Will A Longer Academic Year Improve Our Schools?

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Summer school
A student raises his hand to be called on while doing a worksheet in an English Language Learner summer school class at the Cordova Villa Elementary School in Rancho Cordova, CA. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

It's already mid-June, and the warm lull of summer is finally descending upon us. But thanks to the snowstorms and hurricanes of last fall and winter, students across Massachusetts aren't celebrating summer quite yet. They will be in class until the end of this month.

This might be a good thing. Many education reformers — including president Obama and education secretary Arne Duncan — say more school in the summer is just what students need. They point out that the school year in the US is far shorter than it is many other countries with which we compete. For example, in Japan, the school year runs a full two months longer than here in the U.S.

Across the country, including here in Massachusetts, schools are dipping their toes into these waters. Fall River and Lawrence are experimenting with a longer school year, as are many charter schools in Boston. But the accepted wisdom that a longer school year — and more time in school — leads to better academic results is actually not a given. The research is scant or inconclusive, which leads us to ask: Are we ready to reinvent our school calendar and extend the school year? Will a longer academic year help improve schools?


Peter Gray, research professor in the psychology department at Boston College.

Jennifer Davis, co-founder and president of the National Center on Time and Learning.

This segment aired on June 19, 2013.


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