Sunday, January 23, 2011

Last Stand for Children First pushes for an American education reform

For several years now, the best country in the world on the international PISA test has been Finland.  Their scores dwarf our own and top the list of the best countries in the world for education.  Let's look for a second at the qualities of the Finish education system:

Finnish System
School Day: 4 hour days the first two years to up to as many as 6 hours in high school
School Year: 190 Days
Beginning School Age: 7
Private Schools: Very Few
Unionization: Extensive
Teacher Autonomy: Extensive
PE: 3-4 times per week
Recess: Mandatory for about an hour per day
Homework: About half as much as American students
Standardized Tests: None

It is clear that if we do not do something to catch up with Finland, they will soon be our overlords.  It is not hard to imagine with their geographical location that they could resurrect the old Soviet Union with themselves at the helm and restart the Cold War.

So how do we catch up with the Fins?   By using a uniquely American model.  From doing extensive research, we have come up with what we believe is a quintessential American way to establish our security over the Fins once again.

The American System
School Day: 9 and a half hours (KIPP)
School Year: Average Up to 255 (Duncan and Obama)

Beginning School Age: 3 (LS4C1)
Private Schools: Expand school choice with charters and vouchers (Mitch Daniels)
Unionization: Eliminated (Tennessee)
Teacher Autonomy: None (American Prospect)
PE: Not Necessary (Duncan)
Recess: Not Necessary (Many)
Homework: Increased (Rauch)
Standardized Tests: Extensive (Various)

This American Systems is the perfect balance for today's students.  In our 9 and a half hour day and longer school year devoid of time wasting PE and recess, our students will get over 3 times more direct instruction than students in Finland.   While, this will cost more money, savings can easily be derived from putting more students into classes and by eliminating teachers unions.

There is no reason that a 7 year old student, shouldn't have a longer day and less days off than his working parents because he would not have to deal with adult stress. A man that I rarely agree with Steven Krashen professor emeritus (That's edubabble for semi-retired, but still paid like a contributor) at the University of Southern California, extolled the virtues of a twenty-one hour school day in a recent Washington Post article stating:

"A study published in the Journal of Irreproducible Results in 1991 concluded that a 21-hour school day is optimal, with continuous classes and no breaks, except for two breaks for meals and one lavatory visit.

Among the many advantages would be fewer discipline problems and quieter classrooms because of sleep deprivation, which "lessened the students' rebellious impulses."

I have long been a fan of JIR since their article showing that TFA teachers far surpassed their more experienced colleagues because of a youthful energy.   I have unfortunately been unable to find that particular 20 year old study.   However, a thorough research study on the advantages of mass sleep deprivation on a classroom setting would be a very welcome addition to the conversation on school reform.


  1. It is wonderful that people are now considering the 21-hour school day suggestion. Here is the original citation:
    O'Neal, R. and Hicks, L. 1991. The 21-hour school day. The Journal of Irreproducible Results, 36 (6): 17

    Another idea that might help is contained in my article: Krashen, S. 1998. Phonemic awareness training for prelinguistic children: Do we need prenatal PA? Reading Improvement 35: 167-171.

    O'Neal and Hicks also mentioned the possibility that food might not be really necessary for children, another exciting research direction.

  2. I hear that the US Department of Education has hired Delores Umbridge, former head of Hogswarts, as the new undersecretary of education. Can you confirm this?

  3. Thank you for taking the time to post Professor Krashken...or at least for having one of your secretaries take the time. I have heard that food might be an unneeded expense and the thought of removing it from the school day. I checked the Broad Academy website and I don't see Delores Umbridge listed as an alumni, so I would guess this is just idle speculation.

  4. Here's an idea for successful parents to help the schools: Buy more shoes, in order to donate the shoe boxes to elementary schools. This will immeasurably help the schools, and we will have more shoes. It's a real win-win !

  5. Much obliged to you for taking an ideal opportunity to post Professor Krashken...or at any rate for having one of your secretaries take the time. I have heard that nourishment may be an unneeded cost and the considered expelling it from the school day. I checked the Broad Academy site and I don't see Delores Umbridge recorded as a graduated class, so I would figure this is simply sit out of gear theory.

    Pay to write paper