ERIC Identifier: ED259450
Publication Date: 1984-00-00
Author: Ellis, Thomas I.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Educational Management Eugene OR.
Extending the School Year and Day. ERIC Clearinghouse on
Educational Management: ERIC Digest, Number Seven.
Arguments for lengthening the school day and/or school year assume that more
time devoted to learning will yield proportionally higher achievement scores.
Research data reveal, however, that the correlation between time and achievement
is far slighter than expected and suggest that the quality of time spent in
learning is more important than the quantity. Moreover, the costs of extending
school time are disproportionate to any resulting instructional gains.
HOW MUCH TIME DO AMERICAN CHILDREN SPEND IN SCHOOL?
In the United States, the typical school day lasts six hours and the school
year numbers 180 days. In contrast, other industrialized countries, such as
England, provide up to eight hours of schooling a day, 220 days a year.
The National Commission on Excellence in Education was concerned that the
average school in the United States provides only 22 hours of academic
instruction per week. These findings prompted the commission to recommend "more
effective use of the existing school day, a longer school day, or a longer
school year." But the assumption underlying this proposal, that more time in
school would increase student learning, has not gone unchallenged.
WILL LENGTHENING THE TIME SPENT IN SCHOOL IMPROVE STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT?
Research indicates that the relationship between time and learning is complex
and problematic. First, a distinction must be drawn between time allocated for
instruction, time engaged in instructional activities, and time spent
successfully completing instructional activities. Only the last of these has
been found to have a direct correlation with achievement. Yet even the
relationship between additional time on task and student achievement is less
apparent than researchers expected.
A recent study found that an additional 60 minutes a day allocated to reading
comprehension alone would be required to raise test scores by a quarter of a
standard deviation, that is, 25 points on a SAT-style test scored from 200-800
points (Karweit l982).
Another study of Stanford Achievement Test scores among third graders found
the correlation to be surprisingly low; only 2 percent of the variance in
reading scores was associated with percentage of time on task (Rossmiller l983).
It is questionable, therefore, whether feasible increases in the time students
spend in school can substantially improve their achievement.
HOW MUCH EXISTING SCHOOL TIME IS DEVOTED TO INSTRUCTION?
According to Rossmiller, a typical school year of 1,080 hours may result in
as few as 364 hours of time on task, after deducting time for noninstructional
activities, process activity (distributing material, keeping discipline),
absenteeism, and other time not on task.
Such findings suggest that the emphasis should be placed on the quality,
rather than the quantity, of the time spent in school. Administrators should
strive to reduce the amount of school time that is either lost or diverted to
noninstructional activities before extending the school day or year.
HOW CAN SCHOOL TIME BE USED MORE EFFECTIVELY?
Stuck and Wyne (l982) offer useful suggestions for strengthening the
correlation between learning time and achievement. Teachers should show students
clearly what they are expected to learn and how to measure accomplishment. In
addition, teachers should assign tasks at an appropriate level of difficulty,
select learning tasks resulting in a high level of success, employ objective
feedback, require frequent responses, and ensure overlap of curriculum and
To increase the opportunity to learn, teachers should begin and end lessons
on time, reduce transition time between tasks, minimize waste time, and closely
monitor student learning.
WHAT OTHER REASONS ARE THERE FOR INCREASING TIME SPENT IN SCHOOL?
Other arguments exist for lengthening the school day or year besides the
correlation between time in school and student achievement. For example, Thomson
(l983), executive director of the National Association of Secondary School
Principals, claims a longer school year is needed to accommodate the
requirements of the information age.
Many teachers argue that they need more time to cover the necessary material.
Others cite nonacademic reasons; the increasing number of working mothers would
welcome a program allowing students to stay in school until the end of the work
day. Such time could be used for activities ranging from remedial labs and
gymnastics to computer electives.
HOW MUCH WOULD IT COST?
According to Odden (l983) of the Education Commission of the States,
extending the school day to eight hours or lengthening the school year from l80
to 200 days would cost the nation more than $20 billion annually. In a time of
budget cuts, school districts would be hard put to find such additional funding.
The cost effectiveness of extending school time also is questionable. Levin
(l983) suggests that, rather than extending the school year and day enough to
raise costs $500 or more per pupil, a school district might do better to
increase teacher salaries, hire remedial specialists, or obtain new equipment.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Anderson, Lorin W. "Learning Time and Educational Effectiveness." In
CURRICULUM REPORT, National Association of Secondary School Principals.
December, 1980. ED 210 780.
Caldwell, Janet H., William G. Huitt, and Anna O. Graeber. "Time Spent in
Learning: Implications From Research." ELEMENTARY SCHOOL JOURNAL 82 (May
Holsinger, Donald B. TIME, CONTENT AND EXPECTATIONS AS PREDICTORS OF SCHOOL
ACHIEVEMENT IN THE USA AND OTHER DEVELOPED COUNTRIES: A REVIEW OF IEA EVIDENCE.
Washington, D.C.: National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1982. ED 227
Karweit, Nancy. TIME ON TASK: A RESEARCH REVIEW. Report No. 332. Baltimore,
MD and Washington, D.C.: Center for Social Organization of Schools, Johns
Hopkins University, and National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1982. ED
Levin, Henry. "About Time for Educational Reform," as cited in "Length of
School Day and Year." ERS BULLETIN 11 (December 1983):8.
Mazzarella, Jo Ann. "Longer Day, Longer Year: Will They Make a Difference?"
PRINCIPAL 64 (May 1984):14-20.
Odden, Allan. SCHOOL FINANCE REFORM: PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE. Issuegram 26.
Denver, CO: Education Commission of the States, 1983. ED 235 589.
Rossmiller, Richard A. "Time-on-Task: A Look at What Erodes Time for
Instruction." NASSP BULLETIN 67 (October 1983):45-49.
Stuck, Gary B., and Marvin D. Wyne. "Time and Learning: Implications for the
Classroom Teacher." THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL JOURNAL 83 (September 1982): 67-75.
Thomson, Scott D. "School Year." NASSP NEWSLETTER 31 (November 1983):2.