NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Adding Hours To Poor Schooling Won't Solve The Problem

April 3, 2001

Few education specialists see any merit in lengthening the hours, days or weeks students spend in the company of substandard teachers. They say it's not how much time kids spend in school, it's how the time is spent.

Advocates contend countries that outperform the U.S. on international tests have longer school days or months. But that's not necessarily true.

  • Children in Sweden spend fewer days in classrooms than American children, but Swedish 12th-graders far outperformed their U.S. counterparts in the Third International Math and Science Study (TIMSS).
  • Ditto for students in Iceland and France.
  • In Japan, the trend is for shorter school weeks -- five days rather than five and one-half -- since students there were found to be missing out on other valuable activities.
  • Even California's Legislative Analyst's Office said it could find no evidence showing that longer school years improved education.

"Advocating more time in the classroom before teachers who aren't well qualified or in schools that are unsafe is certainly not going to solve our education problems," says Matthew Brouillette, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Yet California Gov. Gray Davis wants to add six weeks to California's school calendar, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani wants Saturday classes for poor performers and Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes would start holding classes eight hours a day.

Mackinac's Brouillette finds school choice a far more sensible approach. Honoring vouchers and permitting alternatives to today's bureaucrat-run public education would encourage competition and greatly improve schools.

Source: Benjamin Kepple, "Would American Kids Get Smarter if their School Year Was Longer?" Investor's Business Daily, April 3, 2001.


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