    Let families afford to be able to homeschool, where learning can really be around the clock with committed parents.

    For whatever reason, private education is poison to the current political leaders (like the whole DC voucher fiasco). If you care, let us have more choices for how we educate our kids.

  • by jameskojiro (705701) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @01:12AM (#29589507) Journal

    It would cost only 3,000 dollars a year to educate a child in China, plus air fare both ways for summer break would be a little over 4,500.00 dollars.

    In Washington D.C. taxpayers pay 10,000 per child. Clearly the best solution is outsourcing. Plus punishment can be handed out byt the Red Chinese, when you kid gets suspended they get sent to a weeklong shift in a factory. It lowers labor cost and kids learn discipline and when they get back they will respect their elders, RESPECT THEIR ELDERS!!!!!!!

    Plus during the School year you won't have young punks all over town, instead they will be in another country wrecking that place up. DOUBLE WIN-WIN

    Now get off my damn lawn you whippersnappers!!!

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