Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Longer is Not Always Better

In Longer School Days Coming? from No Margins by ejr, she states,

“I'm not against longer school days or longer school years; I work year-round anyway. But I am against hoping against hope that somehow a longer school day or year will make a difference. Curricula need to be re-evaluated, standards may even need to be reconsidered, and classroom teachers as well as school staffs and administrators have to be better prepared to think differently and with the long view about improving the educational experience for students.”

I totally agree with Elaine. I don’t believe that the length of the day makes as much of a difference as the quality of education given in a day. I have seen too many teachers give their students busy work while they take on the role of babysitter. How will these students improve or grow in knowledge if they just do the same things, only for a longer period of time. Just like the saying goes, “It isn’t quantity but quality.”

I feel that we need to do a better job with evaluating and training teachers to give a quality education. We also need to train teachers how to cope with the burden of all the paperwork while teaching quality lessons. I know that we teach quality in colleges, but when overwhelmed with the paperwork and red tape of every day responsibilities, it seems as if quality is the first thing to go.

I have a problem when choosing curriculum becomes a political choice rather than what is in the best interest of the students. Many decision makers will say that it isn’t so but many of us in education has seen this happen. How many textbooks were chosen for the state because of politics? How many people on state school boards actually know what is going on in the schools and look at what is in the best interest of the students and not the state. How many politicians are making decisions about what is going on in schools when they have no idea what is going on in the schools? How many politicians have spent a few days in the classroom to understand what is actually going on?

As head of the department, I watched while it took three years to get rid of a terrible teacher. Three years is a long time in a student’s life. Three years that a group of students wasted their time and missed out on a quality education. The system needs to be overhauled if it takes that long to get rid of a bad teacher. No wonder that parents and politicians blame the schools. But they also need to take in account politics and lawsuits. We had to document all the bad teaching so this teacher didn’t turn around and sue the school. Maybe it is just me, but that is ridiculous. After the first year of evaluation, the teacher was put on an improvement plan for the second year. Then the second year, she didn’t improve so she was put on probation for the third year and finally suspended from teaching. Even after the suspension she got paid until the school board decided to terminate her employment. I don’t know many other jobs that you would be given three years if you did a terrible job.

Even if we increase the length of the day, and we still give garbage teaching, what are we accomplishing? I’m not saying all teachers are bad or that all schools have terrible curriculum but if we don’t look at the big picture, the effective teachers and the effective curriculum will be buried under all the other junk. As taxpayers, we should expect the most bang for our buck and that doesn’t mean just more time. In order for our students to be successful, we need to improve the quality of the schools and not just the quantity of seat time.

Original image: 'Teaching is not Rocket Science' by: Dean Shareski


Dave Chamberlain said...

I couldn't agree more.

It isn't the length of the day, many times the students are burned out by the time the day comes to an end, making it longer wouldn't help. Making the time spent more meaningful is what counts.

I also agreed about the choice of curricula being a problem when it is a political choice. I've seen a huge issue where a new curriculum is adopted, but no training is given to teachers to use it. Anyone can produce a document using typewriter skills within a wordprocessor, but they will be more productive if they use wordprocessing skills. A teacher can pick up any set of materials and use it, but are they using it the way the material is intended to be used?

We see that problem with educational technology all of the time. Teachers are told to start integrating technology and are told what the tools are, but have no idea how to use them. They often become replacements, add-ons, and afterthoughts.

I wouldn't want to go to the doctor and have them give me a shot of something they didn't understand just because "the research shows" that the drug is beneficial.

teachin' said...

I fully agree with everything you wrote in this post - to me, the only reason to extend the school day would be to add in another elective to break up the academic classes more (I teach Language Arts; I just believe that kids need electives and a lot of schools are cutting them in favor of more math and reading).

However, you didn't address the issue of a longer school YEAR, and that I think would be a great thing. At-risk students lose so much ground in the summer, at least in reading (possibly other areas too, I just don't know). And we're no longer an agriculturally based society in which kids are needed at home to work on the farm for three months of the year. What are your feelings on extending the year rather than the day?

loonyhiker said...

@Dave I worry about some of these new drugs that are on the market and we really don't know the long term effects they may really have on the body. As for technology, I'm having trouble getting some teachers to see that some of the tools can be used instead of some of the outdated strategies they are using (that didn't work)and these can be more effective. I think the opinions of those who have experience using them should carry more weight than any study only shown on paper. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

loonyhiker said...

@teachin For my special ed students, I would have loved year round schooling with short breaks between terms. Many times I have worked with my students and their parents during the summer (with no pay) so they didn't lose ground.