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Snowguy716

Extending school year... Your views?

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The council of school district super-intendents have proposed and shown support for extending hte school year in Minnesota by 5 weeks, from the current 170 days to near 200, and extending teachers' working year from 185 days to 230 to offer more on-the-job training.

While it would cost a lot of money, it would put Minnesota more in line with European nations and China/Japan.

http://www.startribune.com/stories/587/5769630.html

I have mixed feelings about this. First of all, I grew up on a resort and my family benefited greatly from the long summer breaks (Memorial day to Labor day). This would significantly reduce the long summer season for resorters and thus hurt the economy in the northern part of hte state.

At the same time, if it was successful, the students of Minnesota would be very competitive in the world and would likely benefit the Minnesota economy more in the long run. Already finishing in the top 5 for graduation rates and test scores, the state is competitive, but it's seen by many in the state that we are somehow losing this competitiveness. (More likely because of budget cuts that have increased class sizes.)

Personally, I think it would be just as effective to provide adequate funding to the schools for smaller class sizes (which are proven to increase performance among students) and also little things like providing free breakfast to students (which is done in many poor districts) to ensure that students have a good breakfast before studying.

I've also been in Austria for 3 months now and I can tell you, that while Austrians are good at cramming and filling out bubbles on a test sheet, the school experience is much different here.

I remember fondly sitting around the teacher after recess (which is unknown here in Austria) and listening to her read from many books. Even recess and reading expanded our imaginations. If Minnesota can see this and encourage it, then I believe our state's students will be better off for it. Cramming facts into a child's head is not nearly as effective as letting them have a chunk of the day just to be kids and be imaginative.

Overall, however, I think lengthening hte school year by a little bit would benefit the students, but smaller class sizes, better trained teachers, and instilling a passion in children from a young age to want to learn will bring the largest benefit of all.

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Several school systems in metro Atlanta are slowly moving towards having year round school. Every year, more and more days are hacked off the summer holiday, so it's only a matter of time before it's just a short two or three week "summer break" like "spring break", "winter break", and so on.

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I don't know if I like this idea. How much will it really help our students anyway? Summer is a time for kids to unwind, work (if they're old enough), and be kids. I'd hate to cut into that time. Plus it's too damn hot in schools that don't have AC (which, atleast up north, few have).

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The A/C argument is a good one. I remember days even at the end of May in school where it reached 90*F with high humidity and we were stuck in a classroom with no AC. It's bearable, but it certainly takes all of your motivation away and your mind is somewhere else (like it the ice cold water of the lake a mile away).

I wouldn't be opposed to making the school day a bit longer (say, from 8AM to 3:30pm rather than 8:30-3:00 like many schools now) and extending the year by a week or something.

I still think the biggest success would be achieved with smaller class sizes. I remember in high school having classes with an average of 20-25 students, but many classes had fewer. I even had one with 6. But in the past few years, the average class size has grown from 22 to 30 and in other Minnesota schools (where they seem to spend an amazing amount of money on things like administration and grand proms at luxury hotels) class sizes are reaching 35... ridiculous!

In 1999, Jessy Ventura tried to put into law a cap on class sizes for K-3 at 17, but it didn't work because at the same time he was hacking the budget away for schools even while the state had a $2 billion surplus. He thought the $260 checks that he sent out to people would be more beneficial than investing the money in schools.

Oh well, that's a whole different story... either way, extending the school year won't help if there's 35 students in a classroom and nothing gets done!

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I don't really like the idea. Put this into perspective...the men and women that created microwaves, launched rockets to the moon, and provided hundreds of other aspects of technology were in a school system that had long summers. Prolonging the school year will create burnout among kids, and shortchange them of potential memories that most of us in this country have had.

I don't care if other countries do it. Just because other countries do it does not mean this country has to. Let's be leaders in the world, not followers. Sorry, I know I'm being blunt, but I'm tired of the constant comparisons that people make to countries in Europe and Asia. Like I said before, the many people that advanced this country to a superpower in technology, health, and defense were educated in a school system that had a nice summer. Yes, our system is not doing as well now, but that's not because we have long summers. Let's focus on the actual curriculum and quality of teachers...not to mention holding the children's parents accountable (they're also responsible for the children's education).

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I agree that the problem is the very high student to teacher ratios. Here in Tennessee, my school system is dealing with overcrowding, and we have built two 1800 student high schools in two years. One school was remodeled in order to hold more people, and is already overcrowded before it is even finished!

At my school, class sizes are very large. My smalles class has 34 students, and one class has 38. There aren't even enough desks for everyone to sit in!

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It's not a matter of whether we do it to "be cool" like Europe or Asia, or whether their system is a model and goal of which we are trying to achieve. It is simply the case that students are not learning enough to compete actively in our global economy and it is suggested by super intendents to extend the school year to learn more.

America had amazing discoveries like it did because in those days we gave a damn and invested in our schools rather than screaming "tax cuts" and shortchanging our schools by billions of dollars.

I'd rather live in an America that was more like Europe than live in one that relives the glory days from the add-on porch of a trailer house after a long day working at Wal-Mart because my parents decided to take a rebate check than adequetaly fund our schools. Sounds harsh, but it's increasingly the reality in this country, and I'm not a big fan.

At the same time, however, I agree that there is a better approach than extending hte years.

Like I've already said: Decrease class sizes, train our teachers, make sure the children are supplied and ready to learn, and challenge them. It is way too easy as it stands, and it is pretty sad how many drop out at 16. Graduation rates in some states are as low as 55%... that's unacceptable.

So Charleston Native, we can agree that SOMETHING needs to be done.

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Two of my Sisters attended an experimental "year-round" school program starting in Middle School near Lansing, MI, that put them on a 6 week summer break, 2 week break in the Fall, 2 week break in the Spring, and 3 or 4 weeks off in the winter.

By the time they were in their senior years, the entire class was 1 year or more ahead of their classmates who went to the regular school year schedule. However, with tourism being such a HUGE industry in Michigan, it will never happen here. In my opinion, 3 months of Summer vacation is WAAYYYYY too long.

As far as memories go, they can make plenty of memories in 5 or 6 weeks. When I was a kid, by late July, all we did was get into trouble because we were bored out of our minds. :rolleyes:

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At the same time, however, I agree that there is a better approach than extending hte years.

Like I've already said: Decrease class sizes, train our teachers, make sure the children are supplied and ready to learn, and challenge them. It is way too easy as it stands, and it is pretty sad how many drop out at 16. Graduation rates in some states are as low as 55%... that's unacceptable.

So Charleston Native, we can agree that SOMETHING needs to be done.

Absolutely. :thumbsup: Those earlier suggestions for change would be things I would suggest, also. In addition, I would do one thing that, for some reason, many school administration officials are hesitant to do: increase teachers' salaries! One problem with attracting good teachers is financial incentive. Who as a teacher wants to barely scrape by while having to deal with terrible kids all day? I say this, because I see it firsthand with my wife being a 3rd grade teacher.

Lower student to teacher ratios are very much needed. Teachers can help children learn more and control the class better with a smaller amount of students to deal with. And the standards? Subpar at best! We need to quit worrying about a child's self-esteem and tell them that if they make a 60 on a math test, that's bad.

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We need to quit worrying about a child's self-esteem and tell them that if they make a 60 on a math test, that's bad.

AMEN!

Extending the school year? No way, man. I think its fine the way it is. If we want to improve our educational system, there are a gazillion better ways to do it, in my opinion.

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I am against extending the school year. Kids have so many positive experiences during the summer from going to camp to taking swimming lessons, spending times with their family, traveling and at older ages working because many students cant find time to work during the school and this is definitly a positive experience.

Intresting options that the town of West Hartford, CT has about the school system:

Starting the high school later because high schoolers need to sleep late- good but means earlier start times for other schools, bus rerouting

Block Scheduling

Any thoughts???

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They don't actually 'extend' the school year, so much as stretch it out. You still get 180 days or whatever it is, you just have a lot more extra days off, breaks after every 9 weekes, or 6 weeks (however your school system does it), longer Christmas vacations (aka "generic winter holiday breaks") and you still get a long summer break, but they cut it back from 10 weeks. I personally think its a good idea.

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I am against extending the school year. Kids have so many positive experiences during the summer from going to camp to taking swimming lessons, spending times with their family, traveling and at older ages working because many students cant find time to work during the school and this is definitly a positive experience.

Intresting options that the town of West Hartford, CT has about the school system:

Starting the high school later because high schoolers need to sleep late- good but means earlier start times for other schools, bus rerouting

Block Scheduling

Any thoughts???

I did one block-scheduling class in high school, and it was all right, but the teachers tended to pile on more homework <_< . Starting school later in the morning makes sense to me, since studies have shown that students who get more sleep perform better, but it also keeps them in school later in the afternoon, which would lilely put a damper on part-time jobs, extra-cirriculars, sports, etc.

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Take a look at all of these ideas. All of them do one thing: circumvent the real problem. Changing schedules and reducing summer break, regardless if they still 180 days off is not going to fix the problem. Like I said before, many of the leaders in companies, government, technology, engineering, etc., all had school like regular people with long, 3-month summers.

The real changes that need to occur are increasing teachers' salaries, reducing the student to teacher ratio, teaching the fundamentals, and stop pandering to psychobabble about children's esteem in relation to grades and marking answers wrong. These are the real problem-fixers.

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Take a look at all of these ideas. All of them do one thing: circumvent the real problem. Changing schedules and reducing summer break, regardless if they still 180 days off is not going to fix the problem. Like I said before, many of the leaders in companies, government, technology, engineering, etc., all had school like regular people with long, 3-month summers.

The real changes that need to occur are increasing teachers' salaries, reducing the student to teacher ratio, teaching the fundamentals, and stop pandering to psychobabble about children's esteem in relation to grades and marking answers wrong. These are the real problem-fixers.

I don't see how increasing teacher salaries helps anything. Most teachers (at least here in MI) make a fairly healthy wage. Your other ideas are right on the money, though. ;)

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Teachers do need to make more. The average wage for a teacher starting in my school district is somewhere around $35,000... and another $5000 for a masters degree. That's ridiculous! Luckily, Minnesota came up with a program that forgives teachers' their student debt if they become teachers in the state. (pays it off for them.)

Block scheduling?

I loved it. There's nothing more hindering than short class periods during the day. We had 4 85-90 minute classes and took classes like Math and English for only half the year. That way, you could take two math courses in one year. We had some children taking college level calculus in their junior year of high school.

I don't know anyone that lost out becuase of the block scheduling. While 55 minute classes in a 6 period day are not bad.. it's the easy way out, because students are stuck in classes all year and have much fewer opportunities to advance their education or broaden their education.

(I believe in a broad, liberal education)... liberal in the sense of learning everything, not political ideology.

What Minnesota does to ensure this is by setting up specific things that children should know by the time they should graduate. This means they need to take a wide range of classes ranging from Math, science, english, and history to foreign languages (which need to be offered more) phys. ed, and art classes. Hell, I took a cooking class and at the same time I took a woodworking class...

Now I can build a desk and bake a pie to put on top of it when it's done :):):)

You get what I mean though

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I don't see how increasing teacher salaries helps anything. Most teachers (at least here in MI) make a fairly healthy wage. Your other ideas are right on the money, though. ;)

Increasing salaries would make it possible for schools to attract qualified teachers. I don't know what teachers in MI get paid, but here in NC, it's peanuts. With a little luck, a moderately qualified college grad can land a job making a first year salary that teachers would have to work five years for. Add that to the lack of support from administration and the general apathy society has towards public education, and you've got a big fat incentive for people to avoid the profession altogether.

You think lateral entry programs would be necessary if the starting sallary for teachers was $40,000 a year? Hell no. If teachers made what they deserved, the occupation would be more competitive, meaning higher standards for entry, meaning better teachers. Better teachers means better educated students, and that leads to a more productive society.

But Snowguy is right. Nothing is going to change until taxpayers pull their heads out of their asses and gain a little foresight.

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Increasing salaries would make it possible for schools to attract qualified teachers. I don't know what teachers in MI get paid, but here in NC, it's peanuts. With a little luck, a moderately qualified college grad can land a job making a first year salary that teachers would have to work five years for. Add that to the lack of support from administration and the general apathy society has towards public education, and you've got a big fat incentive for people to avoid the profession altogether.

You think lateral entry programs would be necessary if the starting sallary for teachers was $40,000 a year? Hell no. If teachers made what they deserved, the occupation would be more competitive, meaning higher standards for entry, meaning better teachers. Better teachers means better educated students, and that leads to a more productive society.

But Snowguy is right. Nothing is going to change until taxpayers pull their heads out of their asses and gain a little foresight.

You guys have been on the money. I completely agree with you ngp; that's exactly what I was going to say! Bottom line: higher salaries mean better competition which means better teachers. Precisely! :thumbsup:

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You guys have been on the money. I completely agree with you ngp; that's exactly what I was going to say! Bottom line: higher salaries mean better competition which means better teachers. Precisely! :thumbsup:

In MI the average salary is in the 45-50k range for most places. I don't know what starting salary is, but if it were 35,000-40k that seems pretty good for a new college grad. After a year or two, good teachers who are proven to be effective should get big raises so they stick around. Also, the teacher unions are way too powerful here. There have been numerous strikes and walkouts over pay and health benefits. Heck, in one instance, teachers from another school walked out "in a show of support" for some other teachers who were on strike. It made me sick.

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Starting salaries for teachers in SC usually start at around 25K. Basically, it is the same pay a 2nd Lieutenant makes in the Armed Forces. Considering what teachers go through the minute they start teaching in a school, these salaries are paltry. There is room for advancement, but after 6 years, most teachers will be making only around 32K...even with grad school credits!

Is the cost of living higher in Michigan than NC or SC? That might explain the disparity; supposedly your state and others like FL attract the better teachers anyway with better salaries. I know that you will not keep good teachers who want to live in SC with that kind of salary. This state has lost many teachers to other states for better pay and benefits. Most of them have been known to go to NC, GA, or FL.

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Starting salaries for teachers in SC usually start at around 25K. Basically, it is the same pay a 2nd Lieutenant makes in the Armed Forces. Considering what teachers go through the minute they start teaching in a school, these salaries are paltry. There is room for advancement, but after 6 years, most teachers will be making only around 32K...even with grad school credits!

Is the cost of living higher in Michigan than NC or SC? That might explain the disparity; supposedly your state and others like FL attract the better teachers anyway with better salaries. I know that you will not keep good teachers who want to live in SC with that kind of salary. This state has lost many teachers to other states for better pay and benefits. Most of them have been known to go to NC, GA, or FL.

I don't know how MI ranks as far as education quality. There are some really good schools around here, I happened to go to a pretty lousy one IMO. The cost of living in MI varies a lot. In the northern parts you can get a pretty nice house for 150,000, whereas where I live in GR, 150-170 is about average. Over by Detroit it might be higher though, but I don't know. You are right, 25,000 is pretty dang weak, in any profession. I think you would be hard pressed to find any conclusive evidence that indicates that higher teacher salaries = better educated students. I think it has more to do with high standards and discipline. But that's just me. ;) In my school system, the students scored poorly on state tests, but instead of trying to fix the problem, they just lowered the standards on the tests and triumphantly reported a "big improvement" the next year. Its like some schools have no faith in their students, and are too lazy to demand results so they skew everything to make it look like they are doing a better job, when they are really selling the kids short. Drives me nuts! Ok, end rant. :D

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I think it has more to do with high standards and discipline.

You're right about that, of course, because any progress made will be undermined if the system itself doesn't support the higher standards across the board.

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Starting salaries for teachers in SC usually start at around 25K.

Wow, and I thought Alabama paid their teachers too little. Even if a person has no degree and less than 3 years experience, the starting salary is $30K.

I read in the paper the other day that MN is the only state that does not have a set number of school days, and it is up to the school systems to decide. I think it is a good idea to have a set minimum number of school days, but 200 is way too much.

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