Although the main domestic focus of the Obama Administration has been on the economy and health care, there's still plenty of discussion surrounding the state of American education. Obama has advocated a longer school year and a longer school day, while Paul Krugman recently pointed out that many of the jobs lost during the recession have been lost in the education sector, putting an already strained system under greater strain. How can we possibly expand what public education does, without the staff to do it? And should we?
As an educator and a parent with kids in the public school system, I'm a big advocate of public education. I'm intrigued, though not convinced, by Obama's call for a longer school year and school day. As a working parent, my biggest issues with the education system have been the scheduling conflicts and the misguided though well-intentioned attempts the school has made to get parents involved. Here are just a few of my thoughts about how to get work schedules and school schedules to mesh better and how to get parents more involved.
Shift and extend the school day.
On this, I am in agreement with Obama. The work day begins at 8:30/9:00 and ends at 5:00/6:00 while school begins at 7:30/8:30 and ends at 2:30/3:30. While some workplaces offer flexible schedules that allow parents to leave in time to pick up kids or meet the school bus, many do not. Some schools or districts provide after-school programs, but many of these are first-come, first-served and many parents are left having to scramble to find child care after school. And after elementary school, these programs are non-existent. Shifting the school day to begin closer to the beginning of the work day and end at 5:00 or later would alleviate much of the scrambling parents must now do, and extend the amount of instruction possible, bringing me to my second point.