No matter how hard you try, every parent will turn to their child one day and say, "Back when I was a kid..." We compare our childhoods to our children's childhoods in almost every aspect: what they have for entertainment, available technology, what they are learning in school, and how the world is different from the one we experienced as children.
Chatter has begun among parents of school age children in regards to the school days. We look at the school calendar and think, "I don't remember having this many days off as a kid. Why do they have a whole week off for President's Day? Do they even go to school?!"
Although it may seem like our kids are getting off easy, they actually have the same amount of school days per year as we did as parents in 1995. Most states require 180 days of instructional period per year with anywhere from 950 to a little over 1,000 hours of instructional time. In fact, there is a debate among educators and parents that the school days should be shorter while the years extend to longer.
Educators and parents tend to agree that educational instruction has become more and more intense over the years. Kindergarten has morphed from play-based learning to more of a first grade level. Homework has increased while recess has decreased. Kids spend more time at school and less time just being kids.
This has had a significant affect on children, too. Teachers report higher rates of ADHD diagnoses, higher rates of IEPs, and more behavior issues. Although this may be because of better testing and training to recognize these issues with students earlier, many teachers and parents believe that the rigorous requirements of the school day are partially to blame.
5 Reasons School Years Should Be Longer
Many educators have started to advocate for longer school years simply so that the school days can be shorter. The total amount of hours of instructional time will not differ, but the shorter days will allow for time to children to do what is most important- be kids.
No More Summer Slide
The summer slide is a term used to describe the time in the summer where many children "lose" the knowledge gained throughout the school year. Oftentimes, the children that are most affected by the summer slide are children in lower socioeconomic statuses. This is because they often do not have the resources to continue practicing the skills learned in school that year. Teachers often will find themselves re-teaching skills taught the year prior for the first few months of school which, in the the end, wastes valuable instruction time.
Better Pay for Teachers
This can be a positive or a negative depending on which side of the fence you sit, but longer school years generally mean more money going into teacher's pockets. One school district in Arizona extended their school days from 180 to 200 days, and paid their teachers 9% more for the school year to accommodate for the extra days.
More Time for Kids to Be Kids
A substantial reason for longer years (and shorter days) is the extra time each day children will have to do the things that children do best- play. Whether that is free play at home or with friends or organized activities in the community, active play is important to a child's mental, emotional, and physical health. Organized activities are great for high-risk youth as well, so extra time for school-sponsored after school activities would be beneficial.
More Time for Families
Many parents would agree that by the time children come home from school and do their homework or get home from organized activities, that the day is nearly done. Many families are simply ships passing in the night without much bonding time with each other. Increased family time has shown to be beneficial to a child's mental and emotional stability, so more time during the day could help to encourage that time together.
Better Academic Achievement
When children have longer school years, they could experience less effects from the summer slide thereby being able to explore topics more thoroughly and continue on with their education versus spending time reviewing topics already covered.
Of course, shorter school days could increase the risk of misconduct by at-risk youth as they may have less supervision once the day ends. It also may cause increased childcare costs for some families as they would need more after school care for their children. It is a balance that educators would have to evaluate not only in terms of education but also considering the factors of their student population. Many schools have begun to take the right steps in order to ensure their students have more time "being kids" like increasing recess time and banning homework, but the more time children can have to be kids, the better.