NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 18, 2007

Matched against 39 other developed countries, the United States is near the bottom in rankings of average weekly instructional time in school.  Measured over 12 years, students in the top-scoring countries spend the equivalent of a full extra year in school, notes USA Today. 

Perhaps not coincidentally, U.S. students perform poorly on math and science tests compared with their international peers:

  • According to a U.S. Education Department comparison, in math, American 15-year-olds scored near the bottom among the study's 30 developed countries.
  • According to the authors of a Brookings Institution study, most countries that boost the number of minutes spent on math instruction find payoffs in improved math scores.
  • Small increases in the school day are more effective than a longer school year, the report concluded.

The most encouraging news about the benefits of extending the school day comes from Massachusetts, where an experiment with 10 schools appears to be working.  Those 10 schools lengthened their instructional days by 25 percent and boosted their state scores in math, English and science at all grades.

Source: "Our view on more time in school: Needs of new economy trump old school calendar," USA Today, December 17, 2007.


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