This year, Chicago public schools students will spend more time at school, anywhere from seven to seven and a half hours, up from less than six in previous years (full article here).
The teachers' union believes the school day should be better, not longer, with the specific addition of art and PE. The public schools agreed and added those classes in, but are there really substantive changes? What of the rest of the day, where students are subjected to never-ending test-prep and multiple-choice questions? Is the curriculum more responsive to student interest and abilities, or is it still the same lockstep grind under the Common Core Standards? How does an eight-year-old sit in a classroom for seven hours straight?
Longer school day advocates are basing their push on successful international schools that have both longer school days and school years, and they base their academics on the strict skill-and-drill models from China. Ironically, China is moving away from this model to a more creative model that fosters more innovation.
Square pegs, round holes. If we admitted as a nation what we really believed about schooling, or clarified it to ourselves at least, schools might change dramatically. As it stands, we will continue to blindly grope around, implementing quick fixes from other countries until we actually solidify what it means to educate and what our goals are here in the US. Until we clearly articulate our pedagogical philosophy and stand by it (for example, not only do we say education is important for ALL students but we actually provide resources for every district in equal/fair measure to make that happen instead of continually underfunding education and making the poorest districts with the most need do more with less), these longer days and re-worked standards are just lipstick on a pig.
And that ain't pretty.