Should kids be in class on Saturdays?
What better topic for Gradebook readers on a Saturday than the notion of Saturday schools. Chester Finn Jr., president of the Fordham Institute and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, writes in this essay in today's Wall Street Journal that American kids need more time on task and less time to get into trouble - and that means longer school days, longer school years and yes, Saturday mornings in class. He writes:
Our deeper problem is the enormous amount of time that typical American schools spend on gym, recess, lunch, assembly, changing classes, homeroom, lining up to go to the art room, looking at movies, writing down homework assignments, quieting the classroom, celebrating this or that holiday, and other pursuits. It's not all wasted time but neither are these minutes spent in ways that boost test scores, enhance college-readiness or deepen pupils' understanding of literature, geography or algebra.
Visit a KIPP school or another high-performance institution and you find that a big reason for the longer day is that it accommodates these nonacademic pursuits without sacrificing the instructional core. They tolerate remarkably little wasted time, particularly in the classroom setting.
Their teachers squander minimal class time on discipline challenges or distributing and collecting materials. They systematically deliver lessons that are carefully planned and structured—and youngsters who need additional help to understand something get it later, sometimes in the evening via the teacher's cellphone, so that the entire class doesn't need to pause for an explanation.
Longer school days and years also aid working parents; for many of them, 2:30 dismissal times and three-month summer breaks are more burden than benefit. And the more time kids spend in safe schools, the less time they have to go astray at home or in the neighborhood.