Extension of School Hours for Middle School Students
Studies done across industrialized nations have shown that students in other industrialized nations achieve better test scores in test than students in similar academic levels in the United States (Patall, Harris & Ashley 402). The same studies have also shown that the students that perform better than U.S. Students spend more time in school than the U.S. students (Patall et al. 402). These findings have negative implications upon the nation’s competitiveness in terms of research and development, which are the core drivers of innovation and development. As such, there is a need to work towards improving numeracy and literacy so as to reach or even exceed standards set by other nations. The evident correlation between the length of school hours and academic achievement has led to an assumption that “increasing school time would improve academic achievement” (Aronson, Joy & Lisa 1). If the established correlation is something to go by, then there is a need to extend school hours so as to increase educational period, which will in turn, improve academic performance (Patall et al. 401; Aronson et al. 1). In addition to increasing the learning time, such an extension is likely to optimize the use school resources. It will also increase student safety and better match the parents’ work day to the children’s school day (Jones 46; Khrais 1).
Firstly, the proposition to extend school hours is meant to increase students’ exposure to more education hours so as to increase absorption of knowledge. According to Aronson et al. (6), the problem of poor performance is a result of two reasons. The first is that the assigned time has not been used efficiently (Aronson et al. 6). The second reason is that the time allocated is not enough for students to cover enough academic work (Aronson et al. 6). As such, there is a need to increase efficiency in the use of the allocated time. According to Aronson et al. (6), where this has already been done, there is a need to increase time so as to attain improved performance. This is because once efficiency of time is attained; “sufficiency of time takes over as the constraining factor” (Aronson et al. 6). Therefore, students require longer exposure to knowledge so that they can absorb more of what is taught at school.
The second important reason for extending school hours is to improve the security of students (Jones 46). The introduction of a longer school day ensures that the parents’ work day matches with the students’ school day (Jones 46). As such, parents will be home to look after their children once they leave school. This will go a long way towards ensuring that students do not engage in deviant behaviours such as drug abuse and association with bad company (Jones 47). The extension of the school day also ensures that students are within school precincts which is safer than when they leave school early, and possibly go roaming in the neighbourhood. Their being in school ensures that such students continuously engage in constructive activities such as sports to class work (Boyd 1). This helps in keeping them safe, especially for those that come from unsafe neighbourhoods.
Apart from increasing knowledge absorption and safety, extended school hours also increase the students’ development of social skills. Students that stay in school for longer get to interact with their fellow students for a longer time than those that do not stay in school for long (Patall et al. 406). The development of social skills is important in the development of a whole rounded person that can properly communicate with others (Patall et al. 406). More exposure to interpersonal communication at school increases the development of social skills among children because they interact more with their peers.
The extension of school hours sounds simple, but there are many challenges to its implementation because of the opposing views among stakeholders. “The Chapel Hill-Carrboro middle schools”, as elaborated by Nail 1, are an example of schools in which the school committee has opposed the move to extend school day (Neil 1). In a 2007 decision, the committee members cited disruptions in transport and a possible compromise of ‘exploratory learning’ as reasons not to extend the day (Neil 1). Other sources cite the increase in cost as a major hindrance. According to one of the estimations citing cost as a problem, the cost of lengthening study time would amount to almost 1.1 billion on a national scale (Aronson et al. 4). Kokemuller (1) further cites interruptions to family tourism and travel, and fatigue and burn out as some of the negative impacts that would emerge from lengthening school days for middle school. The opponents citing these disadvantages of school day extension contend that, the actual problem is inefficiency and not time sufficiency (Aronson et al. 6). According to Aronson et al. (6), extending time in schools where the already assigned time is not optimally utilized may translate to no improvements in performance.
While some of these arguments pose what could be actual challenges in lengthening school days. It is totally untrue to think that there is no way round these challenges. In fact, some schools and areas such as Murfreesboro have been able to re-organize their resources and create extended days of learning without requiring additional funding (Jones 44). It is therefore, untrue that the cited disadvantages could make the day lengthening proposition unsuccessful because there are already such initiatives that have succeeded without necessarily facing these challenges. The solution to the cost problem can be found in the proper realignment of resources (Jones 44). Another similar and successful extension program has been implemented in New York districts, through funding by the private foundations and the city council (The Associated Press 4). As such, the search for alternative sources of funds may also be another solution to the cost problem. “Murfreesboro has been able to overcome the cost challenge by hiring part time teachers from unemployed but qualified college students and parents” (Jones 46). This solution to the cost problem also serves as a solution to burn out and fatigue issue because it ensures teachers do not overwork. Other cited problems such as the disruption of transport and concepts of learning are just organizational issues that could be resolved from restructuring the system.
In conclusion, all cited challenges can be overcome if creative solutions are sought. Finding solutions such as those cited in Murfreesboro case could help communities realize the benefits of extended school days (Patall et al. 406; Jones 46). Efficiency in the use of the current time is often cited as a solution to the problem of poor performance (Aronson et al. 6). However, according to Aronson et al. (6), where time has been efficiently used, more improvement can be attained through the introduction of time in terms of quantity. Therefore, it is agreeable that time efficiency is required as stated by the opponents of the day lengthening proposition. However, it is also good to be aware of the fact that time sufficiency can be an extra contributing factor to better performance (Aronson et al. 6).
Aronson, J. Joy, Z. & Lisa, C. “Improving Student Achievement by Extending School: Is It Just a Matter of Time?” WestEd, pp.1-9. 1998. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.
Boyd, H. “What’s to Gain with a Longer School Day?” 6 Aug. 2013. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.
Jones, J. H. “Extending School Hours: A Capital Idea.” Educational leadership, 53 (3), 1995: 44-46, Print.
Khrais, R. “Extended Hours Coming to 20 Middle Schools.” 30 April 2013. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.
Kokemuller, N. “The Disadvantages of Extending the School Year.” 5 Jan. 2013. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.
Neil, O. “City schools wary of extending day.” McClatchy -Tribune Business News, 21 Dec. 2008. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.
Patall, E. A. Cooper, H. Allen, A. B. “Extending the School Day or School Year: A systemic review of research (1985-2009).” Review of Educational Research, 80 (3), 2010: 401-436. Print.
The Associated Press. “N.Y.C. Middle Schools to Try Longer Day.” The Associated Press- Education Week, 8 May. 2013. Web. 2 Oct. 2013
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