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Instilling a love of learning.

Byline: Frank Mitchell

The perennial question in public school education is whether a longer school day or a longer school year should be scheduled in the attempt to raise academic achievement. The United States trails behind a number of other countries in the world relative to academic achievement and so the educational pundits are offering their sage advice.

Some believe extending the school day would be the answer, while others feel that a longer school year is the better way to go.

Although extending the school day appears to be the best way to go, because it allows the students a longer summer vacation along with a few other reasons, the cons far outweigh the pros. A longer school day results in fatigue at the elementary level and disrupts the sports and other school programs, as well as after-school work schedules at the secondary level.

Another factor to consider is that students would either be going to or coming home from school in the dark.

A longer school year is the better of the two alternatives, in my opinion. The regular school time schedule is followed at all levels, allowing a realistic time frame for elementary students and, at the same time, allowing time for after-school activities and sports programs at the secondary level.

Regardless of the two options noted above, two major factors would have to be addressed. Teachers' salaries would have to be increased commensurate with the additional teaching time. This would result in higher school budgets, which in turn would raise the local city or town budget, which would be reflected by higher tax rates.

The other major consideration and the most difficult one to address is instilling in the students the love of learning. The general attitude toward education in the United States is that it is a means to an end. This is not the case in many of the countries that currently have a longer school year. Many other countries that have longer school years emphasize not only the need for education, but also the love of learning as well.

If this is done, the students will not only succeed in society, but also continue to learn throughout their entire lifetime and not stop learning after leaving school. Longer school days or school years will not be successful if we cannot instill in today's students the love of learning.

Frank Mitchell is a Lancaster resident, former superintendent of schools and occasional contributor to The Item.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 1, 2013
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