Year-Round Teaching Many Teachers Would Welcome the Chance to Work Full Time, with the Recognition and Monetary Benefits Due a Full-Time Professional
John H. Holcomb. John H. Holcomb is director of Cross Timbers School Development Council of the Texas A & M University system., The Christian Science Monitor
WHILE serving as a superintendent of schools, I heard one of my experienced teachers state that the three best things about teaching were June, July, and August. While I chuckled, I couldn't help thinking, "With comments like that, it's not surprising that parents are withdrawing their support from the public schools."
For the entire history of our public-school system, we have had extensive summer vacations. We also have vacations during the school year: Thanksgiving, Christmas break (whose length equals many adults' annual vacation), other holidays, and spring break. School is in session 175-180 days - less than half the year.
In addition, the school day is short, usually less than six hours of class time. Studies have found that "time-on-task" is the single most important factor in quality education. Yet schools generally spend about three hours a day on meaningful instruction.
The school buildings themselves usually constitute the largest single investment the community has made, larger than the city hall, county buildings, hospitals, or parks. With a 24-hour day and a 365-day year, schools are potentially available 8,760 hours a year. We use them about 1,080 hours per year - 12.3 percent of the potential time! No other business in town could survive using its facilities at 12 percent of their potential.
Many teachers spend most of September - one-ninth of the total school year - reviewing the previous year's work with the students. We are wasting a great deal of time - roughly a year and a half of a student's total public school career. If we can salvage an additional 20 minutes per day of instruction time, over the course of a student's 13-year public school career we can add 780 hours of instruction - roughly 156 days, or almost one full year.
Some educators state that students can't stand school more than 180 days, five or six hours per day. They would have us believe that students are needed at home, that children need to be outside during the summer months playing.
In high-achieving countries, students attend school up to seven hours per day, as many as 240 days per year, with no ill effects. Some studies indicate that students are healthier during the months they attend school. Most American children have little to occupy them during summer vacation. Many sleep until noon, then watch television until midnight. If both parents work, they are left either with a sitter or unsupervised much of the day. Daylight savings time gives children and their parents more than adequate daylight hours for outdoor activities.
How about educators themselves? Many people agree that teachers - at least the good ones - are underpaid. …