Are Long School Days the Answer to Educational Concerns?

There has been recent talk of longer school days, but one mom doesn't believe it's the right option for children.

Lately there has been a lot of talk about increasing the length of time that students spend in the classroom each day.

Recently, it was announced that a pilot program will be introduced in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Tennessee and Colorado that will allow some cities and towns to lengthen the school day. The goal is to determine if the move to a longer school day will help students to achieve more academically.

Here in Massachusetts two towns, Lawrence and Fall River, are expected to participate in the program which will add approximately 300 hours of learning time to the school year. The pilot program is expected to continue for approximately three years.

Now, let’s face it. As moms we do joke around a lot about dying for vacations to end and getting the kids back to school. Most of us do still value the time we have with our kids no matter how much we joke around.

I am not an educator and I don’t pretend to be one. I am not an expert on the subject of education and will never try to be one. I am, however, a mom who is not at all on board with longer school days.

Frankly, I feel the same way about longer school days as I do large amounts of homework. More doesn’t always mean better.

Depending on their grade level students spend anywhere from 5–7 hours a day in the classroom. Yes, as I have said before, that is not an 8–9 hour workday like an adult but the important point is students are not adults.

Academics are, without a doubt, a top priority in children’s lives but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a lot of living to do outside of the classroom too. Just like adults need time away from work, kids need time away from school to help make their lives complete.

Nothing, even education, is in my opinion, more important than family time. More time in the classroom would, inevitably, mean less time spent with family. As it is it’s often a nearly impossible feat to sit down to dinner as a family during the week. Longer school days would undoubtedly make that even harder.

After school activities such as sports, clubs, youth groups, part time jobs and other extracurricular activities all play an important role in creating well rounded kids. A longer school day would make it even more difficult for students to remain involved and active in all areas of their community.

Something as simple as free time to play with friends is a huge part of what makes childhood special.

Let’s face it. Even now when homework starts to pile up the first thing parents are forced to do is start reevaluating their kid’s afterschool activities. I can’t possibly count the number of times I have said, “You can’t go to practice if you don’t get your homework done.” I’m sure I’m not alone.

As a mom I don’t want to have to start limiting family time and outside activities to accommodate longer school days. Yes, I want to see all of our kids achieve academic success. At the same time, however, I feel like more time spent in the classroom might be too high a price to pay for that success.

Bernie McNally January 08, 2013 at 11:53 PM
Well stated Christine. As both an educator and your classmate since 1st Grade, I want to say I totally agree with you. A longer school day will not guarantee a better education. I think that they should offer enrichment classes, especially for the Gifted and talented students who often do not have there needs met in the lower grades. I feel that extending the day for students in the high school would especially be damaging for those who do sports or activities since they would be moved back later to accommodate the longer school day. I have 100% faith in the Wilmington Public School System and feel that we are fortunate to be part of the Shawsheen Tech. School consortium which is one of the best schools in the state. On a more personal note, Christine your articles with the Wilmington patch are a credit to your hard work, supportive parents, and qualified teachers in the Wilmington Public school System. You are proof that quality comes from Wilmington Schools.
J.R. January 09, 2013 at 04:31 PM
Christine, I respect your opinion and I always appreciate your articles, but I kind of don't agree 100% with you on this one. In many families, both parents work full time which limits family time after school anyway. I'm sure you know people who rush home, quickly eat dinner and head off to activities. At every parent orientation I've attended, I hear teachers talk about how hard it is to cover everything that needs to be covered in 6 hours a day, 180 days per year. I'd like to see longer school days, but I think that the day should be scheduled differently. Homework should be limited. The lunch period should be longer and/or there should be open study periods monitored by teachers who are available for extra help. I'd also like to see kids who participate in after school exempt from gym class. The time they currently spend in gym could be spent on academics. Like Bernie, I'd like to see a gifted program established. If we don't go to a longer day, the school system needs to, at the very least, bring back late buses. Kids whose parents work during the day can't stay after school for extra help if they can't get a ride home.
Christine Berry MacKenzie January 09, 2013 at 11:08 PM
Thank you both for your comments and support. While I am not on board with a longer day you definitely make valid points, J.R. There would absolutely need to be a trade off with less homework and longer lunch periods as well as study periods would be a tremendous benefit. I am, however, a HUGE fan of gym class and wish that students were able to have it more, not less, often. I was actually involved in a pilot program for "gifted and talented" students in the 1970's here in Wilmington and would love to see something similar in the school system today. Oh, and as for a late bus, I, too, would like to see it brought back. Bernie, I completely agree that we are both examples of the success of the Wilmington School System over the years. We are among the few people in town who can say that we were a part of the Boutwell School when it was grades 1 - 5. Truly an amazing experience!


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