Please tell me that this fellow’s thoughts are not echoed by more than three other Americans: http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/05/10/granderson.yearround.school/index.html?hpt=C2
Granderson’s piece focuses on his premise that American students should be going to school year-round. I more than vehemently disagree with this stance; I abhor the fact that it’s even still considered. I abhor this fact because it completely and totally distracts from what really needs to happen: systemic change.
Let’s start our discussion of how off Granderson is with something small: the estimates of a financial gain from improved math and science scores. The estimates of a $41 trillion gain if math and science scores went up 25 points over 20 years are completely unsubstantiated and are, wait for iiiiiiit: estimates. Anyone can estimate anything. Never trust an estimate.
A tasty gem (this is low-hanging fruit): “Then there’s this: Harris Cooper, a summer-learning expert at Duke University, pored over a century’s worth of data and found that each summer, our kids lose about a month of progress in math and that low-income students lose as much as three months’ worth of reading comprehension.”
Why is that? Do kids forget how to play video games, or how to talk to their friends, or the latest info about their favorite celebrity, after a month or two or three hiatus from them? Of course not.
This is a massive logical leap that lands on shaky, if not non-existent, ground. Why do these kids forget and need to be retaught? Maybe because they never really learned it.
I bet they don’t forget that 2+2=4. That’s because this is ingrained knowledge that has become a truth the students know to their core. Maybe the teaching needs to be better. Maybe, just maybe, we need more depth and less breadth.
Furthermore, what data or evidence is there that going to school longer makes for ‘smarter’ or more successful students? Here’s another gem:
“Cutting into summer vacation won’t solve all our education problems — most research points toward the quality of the teacher as the biggest influencer — but more class time could help. At 180 days, we have one of the shortest school years of the countries tested. South Korea, for example, has 220 school days, and a No. 2 ranking in math. Finland is first in math and science at 190 days.”
More class time ‘could’ help? At least he is willing to not take too firm a stance on the premise his entire article is based on (Waffling, what?). Remember, beforehand he said: “Instead of year-round school as curiosity, I think it’s time it becomes a government-enforced standard.” (Waffling, whaaat?)
So should it be a standard because it ‘could’ help? Seriously? If you use the same logic, you can say it could help schools to do better if the federal government used funding as motivation for bringing up schools- so we should institute such a program as a government-enforced standard.
Oh wait. We already did. That worked famously. Begone, No Child Left Behind!
But look closer. It’s like this fellow doesn’t even know what he’s saying. His firm stance is obviously to support year-round school, but he owns up to the fact that most research indicates teacher quality is the biggest influence on student success. (Influencer? Really?) And he points out that Finland is 1st!!!! and they have a school year of 190 days. Ten days more than ours. Big difference?
I wonder if he knows that in Finland, compulsory schooling starts at age 7 and they are required to go to school for 9 years.
That’s far less time spent in school than here.
So his question: Why is it so wrong to suggest structuring the summer around more education, especially when the amount students receive is no longer enough to keep them competitive on the world stage? is really just completely off track and pointless.
Again, is it REALLY an issue of ‘enough’?
Maybe there’s something else going on beyond time spent in school.
I’m not a violent guy, but I want to slap this next point that Granderson makes. “You know what’s un-American? Not being innovative. Refusing to think outside the box.”
Wow. So keeping kids in THE EXACT SAME SYSTEM THAT IS FAILING THEM, with THE EXACT SAME TEACHERS THAT ARE FAILING THEM, while teaching parents that SCHOOLS ARE THE END ALL AND BE ALL OF EDUCATION is ‘innovative’ and ‘thinking outside the box’?
No, the idea that students should spend MORE TIME IN SCHOOL learning to hate learning and developing a certainty that education equals boredom is not innovative.
In fact, the year-round school idea is nearly 200 years old. Hermansen and Gove, in their book THE YEAR ROUND SCHOOL, showed that year-round school was being considered in the 1800s as a solution to crowding, funding problems and educational issues.
In a report by the NEA (!!!) that was released in 1958, it was shown that every school that had adopted a year-round calendar eventually discarded the program.
This consistently debunked idea had a rebirth in the ‘60s, but was shot down again.
Why do people refuse to get the point? (The fact that Granderson’s innovative idea is not really so innovative aside…)
There’s obviously something else that needs to be done. Our current system works for a large chunk of the population—if you agree that being able to get into college is a sign of success in education. But it doesn’t work for another large chunk.
And sending these kids to school for longer periods of time is going to fix it for the other chunk?
What a bunch of hooey and a totally dishonest approach to helping our students. When daft arguments like this are advertised and rehashed continually (well, our current school scheduling system is based on the outdated planting and harvesting seasons, so because it’s old it doesn’t work… and stuff) the TRUE issues of irresponsible funding and incompetent teachers and unions riding roughshod over students’ primacy are ignored.
The final nail in Granderson’s piece’s coffin is this: “Today, if you want to keep your child in a learning environment during the summer, you most likely have to pony up hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to enroll them in a program or two.”
He also said, “In retrospect, I would have been better served being in school,” rather than having a summer to fool around and do whatever he wanted.
I think, Mr. Granderson, that you would have been better served by your family, parents or parent turning your HOME into a learning environment—which is overwhelmingly what most successful students have- which is a major element of their success. Family support and investment.
I’m going to skip Granderson’s conspiracy theories about summer athletic programs and athletic apparel companies. This might even be one of the more valid points of his piece- but it’s off topic.
He makes a great point to end his piece, although it essentially pulls the floor out from under his ultimate premise. He says, “But the biggest obstacle to re-evaluating summer vacations is our love of the familiar. As humans, we are naturally averse to change…” It’s true; we are averse to change. But forcing kids into the SAME system for three more months, wouldn’t really be change, would it?
No, change would be more along the lines of scrapping the existing system for something better.
I have more to say about this, mostly to parents who want to send their failing kids to the same school they are failing in for 3 more months, but that’s really not my business anyway.
So what about you? Do you think year-round school is a good idea? Why? What am I missing? Any other ideas about fixes for our school system?
I enjoyed reading your blog today as I just read LZ Granderson’s article this morning. As a current high school teacher I would say that I do not agree with your stance on this article. It is true that the dollar figures are just estimates, however the losing education over the period of 3 months of summer is a substantial argument. I can speak from experience and my colleagues would tell you the same, students can’t remember what they learned last week let alone from 3 months ago. The premise of the article is eliminating summer, it’s not necessarily an argument for making the year longer, I mean 10 days would be nothing essentially. It’s more about restructuring the ancient system in place, and breaking up the school year into smaller blocks. I will say however that this is just one of many problems plaguing education. Budgetary concerns, lazy tenured teachers, and no parental involvement play a huge role in the current state of education. I don’t think the article was meant to fix everything but a fresh spin on one of the many problems that need to be fixed.
Thanks for stopping by, and thanks also for taking the time to share your thoughts. I think I see where you’re coming from, and I appreciate you expounding on what a year-long school system would look like.
I also have no doubt that there is plenty lost during that 3 month break.
But I have to ask, not just you but of the entire system: What exactly is being lost and how crucial is it, really? Do students forget how to read? How to add? How to recognize principle characters in a book? How to critically think?
Or do they forget discrete knowledge?
Personally, I’d be concerned if they were forgetting important learning, functioning and thinking skills, but if they are forgetting arcana and dates and names, that seems less an issue that we should care about. Honestly. Life is open book. If a test is asking who George Washington’s 2nd-in-command was, what exactly is that test testing? Ability to remember, right? Why is that being tested? That piece of knowledge is easily found within 1 minute of focused web searching.
So I still wonder if it’s really such a big deal that kids are forgetting things during summer. Maybe those things weren’t really that important anyway?
A couple of thoughts:
I think parents are to blame if kids’ reading and other skills lag behind in the summer. Get thee to a library, people! If kids’ brains turn to mush it’s because they aren’t using them.
Second, having been a student in the Finnish school system for three years, I can say that a) it’s excellent b) it’s awfully close to the same length as the US school year and c) after the regular school years (grade school and then secondary), students don’t just stop going to school–they pick either a trade school or “lukio,” which is much like high school and prepares students for the university experience.
Oh, and every single kid gets school lunches, dental check-ups, and even immunizations. It’s awesome. (But I’ll stop there, because then we’re touching on politics many people get rabid over.)
The facts are, though, that the Finns have extremely low poverty, almost 100% literacy, low crime, and high education.
Plus, we can thank them for Nokia, Angry Birds, and the best chocolate evah. 😀
Thanks for that excellent input. I have to agree with you completely on the parents’ responsibility. This seems increasingly out of fashion, but you can be sure that, by and large, excellent students aren’t only excellent because they have taken advantage of all the good things our school system has to offer.
Also, that’s very interesting about the Finnish system. I’m very interested to know if you think any of that system is importable to our systems here, or if we just have to start from the ground up and make vast systemic changes to our tax, education and budgeting approaches.
About rabidness: it bothers me that people are so concerned about being right, being perceived to be right, being perceived to have won, and shoring up constituencies that we don’t see detailed, robust and civil debate. But it bothers most until their stances are attacked and they can’t defend well, and out come the ad hominem attacks.
I haven’t had Finnish chocolate. I would like some now.
This kind of reasoning from within a failure of a government-run education system is exactly the reason we will be homeschooling our children. We don’t trust idiots with ideology like this to turn our kids into people with reason and common sense on their side. Not to brag, but our three-year-old son is already reading words that follow simple phonetics because we lovingly encourage him to learn the sounds. Teachers simply don’t love our kids like we do, so why should we ship them off to overcrowded places where thoughts of peers never stray too far from the opposite sex with teachers that would rather not be there?
We should simply stop supporting the status quo if we want change in education.
Thanks for stopping by, and thanks especially for taking the time to comment. Your motivation for homeschooling rings very true and I’ve heard it plenty from our homeschooling friends. We tend to treat public school like a buffet: we take what we want and don’t use what we don’t like. Hotness and I know we are where the buck stops on our kids’ education.
Currently, a local school that we actually really like is offering a Chinese immersion program. I have a BA in Linguistics and taught language for 10 years, and Hotness double-majored in Linguistics for quite a while. We felt qualified to screen the program and decided to let our kids get involved. It’s been good, but it’s not enough.
Your last sentence is crucial. Government programs have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. We all have a vested interest in understanding exactly what the status quo consists of, finding the real problem with the system, and getting it changed. It bugs me that it is so rare that ANYONE in a prominent position actually goes after the real problems with our education system.
Oh how I protest.
Why are they even considering this?
Because they refuse to try to get to the true heart of the problem. This is a band aid.