The Final Bell: Thoughts on School Day Length

During the discussion on how to improve Detroit Schools, one man said that, although he does not necessarily like the concept of charter schools, they have some good ideas which he would like to instate. However, the policy he was referring was longer school days.           

As a future teacher myself, many of my friends have done student teaching. Though they are college kids who are accustomed to thriving on a lack of sleep, by the time they get back from school they look exhausted and still need to grade papers and prepare assignments. A seven hour day at school is really a ten hour day after commuting, grading papers and preparing lessons. Another hour of school would be another hour away from either their personal refreshment and sleep, or the amount of time they spend giving feedback while grading or preparing for the next day.

A longer day would be difficult for students as well. One teacher pointed out that her students are already more distracted after lunch, and are often not very attentive by the time the last bell rings. If they were to sit for another hour, it is questionable how much more they would retain. One study found that students were on task for about one-third of the hours spent in school. Perhaps using more of that time to provide a quality education, rather than aiming for another hour or two, would be wiser.

Longer school days come with a high cost for the government and businesses as well. Base pay for teachers would need to increase proportionately to the length of the school day. This would obviously cost the districts more, but lengthening the school day could also have a negative effect on the businesses that rely on the ordinary length of the school day or the school year to allow them to employ student workers in the afternoon or evening.

Many people, including President Obama, have called for longer school days as a component of school reform. It is an issue in contract negotiations across the country. In the end, I believe that longer school days will cost more and be harder on teachers and students. Perhaps this is one option that we could pass up.


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