Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Time On, Time Off

There's an interesting discussion about how much time kids should spend in school over at the Atlantic. Various viewpoints are elicited, notably including that of NPE director Carol Burris. Burris, unlike a whole lot of other people who write and talk education, looks at and considers research before forming opinions.

The myth that American students spend less time learning than students in other industrialized nations is not true. It is also clear from studies that increasing school time is very expensive and there is little return in achievement. Reductions in class size and peer tutoring, for example, have been found to be far more effective.

This will be surprising to people who read op-ed pages, which spout baseless nonsense and rely on astroturf groups like so-called Families for Excellent Schools for information. A lot of people attack the summer break, saying it causes some sort of learning loss. You'd think kids contracted Alzheimer's for two months a year. But Burris says affluent kids continue to learn in the summer while poorer kids may experience a loss.

And this, once again, points to our core problem--allowing so many of our children to live in poverty. In fact, it appears the majority of our students suffer from poverty. Meanwhile, we're sitting around debating the summer vacation. The NY Post is trashing the mayor for not closing enough unionized schools and opening more charters. Of course, charters cherry-pick their students, target those who've got to go, and send them back to public schools. We are then vilified for their test scores, as they must be our fault.

Some schools, like mine, give kids summer assignments. We then pat ourselves on the back for having dealt with the learning loss that supposedly takes place. My daughter has had teachers who'd give her assignments over school vacations. I hated those teachers. I'd help her with projects and wonder why the hell they couldn't just give her a week off.

Learning is 24/7, 365 days a year. If we do our job right, we won't need to put guns to our kids' heads to make them learn. We won't need to make up crap for them to do in the summer, or make them answer stupid questions, or make them write reports to prove they read the assignment. If we do our job right, kids will form interests and follow them.

Unfortunately, as long as we place our heads in the sand and pretend we can place some kind of band aid on poverty, that's not gonna happen. Giving kids nonsense to waste time during the summer isn't gonna change anything. At best kids will comply and hate our guts for wasting their time. At worst they won't comply and will still hate our guts for trying to waste their time. Or maybe it's vice-versa. The result is not substantially differeent.

In France, there's a 35-hour work week and everyone, not just teachers, gets 5 weeks off a year. Oh, and no one goes bankrupt paying medical bills, because like in most of the developed world, they have single payer health care. In American, we're obsessed with filling time. God forbid anyone should get a day off. Maybe the kid will select B instead of C on the multiple choice test.

Meanwhile, we're spinning our wheels solving the wrong problems.
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