Increasing Instructional Time

Much has been recently written on the PISA(Program for International Student Assessment) test results, which were released last month.  PISA is distributed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (based in Paris) to 15 year old students in most industrialized nations.   As The New York Times reports, students in Shanghai ranked first by a substantial margin, while “the United States came in 23rd or 24th in most subjects.”

This is disappointing news.  As President Obama recently stated, whoever “out-educates us today is going to out-compete us tomorrow.”  If the PISA test is any indication of our current standing in the global education sphere, we have cause for concern.  Thomas Friedman of the NY Times claims that we have “been getting out-educated” for years and asserts that the only way to bring students in line with international standards is through reform.  He’s not alone in calling for drastic change.  Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan says:

Incremental change isn’t going to get us where we need to go.  We’ve got to be much more ambitious.  We’ve got to be disruptive.  You can’t keep doing the same stuff and expect different results.

The good news is that some of that change is already occurring.  A recent Newsweek article highlighted a network of schools that, since its inception, has been embracing change and seeing results.  We’ve mentioned  KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools in the past and commented on their approach to education, particularly their focus on extending the school day and abandoning traditional school calendars by requiring summer school programs for all students. 

We’ve long advocated mitigating the well-documented effects of summer learning loss by adding instructional time to the school year.  Our own Dr. Malbert Smith has written on the consequences of our current traditional calendar, which limits educational time to far too few hours a year. 

Our own contribution to the crippling effects of summer learning loss is to provide educators and students with access to educational resources year round.  Find a Book, for example, allows students to match themselves to targeted texts within their areas of interest.  On the math side, Math at Home allows parents and students to select targeted math resources based on the textbook in which they’re currently working.  If you have not yet used them with your student, be sure to give them a try.

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