Improving Our Schools: Scheduling

Once upon a time, in the long ago year of 2010, I tried to share some thoughts on how to improve the U.S. educational system.  I made a reasonable start, sharing some ways to make the funding of our school system more rational, but unfortunately, time got away from me, and I wasn’t able to finish the series as I had planned. But, not being one to let a good idea slip away, I’ve come back to the concept of improving the educational process.  As I’ve spent most of my (admittedly, still rather young) life in school of some sort and would like to become an educator at some point in the future, it is a passion of mine.  So, with that explanation of why this personal finance blog is dabbling in educational issues out of the way, let’s get right into the meat of the article…

Improving the Academic Schedule

One issue worth looking at closer in order to improve the academic schedule.  The current arrangement for when we have our students learning leaves much to be desired, both in terms of the day to day schedule, and the overall yearly schedule.  A few tweaks to the schedule could make a world of difference, tweaks like…

1. End Summer Vacation: I realize by even writing these words, I’ve probably made enemies of everyone under 18 in the country, but hear me out.  Here’s the problem with summer vacation: the same things that make it so appealing to kids (a long period of time when they don’t have to study, aren’t tested, and generally don’t have to use their brains) makes it destructive to the educational process.  To help students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, we should end the practice of having a long break in middle of the year and replace it with smaller breaks throughout the year.  A break for a week (or less) every month or so would be much less destructive to the student’s educational process than losing three months every year.  And speaking of the how much time students spend out of the classroom…

2. Have Children Attend More Days of School: If I didn’t make enemies of the children of this nation with that last suggestion, this one aught to do the trick.  Again, there is a method behind the madness: most of the school systems around the world have longer school years than the U.S.  With 180 days of attendance, students in the U.S. spend less than half the year in the classroom.  With that sort of schedule, it’s no wonder we have trouble sharing all the information we want the students to learn.  Most school systems in the world have their students learning for more days throughout the year, and the students don’t seem to suffering terribly so as a result.

3. Delay the Start of the School Day: Alright, now it’s time for me to improve my reputation with the students before they form a lynch mob.  Let’s be honest, the schedule we follow for our schools is a bit unusual, getting up quite early (frequently starting at 8 a.m. or even earlier) and then leaving in the middle of the afternoon, usually before any parents have gotten off work.  By bumping back the start of the school day just an hour or so, it’s possible to get much better attendance and generally improve the school experience.  Start the school day later and students, particularly teenagers, will arrive more refreshed and ready to learn.  Speaking of changing the school day itself…

4. Lengthening the School Day:We’re back to reasons that U.S. school students will want my head.  Having more time will enable teachers to share more information and make the lessons more meaningful.  Now, we don’t want to make the days too long, of course; there’s only so much material that students can absorb in a day, and trying to share more information won’t do more than overwhelm them and cause problems as they learn.  But an extra hour, used to extend the time that teachers can use to share their lesson plans, could potentially make a world of difference.

It’s amazing what a few changes in a schedule can do.  How would you shift the school schedule to improve the educational process?

2 Responses to Improving Our Schools: Scheduling

  1. As a teacher, I don’t have a problem with anything you suggest, but you would have to pay me more. My salary is based on x number of days and hours of school. If you lengthen that, you will have to pay more for teachers. The cities and states are going through a budget crisis where class size is increasing because they cannot afford the current number of teachers. How are you going to pay for the change?

    • @krantcents: Well, first off, kudos to you for being a teacher. Always nice to speak to someone who’s working to educate the future.

      To answer your question, I discussed the issue of how to handle school funding in my first ‘Improving Our Schools’ post, http://www.theamateurfinancier.com/blog/improving-our-schools-funding/ There, I proposed that we should eliminate the property taxes that are the major source of public school funding (and have numerous issues associated with them) and replace that with either an income or sales tax specifically to fund the school system. (I made several other suggestions, from dividing the money taken in by this tax equitably among the students to promoting more competition amongst schools.)

      Now, given the current economic climate, I’m not sure how well a new tax like this would go over. But, it could be set at a level high enough to provide for the suggested changes in the teacher’s hours (and to increase teachers’ salary levels in general). But that’s a subject for a future post.

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