Do Students Need More Time in School?

By Naomi Dillon

y the middle of last summer, the U.S. Department of Education had issued nearly three dozen waivers to states seeking relief from the repercussions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Unable to push through reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as NCLB is formally known, the White House saw the waivers as the only option to address the law’s shortcomings.

States received flexibility from some of the law’s more onerous measures but, in return, agreed to adopt reforms that would move them closer to meeting the Obama administration’s education goals. These goals include, among other things, building an effective teaching force and ensuring all students graduate ready to enter college or launch a career.

In December, five states announced how they plan to exercise their new- found freedom to raise student achievement: by adding more instructional time.

All together, 11 school districts from Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Tennessee are entering a three-year pilot project to add at least 300 instructional hours to the school year beginning in the fall of 2013.

Though a multitude of reform initiatives have come and gone in the past several decades, the amount of time teachers and students spend in school has remained remarkably constant, with most districts adhering to a six-and-a-half-hour, 180-day academic calendar.

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