What Should the School Day Look Like?

Yesterday, the city of Chicago announced a pilot program to introduce extended school days at 15 elementary schools over the coming school year. In total, 90 minutes would be added in the form of 35 minutes of online reading courses, 35 minutes of online math courses, and 20 minutes of free time—for a grand total of 70 extra minutes of actual learning. During that period of time the children will be supervised by adults not affiliated with those pesky teachers' unions.

The initiative is one of many proposed and already underway to look at the effect of more time spent in school on the quality of learning. Last year, President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan called for extended school years and longer days to help cut the gap in achievement between U.S. children and those from other nations. In February, the school board in Houston approved a pilot program for an extended school year, which would add two weeks to the calendar; it's superintendent cited longer years at both YES and KIPP charter schools as inspiration for the move.

Meanwhile, a Brooking Institution study released in late-2007 found that more time spent on math instruction led to higher math scores. A study at the American Institutes of Research found that one of the ingredients behind charter schools' success was an extended school day. Though, more time itself was not the key to its effectiveness.

These schools that embedded support for students into the regular school day and provided for more opportunities for teachers to participate in collective professional development, student-focused discussion, and collaborative planning time" were more important than just more time.


Interestingly, as the idea of extending the school day starts to gain traction, so does the idea of starting it later, as early morning bells have been linked to depression, weight gain, and poor academic performance. Many school districts around the country that once started classes before 8 a.m. have delayed them by roughly an hour.

So, we should keep kids in class longer? But, we shouldn't start them too early? Either or both is fine by me, as long as it doesn't bankrupt school districts in the process. A less money-consuming option, of course, is to use the time already allotted for more effective instruction.

Photo (cc) via Flickr user sidewalk flying.

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The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

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Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

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