Pros & Cons of Lengthening the School Day

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Extending the school day is a hot topic for educational policy making bodies. The driving force behind the proposal to lengthen the school day is the assertion that more instructional time would yield greater academic gains. Some research indicates there may be slight academic benefits to extending the school day. However, the slight benefits must be weighed by the potential costs, which may include expenses incurred by the school system, the disruption of afternoon extracurricular activities, and the consideration that an extended day might not be a good idea for all grade levels.

1 Pro -- The Availability of More Instructional Time

Proponents of longer school days say more instructional time is needed to increase student achievement.

The most obvious reason for extending the school day is to include more time for instruction. Given the demand on teachers to teach an ever-increasing body of content standards, teachers need more instructional time. A significant portion of instructional time in the school year is already taken away for standardized testing. Simply increasing the amount of time that students attend class each day can make up for that lost time and provide needed time to teach, reteach and assess.

2 Pro -- More Time Available For Planning

Increased planning time for teachers positively  affects the quality of instruction.

Sometimes plans to lengthen the school day include plans to reduce, by one, the number of days per week that students will attend school. If this is the case, teachers would have the opportunity to plan on the day that they are not teaching. Adequate planning is a component in effective teaching. Providing a teacher with the opportunity for additional planning time may positively affect the quality of instruction and, therefore, contribute to increased student achievement.

3 Con -- Interference with Extracurricular Activities

Students need

Extracurricular activities usually occur immediately after school and, in some cases and aren’t complete until 10 p.m. or later, given certain transportation complications. Even if transportation does not contribute to a significant demand on student time, if students begin their extracurricular activities later in the day, they will have even less time to complete homework or study for the next day's lessons. Moreover, an increase in in-school hours reduces the amount of time students have available for work, relaxation or other activities that might enhance personal growth.

4 Con -- Increase in Financial Burden on System

Extra funds are required for longer daily operations.

Lengthening the school day may have a significant effect on a school system's budget in at least two ways. First, extending the school day would increase the number of hours that teachers work, therefore, increasing their pay. Second, an extended school day would produce an increase in daily operating expense of the buildings. If the hours were extended, there would be greater expense associated with heating and cooling the buildings.

5 Con -- Logistical and Financial Problems for Parents

Child care on non-school days may be an extra expense for parents and guardians.

Some plans that increase the number of hours in a school day often are accompanied by plans to reduce the number of school days in each week. For instance, a school week may consist of only four days, commonly Monday through Thursday, but students will attend from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. This plan brings about the potential for logistical and financial problems related to child care on the fifth day.

Katherine Bradley began writing in 2006. Her education and leadership articles have been published on, Montessori Leadership Online and the Georgia Educational Researcher. Bradley completed a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Mercer University in 2009.