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January 22, 2007


Cathy Arnst

Many of the high-achieving parents I know worry about whether they are enrolling their kids in too many activities, and a study I wrote about in October from the American Academy of Pediatricians didn't help.It concluded that children today are overscheduled, stressed out and need more unstructured playtime. This week, an article in Time Magazine titled The Overscheduled Child Myth begs to differ. Writes author John Cloud:

Last year a team led by Joseph Mahoney of the Yale psychology department wrote a paper for the journal Social Policy Report showing that most of the scheduling is beneficial: kids' well-being tends to improve when they participate in extracurriculars. The paper notes that only 6% of adolescents spend more than 20 hours a week in organized activities. And there's no consistent evidence that even these enthusiasts are worse off. Instead they report better well-being and less drug use. They even eat meals with their parents more often than those who don't participate at all.

Along those lines, a new report from a think tank called Education Sector calls on schools to make both the school day and the school year longer. Currently, the national standard calls for 180 6-1/2 hour days, settled on in the 1960s. But students in Europe and Asia attend school anywhere from 190 to 240 days a year, usually until 5. And they have higher test scores.

Several states are experimenting with longer days and more of them, particularly for low-performing schools. The Education Sector report notes something that could get lost in the rush to more school hours, however:

Research reveals a complicated relationship between time and learning and suggests that improving the quality of instructional time is at least as important as increasing the quantity of time in school.

I think kids could easily handle more time in school if it kept them engaged. My 3rd grade daughter is in an afterschool program run by the PTA that goes until 6, and she complains when she doesn't get to go to it. Of course, it's mostly playtime with her friends, but they do set aside time for homework and offer many afterschool enrichment classes. Better there than at home watching TV or playing computer games--I think.

Anyone out there have experience with longer school days? It would be interesting to hear your thoughts.

05:26 PM


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i don't think schools should become extended. i'm a 10th grader myself and kids at my school loose alot of their attention around 2:05. the teachers also my have other things to do but teach us for a longer period of time. alot of the kids in my school (willingbor nj) will plan and simple skip or drop out of school lasts to long. i know for myself is the hours are extended i myself will leave school. its just to long.

Posted by: Elizabeth Pittman at February 25, 2007 07:44 PM

I think that the school day is long enough already. There is a saying that less is more and I believe that it is applicable in this instance. My kids are involved in many extracurricular activities such as dance and karate and they would not be able to do these things if the school day was extended. In addition, the quality of what is being taught and who is doing the teaching is what needs to be improved. We are always being told that other countries are doing things differently than we do things in the United States and that we are misguided in our approach. I would beg to differ with this opinion. The United States is responsible for more technological advancements, more humanitarian concerns and more job creation than any other country on the planet.

Longer school days will only serve to put more distance between child and parent and this is what is the real problem in America and throughout the world.

Posted by: BB at February 26, 2007 06:52 AM

I am a reporter for Weekly Reader, and I am doing an article debating the topic of extended hours at schools. If anyone has any comments about this, please e-mail me at Thank you.

Posted by: Jessica Livingston at March 8, 2007 11:39 AM

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