I’m always very appreciative of the Washington Post highlighting one of my reports. And the same is true for my latest report Time in School which was the focus of a post in the Washington Post’s blog The Answer Sheet. The Answer Sheet provided readers with a detailed overview of the main findings of the report that most U.S. schools are not required to provide fewer hours of instruction than schools in most other countries, even countries that traditionally outperform the U.S.
However, I am concerned about the overly simplistic interpretation of my report that time does not matter. Yes, the data shows that simply adding more instructional time will not automatically improve student achievement. What gets lost is that adding time can be an effective tool to improve student achievement especially for students from low-income families.
Keep in mind, though, that the time must be used wisely. There must be a specific purpose for increasing the time students are in school whether it is to use ti to provide more content or for extra help so students are given more opportunity to grasp the content they are already expected to know. Simply providing students the same content with the same instruction over a longer period of time is not likely improve student achievement.
If your district is considering expanding learning time they should ask: How do we want our students to benefit from more learning time? And how would the extra time be used to improve student achievement? Without answers to these questions, simply expanding learning time is unlikely to improve student achievement. On the flip side, providing additional instruction to students who need it could help those students overcome some of the challenges they encounter outside of school. – Jim Hull