The Eight Hour Day?

The NYT has an article on what various US states are doing to lengthen the school day. I used to be a big fan of this plan (I think the PM still is), but the results from the class size literature make me more hesitant. Basically, we now know that reducing class size has diminishing marginal benefits, but constant marginal costs, and therefore that it isn’t sensible to keep reducing class sizes once they drop below the mid-20s. Similarly, it might be the case that lengthening the school day has diminishing marginal benefits (and the marginal costs are sure to be constant, if not increasing). So beyond 6 hours, it might be the case that it simply isn’t economically sensible to go for a longer day. Still, I’d like to see some research on the effects of longer school days on learning outcomes. Maybe some of the current state policies will create useful natural experiments for us.

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12 Responses to The Eight Hour Day?

  1. Daniel says:

    That said, surely without too much research better aligning work and school days makes sense.

    It surprises me so often how difficult we make things for ourselves. Why don’t we explore staggered starts to the school day as one method to help us better align the days of children and their parents?

    Many children find themselves in ‘after school care’ – both before and after care at schools is the biggest growth area when it comes to childcare funding and places. And, that makes even less economic sense because the learning is not supported as well as a school day in after school care and children are still doing 8am to 6pm days.

    Very few Australian children would be doing a simple 9am – 3.30pm day…even those not in after school care, think : music lessons, swimming, sports training…that longer day already exists.

  2. Sinclair Davidson says:

    I’d like to see the five days a week school plan. Today I’m home looking after school age children because the teachers are meeting or something. That’s all very well for Mrs D and myself, because I can work from home, but for many parents that must be a huge burden.

  3. derrida derider says:

    Depends what you mean by an 8 hour day. If its 8 hours of actual classes, I’m totally agin it. Kids get tired quicker than adults.

    Plus of course they gotta have time for fun. As any parent of high-school age kids can tell you, the workload imposed on them is already too heavy. I think its a disgrace to have kids staying up till midnight just to finish their homework and often argued with my kid’s teachers over this.

    But separately from that I agree with Sinclair – pupil-free days are an outrage. Don’t the teachers have long holidays to do their planning and training?

  4. Verdurous says:

    Young ones have short concentration spans and tire easily. Obviously this slowly changes as they age. But please don’t lengthen their days in class. There’s plenty of learnin’, growin’ and just being a kid to be done outside the school fence. Make the hours they are their count – but lets not eat into personal and family time.

  5. rudy says:

    The school day is already way too long. These are not adults we are talking about (for that matter, adults are not particularly productive after 6 or 7 hours).

    The homework load in the U.S. because of the testing mania here is already huge. Research seems to show no real benefit from it, either.

    My vote is for shorter school weeks and days for kids, and shorter work weeks and days for adults!

  6. Anni says:

    In Finland – where I went to school – a 7-hour-day was a norm at least in the upper comprehensive school (years 6-9) and not unusual before that. We had 8-hour days, too – they did feel very long, and the classes were always huge in my age group (b. 1968). But we did and they still do start school at age 7, which makes a difference.

    On the other hand, long-term daycare is also very common (and widely available) there for smaller children. And if a 7-year-old spends only 5 hours or so at school, he or she often has to have after-school day care until the parents are free to pick their child up after work. (I see there is a piece of news in today’s web Australian about long day care hours making children ‘disruptive’) I guess in Finland they see it more from the working parents’ point of view – in average families there just isn’t anyone available to take the children to school at 9 and pick them up at 3, so long days in school and daycare are taken as granted and in fact make the whole arrangement possible.

    But I seem to notice they are not doing too badly in international comparisons, the Finns. And they do have the long maternity leaves for when children are small.

    Not sure if there is any research there about the long school hours there, which I guess is what you were interested in –

  7. derrida derider says:

    Anni my understanding is that some Nordic and Germanic countries do have long school days, but the quid pro quo is very little homework. I could probably be reconciled to that. Was that what they did in Finland?

  8. Many of the Schools in the democratic Sudbury network of Schools around the world have elected to operate 8 or 9 hour days.

    While it operated in Queensland, The Booroobin Sudbury School from 1996 to 2003 and more latterly, The Booroobin Sudbury Democratic Centre of Learning from 2004 to 2006, decided it would operate 7 hours a day, although it was available and accessible by students 9 hours a day from 8am to 5pm.

    Since decisions in Sudbury model Schools (which are mostly located in the USA where the model of education commenced in 1968) are made jointly, based on Motions put to weekly School Meetings and voted on after debate by Students and Staff, and decided by a majority, they are are a strong indicator in those Schools of the value, importance and benefits that the Students gain from their enrolment in those Schools.

    Class sizes are irrelevant in Sudbury model Schools since attendance is by choice, and based on the interests, commitment and individual learning needs of the Students. Class sizes are small with students of a range of ages attending. Tuition by Staff is regularly one on one with Students.

    FYI, the Democratic Centre of Learning suspended its operation in July 2006 as a result of threats of criminal action and fines against Directors of the not for profit, self-funded organisation by the Queensland Minister for Education. The threats became real in mid November 2006 when a Summons was served on one of the Founders also a parent and annually elected Staff, who was just one of the many decision makers. The matter lingers on in the Magistrates Court. No brief of evidence has yet been produced.

  9. Anni says:

    dd – In my time there was quite a lot of homework I seem to remember. But then I am hardly objective (ask a child if there is too much homework and you know what the answer will be) and I don’t have anything to compare it with. And it was a long, long time ago…

  10. Paul says:

    Extend Infants/Primary school time by making sure all students took a full hour nap around lunch time.

    Will it improve them academically or just in sport ?

  11. Fabian says:

    Not directly related, but as a Sydneysider, I wonder if our fragile public transport system would be able to cope if we had schoolchildren and adults travelling home at around the same time? The billions of extra dollars needed to provide sufficient capacity on the bus and rail networks may alone be enough to ensure, in NSW at least, that such an idea never gets up.

  12. Borofkin says:

    Does anyone know of any research into teacher workload, hours worked, etc… ?

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