The school year, and the school day for that matter, are both way too long in Oregon. Students are not being served well by forced attendance for 172 days each year. While at school, many students are actually in class for six hours or more (including study hall). This is simply too much. Studies have repeatedly shown no correlation between the amount of time in class and performance in specific subject matter.
Whatever happened to the notion that education begins in the home? Parents should spend a couple hours each day helping their children learn. That is place to start. With that happening we can cut at least an hour off the early morning start times. No child should be forced to get to school any earlier than 9:00 AM. Once at school focus should be on things that can not be done at home, like gym class, band, cheer, student government, industrial arts, etc. Few homes have the resources or the number of children present to replicate these activities. Some math, English, history, and science could be handled at school, but these classes should not be any longer than 40 minutes considering the attention span of today’s students. Most of the time should be spent presenting an overview with focus on the details left up to the student to handle at his or her own pace. The students must be home before it is dark and before there is too little time to play, so students should be dismissed at 2:00 PM or earlier.
And why are students forced to attend classes 172 days each year? This is simply ridiculous. If you look at what colleges do, they have the answer. Meet a couple times a week for under an hour and the rest of the time is free for the student to pursue learning on his or her own or with help from a teaching assistant. And only meet from the end of September to sometime in early December — 8 – 10 weeks max — and repeat a couple times. Teachers could keep office hours for students who needed extra help. Using this collegiate model school should not be in session any longer than 33 weeks per year. If you allow for holidays and vacation time, then, the optimum length of a school year is no more than 165 days with instruction time strictly limited to 6 hours per day maximum.
The school calendar is based on an agrarian society, but with less than 1% of our population actually on the farm, this makes no sense. Students are no longer needed to work the fields, harvest the grain, and slaughter the cattle. We can easily cut days from the current school schedule just through efficiency alone. Students have access to the Internet, where almost any question can be answered, and so more of their time learning can be spent at home on line or in the local library. There is simply no need for the massive amounts of wasted time in class that are now occurring throughout the state.
And think of the money we can save. We only have to pay the teachers for 165 days of work! They are now getting paid for 190 days of work. This could be quite a savings. And the heat and cooling for the school buildings, the maintenance, everything not being used is money in the bank. Many districts have gone to the four day week with little or no ill-effects.
Instruction time can and should be reduced. Now.