The Time Debate


Over the last year or two, I have periodically read articles and/or posts about the length of school days and years for students.   I find it interesting to see how this varies in Canada, the U.S.A. and abroad, with specific belief systems associated to each.

The latest PISA results demonstrated higher achievement levels for students in countries that had students attend over two hundred days a year.  I believe Japan was one of them.   Thus, a “push” for longer school days and years is frequent, especially in North America.

In Saskatchewan, the school year is 197 days, with a school day length of 330 minutes, including recesses   The academic time is 300 minutes.  There must be no more than 11 days for teacher PD, etc. taken from the 197 number.   For the divisions PPCI schools (4-day week), the day is 324 minutes long with 163 days being longer days.  Add in a few regular length days and the equivalent is 197 days in school over the course of a year.  I tried to keep this simple , so not to get into a whole discussion of PPCI philosophy!

Currently, our division has undertaken an entire review of our calendar, including 4 and 5 – day week schools.  The consultation process is underway with recommendations to  come shortly.  Initially, this calendar review was to determine if a 4 , 5 or combo.  day schedule would be preferred.  However, it quickly evolved into a review of student engagement, quality learning time, school day interuptions, etc.   Needless to say, a  significant amount of dialogue continues to be exchanged on this topic.

Our Director recently gave administrators an article on time in schools, by Larry Cuban.  You can read it here.   Cuban notes the following:

1.  How schools are resistant to change.

2. More school days does not necessarily mean better achievement.

3.  More school days does not mean underperforming schools will get better.  Some interesting points here.

4.  The quality of instruction and engaged learning is critical.

I found point 4 to be most noteworthy.  This discussion by Cuban agrees with Mike Schmoker’s elaboration in his book, “Results Now.”  Highly qulaified teachers that demonstrate high student engagement increase student learning significantly.

As for our calendar review, the outcomes are still in question, as discussion continues.   Cuban’s point on quality learning time and making it even better is an important discussion that needs to take place.  Consultation with teachers occurs at our annual convention this week.  We cannot change the length of the school year as the provincial government can only do that.  Actually, any change that deviates from the norm needs government approval as well.  Hmmmm, another roadblock?

A few things to ponder for my colleagues in the blogosphere.

What schedule does your district/province/state follow?

Do you know of any successes/increases towards student learning, where scheduling has been a factor?

Who would have thought TIME could generate so much discussion?

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    • murcha
    • November 27th, 2009

    Hi Dave, Time is possibly the foundation of so much involved in education. Organisation is a key skill that many of us as educationalists need to be aware of. In Victoria, Australia, teachers were given a pay increase last year, but that meant that we lost several student free days that we would normally have received. Three of the usual student free days MUST be taken at the beginning of the year before students return to school to allow organisaion, planning, professional development etc.
    We no longer get a student free report writing day at the end of the school year, and I am really feeling that at the moment as correction and reports are due in. As to school hours, I thoroughly agree with the engagement aspect. Students of mine are quite happy to come back to school (at night) from their homes in a virtual classroom, to work with their global school mates to discuss their projects, outcomes and requirements. I think as educationalists, that time at school needs to become flexible so that students and teachers can make the most of the 24/7/365 learning that can be theirs and this will become a trending pattern.

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