Back to School: Does The US Stand A Chance

It’s that time again… kids are coming off of summer break and going back to school in the US.  In my previous life working on the CLEAN & CLEAR(R) Brand the back to school season was like my Superbowl, now it’s just the time of year I get to see endless pictures on Facebook of my friends posting pics of their kids on the first day.  OK, so I posted a picture too.

What really struck me this year about the back to school season was the reality of just how many days that kids in the US get off each summer.

The average of the sources I researched said that the a child in the US attends 178 days of school per year.  While that doesn’t necessarily mean anything on the surface when you compare it to the fact that the average child in Japan attends 243, Korea 220, Israel 216, Scotland 200, England 192 it gets scary – and the list of countries where children go to school longer than in the US keeps going.

Sure, I love summer breaks (even talked about it in one of my first posts), but with all of the commentary about how we need to fix our educational system and strengthen the future of America’s children vs the rest of the world – isn’t the number of days in school an easy place to start?

This is where the school budget comment pops up.  I’ll leave that out of this for now.

I do think summer breaks can be advantageous to give kids even more creative freedom and learn something different than when in school.  Different brain muscles are developing when kids spend all day doing typical summer activities. I also think supplementing the summer with summer assignments is great and hopefully we get schools to formally promote more online learning like Khan Academy.

In the meantime, how about we extend the school year for an extra 2 weeks?

There’s great data that even shows that within the US the rate of ‘fallback’ from the level of knowledge a student had when the school year ended vs. where s/he started the next year with varies greatly (from losing a lot of info. to actually increasing educational level) depending on economic class.   Affluent kids get smarter during the summer and poorer kids lose capability.  Seems like something we can help also combat by rearranging the school year and day to help even the playing field between the classes (or sending everyone to HCZ or KIPP)

Matt Kane

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2 thoughts on “Back to School: Does The US Stand A Chance

  1. The gorilla in the room that noone wants to talk about is social, not educational. Instead of focusing on the schools, let’s focus on the societal problems that lead to children not learning. After all, the US wants to be # 1, to educate everyone, in a very diverse population. Other countries leading in the education “race to the top” are very homogeneous, with populations that rate education very highly, and respect their teachers as heroes. Here that is not the case.
    As long as we demonize and belittle teachers, and idolize sports and entertainment figures, as long as we give millionaires tax breaks and have more and more people living in poverty, until we chan ge our priorities as a nation, we will not be number one in education. A longer school year would benice, but it will never solve any problems.

    • absolutely agree w/ the comment re: sports and entertainment figures and needing to respect and make heroes of teachers.
      Isn’t a longer school year something that could work though (as a start, or in addition to the other 900 things that need to happen too) – it’s working well for schools in the US that have instituted it – regardless of where they’re at (i.e. KIPP). Of course, those schools do other things in addition as well so it’s not the cure-all, but it is an element.
      What other ways can we increase the ‘rating education very high’ and get more teachers to be heroes/etc.? How do we tackle the social aspects? Let’s do it.

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