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. Rob

    There we go. And then we can get the children into the government sponsored education camps where they can be raised to be good little subservient drones, praising the Leader.

    Hail Obama! Hail Obama!

    Question, will goose-stepping be a 2 part course? Will the brain-washing begin in kindergarten?

    Oh, and Sniffit, you're an idiot. You are truly about as bright as a small appliance bulb.

    February 27, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  2. Frost

    Great idea..

    Isn't it great that the President is working and making his people work.. not just sitting around..

    I love this

    February 27, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  3. Nonzuzo

    Train teachers first! And pay them well-

    February 27, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  4. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    No question that American students are falling further behind those in other industrialized nations, but the length of the school year is a local decision. All the feds can do is point this out to the mostly regressive yahoos who sit on school boards.

    February 27, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  5. angela

    I'm in total agreement with this plan. Our children have too much time on their hands during the summer. When school starts back the teachers spend the first few months reviewing where they left off the previous year.
    They also do too much testing in the schools also. We need better teachers and more parent participation.

    February 27, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  6. Starra

    As a high school student, I would not like a short summer, but I do agree that break can seem a little long.
    You can't expect 6 year olds to be in school for 10/11 out of 12 months – that's clearly overworking them.
    On the opposite end, (many) midde and high schoolers work hard, and need a break, longer than 5 days of summer, 'an american first'
    However, I do agree that break gets a bit boring after a while, so a summer vacation of about 10 weeks sounds good.

    February 27, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  7. Bob F.

    Most parents favor a longer school year because they won't have to pay a sitter to watch their kids. We'll just provide day care.

    What I want to know is, where will districts get the money to stay open longer, to pay teachers, and provide the things that used to be handled by PARENTS? Schools do need time to make repairs (summer) have remedial summer school (summer) and one quarter on with 3 weeks off, is not effective.

    This is just something to keep up with the rest of the world. If we studied our curriculums like Asian schools do with just a few things to learn really well, instead of a whole list of things to learn as best we can, we might do better. Also, return the management of Education up to the states as the U.S. Constitution stated and keep the Federal Government out of it. They have enough on their plate!

    February 27, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  8. bengadberry


    February 27, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  9. SJR

    I totally agree with Mr. Duncan...children have way too much free time and a longer school year is exactly what they need. The teachers also need to be paid a lot more.

    February 27, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  10. dave

    Winning teams always work harder and longer than losing teams and education is no different. If we plan to compete in the 21 century we got to be on top of our game because the rest of the world is on our hills.

    February 27, 2009 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  11. TracyM.

    @ Rob: How do you live with yourself? Were you raised by rattlensakes? Our educational system is the laughing-stock of industrialized countries. Please, do a little research before you spew your venom. Negativity released like toxic fumes that have been building in an air-tight room.

    And Sniffit - I actually look for your comments. They're great. I think I read in an earlier post you are a veteran. That makes you not only funny and smart, but honorable. Maybe Rob could learn something from you.

    February 27, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  12. Bob F.

    Oh, and rewarding teachers whose students do well. is going to magically change everything?

    Most teachers. myself included, do the best we can with the kids who attend our schools. If their parents don't want to make them accountable when they fail to bring in their homework, or act like they own the joint when they come to school, we aren't going to succeed.

    We need to legislate some parental responsibility along with student responsibility. A teacher can do just so much! The rest is up to the students. We can't take tests for them. We can't do their homework. Some responsibility has to be on the shoulders of the students AND their parents!

    February 27, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  13. america first

    he can forget the young vote.

    February 27, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  14. Ernie in LA

    He should be more concerned about dropouts than a longer year.

    February 27, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  15. dh

    Already established year round schools have been effective in many parts of the country. There are more frequent but shorter breaks. Attendance tends to be better (among staff and students). It definitely should be looked into.

    SV, Oklahoma, why don't you learn how to spell and post (like not using the screaming all caps) before you criticize teachers.

    Rob, you clearly have done no research on the subject. There are many studies out there by both conservative and liberal think tanks that show that year round schools tend to be very effective. It's knee-jerk reactions like yours that have forced only band-aid cures like vouchers on education. We need to look at the long-term and discuss ideas from all sides.

    February 27, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  16. tigerakabj

    Thank you Mr. Duncan. The format we have is based off the 19th century format that only had the 3 month vacation b/c it was the summer in which they had to be in the fields, not leisurely having Tom Sawyer summers. We have been long over do for a change in this format.

    But I also would add that physical education needs to be added back. Intelligent + physically active kids = educated populace that does not stress out the health care system in the long run.

    February 27, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  17. just wondering

    hmm, my daughter was a teacher, but, the wrongs she saw in the public schools sent her back to college, she got her masters degree, and opened a private, non profit school, open year round and is doing very well, and the students this school gets and graduates are far above intelligence than the average high school graduates..I think schools should be much longer, with better curriculums, better teachers..my grans come here to see me in summer, after 2 weeks are "bored", and wishing they were back in school, even though I spend a good deal of time with them, taking them places etc..its the school they "miss"..as well as thier friends, the structured enviorment etc..we dont NEED kids to work the fields anymore in summer, BUT, we do need them to EXCELL so America can again become competitive....

    February 27, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  18. Obama all the way

    Wouldn't it be a better idea to improve quality of teachers then do something in the time they are at school than to spend the whole year in school /we all need a break even our kids after all what is growing up for children than to have time to explore ,play and be a kid plus rest their brains.

    February 27, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  19. D2

    As a teacher, I really don't think the length of the school year is the problem. That's a cop-out. Teachers aren't trained well, they aren't paid well, they are minimally protected, the expectations of NCLB are ridiculous.

    And honestly, schools are underfunded as they are. We're going to add MORE school days? Please. Give teachers the materials they need. Save the schools. Update curriculum. That will save our education system, not three or four more weeks of school per year.

    February 27, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  20. Vietnam COMBAT Vet, OHIO

    He must have some brats to get out of his hair. Keep summer vacations for the kids! Teach them right in the first place and they won't be behind other countries.

    February 27, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  21. america first

    does pelosi have high blood, she looks so red faced?

    February 27, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  22. Hammer

    How about some discipline in the schools.
    And yes discipline starts at home. Hold the parents accountable, something that most of them know nothing about.

    February 27, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  23. gt

    thats a great idea , teachers have more vacations than any profession , the tax payers need to get there money worth from them and our childern need more education because we are falling behind the rest of the world

    February 27, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  24. just wondering

    wasnt making kids "work" in the fields before taking away thier childhood tOO ? todays kids have a better childhood IN school than they do out of school !

    February 27, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  25. Vietnam COMBAT Vet, OHIO

    ao, Hey "pollock", are you a citizen? If not mind your business!

    February 27, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
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