Dear President Obama,
So, you want kids to spend more time in school? You want an end to summer vacations and longer days? You want American schools to catch up to their European and Asian counterparts? Do you have any clue as to what is wrong with public schools in America?
Your plans, while well meaning, will do no more good than sticking a thumb in a leaky dam would do to stop a leak. If you really want to fix schools, start by asking teachers what really needs to be done. Contrary to popular opinion, not all teachers are overpaid under worked civil servants, retired on the job. Most of us love kids and love what we are doing. I personally would be financially better off being retired and there are many like me around.
First let me begin by talking about overcrowding in the public schools. There is a school in my neighborhood that was built to hold 1800 but now has almost 5000 kids attending daily. Our first class begins at 7:15 and ends almost at 7:00 PM. Some have lunch at 9:00 AM. There are teachers and kids who never see each other. It is impossible to ever confer with teachers teaching the same subject. Teachers who want to meet with students and offer them extra help sit on dirty floors in hallways.Your own children are getting a wonderful education in a fancy private school and you think public schools will be able to emulate this situation by making the time in school longer. Well, think again.
Second, class size in a public schools are too big. If you really care about quality education, you can begin by mandating smaller class sizes. Individualized learning is impossible in the schools now. Extending the school day and keeping class size so large will do nothing to improve education. Time spent in an educational environment might be longer but no education will take place.
Third, you've got to give up this idea that testing means anything. The tests being administered today have been so dumbed down that passing means almost nothing. So much time is being spent on test preparation that real learning is sitting on a back burner. More important, teachers are more worried about statistics than anything else. When possible, they are actually dumping kids from bright classes and putting them into lower level classes so their statistics will be good. This is happening before merit pay and before teacher tenure is being based on test scores.
Fourth, admit,though politically incorrect, that not everyone is capable of learning everything. Not everyone is college material or even interested in attending college. People have different things to contribute to society and can do so without that piece of paper. In fact forcing education on those that do not want it turns them off to school and life in general.
If you really want to improve education in America, make some real improvements in education. Your band aids are to going to solve the problem.