If students are in school longer, teachers can teach more and students are subsequently bound to learn more, right?
Somewhere in every discussion of K-12 school improvement someone reaches the conclusion that adding more days to the school year and more hours to the school day will fix the problem of lagging test scores and national disgrace on the international achievement testing front. After all, if students are in school longer, teachers can teach more and students are subsequently bound to learn more, right?
Silva (2012) raises questions about the idea of added time as a cure-all for public education. While she supports the idea of extending time, she also notes that the time needs to be used creatively and concludes that the effectiveness of time is ultimately up to the teacher. With that, she may be on to something. Could it be that effective use of time depends on the teacher? To an extent, it does. Teachers must learn to meet the needs of diverse students in diverse ways. Unfortunately, many may interpret Silva's comments to mean that teachers are the root cause of all educational issues and that since they seemingly refuse to teach better, the addition of more time would surely yield improved results.
However, to take that stance is to take a scattergun approach to education reform. The idea of the scattergun is that it spreads the pellets around assuming that some of them are bound to hit the target. So, it is with the just-add-time approach to educational reform. If students are in a classroom long enough, the theory goes, they will learn something. Keep them longer and chances are they will learn more. This is based on statistics alone: after all 3 percent of 200 is more than 3 percent of 50.
More time may be helpful, but greater results will be achieved by allowing teachers the tools they need to increase time on task. If teachers were relieved of the loads of administratively trivial duties, allowed to discipline appropriately, and given professional development time (rather than more work time) to reflectively create diverse learning experiences and reduce learning overload and burnout, the gains would be enormous. Time is helpful, but time-on-task is meaningful. The goal ought to be to increase time-on-task rather than simply shooting the scattergun of time at educational reform.
Silva, E. (2012). Off the clock: What more time can (and can't) do for school turnaraounds. Washington, DC: Education Sector.