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“We don’t have enough time…” – let’s cut out some more

May 6, 2009

A colleague of mine shared an idea today that is apparently gaining momentum among public schools — that of shortening the school week from 5 days to 4.

I’ve heard of a lot of silly “cost-savings” measures previously, but this one really makes no sense.

One of the biggest complaints of schools and districts today is that they do not have enough time to teach everything that students need to know.  Other schools (like KIPP, for example) are advocating cutting out recess for primary grades because they want to maximize the amount of time the student is learning (ok, so THAT idea has it’s own problems, but let’s stay on-topic).

If schools do not have enough time to teach the curriculum, why, oh WHY would they consider dropping 20% of the school week? What would they do — lengthen the school DAY to compensate for the loss of the extra day?

But here’s the bigger problem: a longer school day would only provide MORE time in the day to be unproductive. You can only squeeze so much blood out of the proverbial attention-turnip. 

And, cutting out learning time will only further reduce productive learning opportunities.  What will is save?  An extra day for the lights to be on at the school, reduced facilities expenses? Capital costs won’t decrease — the buildings are THERE regardless of how many days a week they are used.  It’s unlikely that teachers and staff expenses will decrease because teachers and staff are not going to agree to a pay cut, and teachers already have issues with their current rates of pay. Can you imagine proposing this “innovation” to the unions?

Again, this is an example of the band-aid mentality I have such a problem with.  Before we throw all these great “solutions” in there to be considered, debated, voted over, let’s really take a look at what problem we’re trying to solve, deal with it in a way that shows both short-term AND long-term positive impacts, and let’s go that way.

Ultimately, this is SUPPOSED to be about the kids.  What’s in it for them, how does it contribute to a better education.

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