February 27th, 2009
03:20 PM ET
9 years ago

Education chief favors longer school year

Education Secretary Arne Duncan suggests giving incentives to teachers whose students perform well.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan suggests giving incentives to teachers whose students perform well.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Those lazy days of summer may become a thing of the past if the new secretary of education has his way.

Arne Duncan, the Cabinet secretary charged with overhauling America's educational system, is studying programs that keep kids in school longer to boost their academic achievements.

"When I go out and talk about that, that doesn't always make me popular with students. They like the long summers," Duncan said in an interview Wednesday with CNN conducted in the Education Department's library.

But Duncan said American students are "at a competitive disadvantage" because the United States has shorter school years than other countries such as India and China.

"It doesn't matter how poor, how tough the family background, socioeconomic challenges," Duncan said. "Where students have longer days, longer weeks, longer years - that's making a difference."

More time in school is one of several ideas under consideration as Duncan settles into his new role.

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Filed under: Education • Obama administration
soundoff (141 Responses)
  1. thomas

    You have to be kidding. We get almost no time with our kids now, and when we're with them, most of our time is spent doing school homework. Perhaps the problem is not too little time spent in school, but the quality of education received while in school. I seem to remember spending an awful lot of time in school doing lots of things besides learning. Thinking outside the box does not mean making the box bigger. Home schooling, smaller schools, and individualized education are all methods to make education more effective without making us all pay a bigger price.

    February 27, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  2. Deborah

    As someone who has been involved in education for over 35 years as a teacher, supervisor, curriculum specialist, etc. all I can say is AMEN. This is a man with a plan....and I like it!

    February 27, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  3. sandee in Portland

    This is all well and good, but with the economy the way it is right now, my area is taking away school days in order to not have to lay off teachers. Fix the economy first, pay our teachers better, have stricter guidelines for teachers (one of the easiest degrees to obtain) and then lengthen the school year.

    February 27, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  4. Randy

    It will never happan. The teachers union will never stand for it. Long summer breaks is not for the kids it is for the lazy teachers that we have in this country.

    February 27, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  5. arithmetic is liberal

    Rick: religion, religion, religion?

    How many angels can fit on the head of a pin?

    February 27, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  6. Jim

    Sniffit: You have been sniffing too much..........................

    February 27, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  7. Honorable Kansas Vet

    Having lived overseas and seen the education systems that all are so wanting to be like, I say if you do not like our education system, then move.

    February 27, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  8. Hard-working Teacher

    How about dumping a union that protects poor teachers and does nothing to reward hard-working teachers? We will only see gains in education if the year is lengthened, teacher salaries are doubled, and poor teachers who do not seize opportunities to improve can be easily fired. Teacher's unions are destroying education.

    February 27, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  9. Once you vote Black

    Bless you SV, OKLAHOMA. We know what you were trying to say. Perhaps there are longer days of school for you too down there.

    February 27, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  10. Jerry Green

    Readin ritin and rithmutic. Back to basics. In my day we had to do our own figurin. We come out fine. You betcha!

    February 27, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  11. Lee Bartholomew

    well if it means less homework by all means. But longer school year = possibly more suicides. Especially those under 15 need the summer break. Let children be children.

    February 27, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  12. mary

    I think the longer school year is a great idea.
    It's a shame that we are the richest country in the world and have the worst education.
    Let's build new schools and update others also get rid of bad teachers.
    I think our kids should be learning another language from kindergarten on. We should not have drop out rate that we have.
    PARENTS have to get involved and not just send kids to school.

    February 27, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  13. Larry

    You that oppose his suggestion should remember why there was a long "vacation" at the end of the school year in this country (and, probably in most of the western countries of the world): It wasn't because we wanted them to have a "fun summer", it was because the farmers with kids and the farm workers with kids were depended upon to help with the summer harvest.

    February 27, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    I wonder if this might increase the dropout rate tho...by increasing frustration and stress for the kids AND the teachers. Not that I care...if they don't like they need to suck it up, but the first step is to first provide a better learning environment if you're going to expect them to spend more time there. This is why the infrastructure improvements are so key.

    February 27, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    It's true...Jindal lied and his office admitted it. He was not there with the sheriff and he did not tell the feds to get out of the way etc. It was something the sheriff did when Jindal wasn't there and Jindal co-opted the story as his own. It' snot embellishment though...it's a flat out lie.

    February 27, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  16. ran

    Yes Yes Yes.

    February 27, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  17. Janine

    My sister is a teacher, and she would love this idea. Kids in France have a longer school year, same with kids in Africa and Asia. And when they take those very difficult international entrance exams, they score much higher than Americans.

    February 27, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  18. katman

    Another good idea would be for the school day to start later, around 9am instead of at 7 or 7:30. Kids would start school about the same time as their parents start work, so there would be more time in the morning for families to spend together and children would be released from school closer to the time that their parents get out of work, so childcare costs would be less of a burden.

    February 27, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  19. The One

    Great. It's about time teachers actually earned their pay.

    February 27, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  20. Kentucky Vet

    Why don't we fix funding our public school systems, improve teacher quality and pay?

    I live in a county in Kentucky that is the third largest public school district, second fastest growing county for a number of years, a large and growing tax base that generated over $60 million in taxes for 2007 yet the school district is the least funded in the state. I watch teachers leave to teach in Ohio because of better pay.

    February 27, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  21. Mari


    February 27, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  22. Ian

    Sweet. More free babysitting.

    February 27, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  23. Andrew in FL

    The school year is just right – kids will be burnt out otherwise. I think another problem is that as American workers, we don't receive more vacation time. In Europe, workers receive at least one month vacation, and in many cases 6-8 weeks... The typical 10 days of vacation here in the states is a joke. We should work to live, not live to work.

    February 27, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  24. Boisepoet

    Last I checked less than 2% of the population was involved in agriculture. Time to update this part of our society to reflect that reality.

    February 27, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  25. ao

    i moved to USA from Poland (not necessarily your economic superpower) and experienced both systems. And I TRULY agree – make school longer. In Poland I had only 2 month summer vacation (not 3 months like here) and it was WAY enough. This meant that by the time I was going to my junior and senior year in USA I had 10 months of school more – so an extra school year – and TRUST ME it made a HUGE difference (current University of Michigan student who came to USA with so, so English). I would add even more, instead of making schedules for students so flexible that they pretty much take what they want (and not what is good for them) I would think that mandating at least half the schedule with heavy English/Science/Math curriculum would be good. And stop blaming teachers, yes there are some who under perform, but most of them are dedicated individuals who want to give back – so please support them in doing so. And on last note – parents should really step up. I know how my family values education (even though I'm the first generation in the university), so stop being so obsessive about having your kid on the basketball team, and rather support their efforts to get into biology or physics club...

    February 27, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
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