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How long is the optimal school day?

Some school officials want a longer school day, some a longer school year. But they can run up against political and parental realities. What do you think?

By Local Editors  |  January 19, 2011; 11:34 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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It all depends on the age group. Older children can tolerate longer hours than younger children. Time for exercise is probably more important than a long school day for all children.

Posted by: chicagostanford | January 20, 2011 7:23 AM

Why do you include 15-minute intervals in the survey? Those are irrelevant and ruin the results.

Posted by: tina5 | January 20, 2011 7:32 AM

Another thing to consider is the area. In the northeast we have such short days in the winter there is little time for exercise and play outdoors.

Posted by: chicagostanford | January 20, 2011 7:37 AM

I don't think the only key is the number of hours a student spends in school but the time of day that school starts and ends in respect to students' age, sleep patterns and sleep requirements.
Small children are very often early risers and their attention span shrinks throughout the day. Teens require at least as much sleep as very small children but their sleep patterns are disrupted by the very early hours at which high schools begin classes.
Why not flip the hours with teens starting classes an hour later and elementary aged children starting an hour earlier?

Posted by: jmk833 | January 20, 2011 7:46 AM

The optimal school "day" is 24 hours. The brain does not function only between 8 and 3. In fact, for some, those hours are the least productive cognitive hours. Children learn better at different times during the day. School should be 24/7/365.25. Children should have access to school material and course content anywhere and anytime. It is the 21st century after all, not the 19th -which is the model for all of today's school "days".

Virtual online schools are the way of the future. And the sooner parents, teachers, administrators and reporters realize that (by actually doing research) the better for our educational system.

The optimal school day? All the time.

Posted by: topwriter | January 20, 2011 8:21 AM

The commute and homework time has to be considered as well as daily personal needs. Everyone likes to forget the growing children need sleep, time to eat, time to socialize, and time to exercise. Do the math:
30 min rise&shine&out to bus
1 hr commute in
6 hrs school
1 hr commute home
2 hrs sports/physical fitness
30 min dinner
2 hrs hw
30 min reading
9.5 hrs sleep for teen
That leaves 2 hrs per day to work, interact with family members, attend religious ed, youth group etc. Do we really need to take half of that for more inefficient school? How about cutting some of the inefficiency out?

Posted by: LGMNY | January 20, 2011 9:33 AM

Students should attend school twice a week for not more than six hours per day.

The rest of the week should be spent doing eLearning on the computer in courses taught by the best of the best teachers.

When they are actually in school, students should get science labs, individualized attention and team projects that focus either on weak areas or on areas where they excell.

Schools spend too much time and money doing routine things that computers could do better and cheaper and not enough on indivualized coaching.

Right now, our schools are primarily a babysitting operation that often deprives students of a real education.

Massive resource allocation is needed to enable our education system to help students develop the skills required by the 21st Century world.

We could do better with 20% of the number of current teachers if we empowererd the best teachers with technology and the ability to focus on individual problems and strengths.

Posted by: jfv123 | January 20, 2011 9:49 AM

the ideal school day would be from dawn to dusk. As long as the delinquents are in school, they can't run over pedestrians. It seems the little cretins enjoy riding quad runners on trails while going 15 MPH or faster.
They ruin the trails and are careless about people walking their dogs.

Posted by: sperrico | January 20, 2011 11:24 AM

Good comments, all.

Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) "starts" the day at midnight and ends the day just before the next midnight. Sunrise and Sunset vary throughout the year by Latitude (thanks chicagostanford). Yet topwriter, who I suspect I have worked for several times, is technically correct about the "24" hour day. In a way, the 24/7/365.2492 "culture" is based on a fiction because the length of the "year" is corrected after the fact with leap days and leap seconds. Adults believe in the time value of money like children believe in Santa Claus; but never grow out of it.

That said, it is 2011 and anybody can "do the math" - The Naval Observatory does it for you, and so does NOAA (data serv.)

Posted by: gannon_dick | January 20, 2011 11:48 AM

In most endeavors undertaken there are what I call "overhead costs". In fixing a faucet on the kitchen sink one has to get out the necessary tools, then put them away when the job is complete. Similarly on grocery shopping... we have the time required to get to and return from the grocery store.

We need to start looking at school the same way. For example, a longer school day "amortizes" the overhead of going to and returning from school over a longer period of time. Does this mean more time for phys ed, music and art? Does it mean perhaps a four day school week for the students? (Parents won't stand for the scheduling difficulties this presents). But for many businesses longer work days and four day weeks have proven very attractive to employees.

The productive time is the time spent active in school whether that means extra athletics, specialized interesting classes or whatever. Right now the overhead of going to and returning from school is higher than it should be relative to the return on the students time.

The suggestion of a previous poster to limiting school to two days/week and using computerized methodologies during the remaining time merits investigation.

Posted by: billsecure | January 20, 2011 11:58 AM

I am not so much concerned that the school day must be lengthened drastically, as thinking that the school year is where the solution may lie. If, as many commentators have indicated, that age appropriate considerations should be factored in, adults should be looking at suppling older children with the reality that a "work" year is not 9 1/2 to 10 months long.

We are no longer a manual farming nation, it's time to move our children into the current realities of life in the technological world.

Posted by: winlockcoed | January 20, 2011 12:02 PM

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