Our Schools Need Overhaul

Bill Neinast


What happened?  Where are the students?  They are not in classrooms, sports complexes, parks, or the yards of neighbors.

Oh, that’s right.  They are among the very few students in the world who get a three month summer vacation.  And being young Americans, that means they are lounging around at home playing video games or texting with their friends just down the street.

When the school bells ring again in September, they will reluctantly trudge back to school with iPhones in hand to start relearning what they forgot over the summer.

Will we ever wake up?  The nine month school term was developed when the U.S. was a rural, agrarian economy.  The kids were needed at home during the summer months to help Mom and Dad produce and bring in the crops.  And before air-conditioning, it was much too hot in much of the country to expect much concentration and study in stiflingly hot classrooms.

Those conditions are now distant memories, so the only reason for not joining the rest of the world with eleven month school years is money.  Having three month vacations every year is one of the reasons that teacher salaries can be kept as low as they are.

There is, however, one problem with eleven month school years.  When parents want to vacation with their children, they have to wait for that one month free from school.  If the school free month is the same throughout the country, there is a problem with jam packed vacation spots and available hotel rooms. 

Short school years, though, are not the only problem.  Now there are short school weeks.

Money may also be one of the culprits leading some school districts to four day school weeks. Some of these districts, however, do increase the number of hours of each school day.


At least one district has admitted that it was going to four day school weeks in hopes of attracting teachers from districts who pay their teachers more, but for five day weeks.

This silliness was topped off recently when the Stony Point, New York, school district announced that it was considering abolishing homework.  Seems some students were complaining that homework was too stressful.  

Now that is a way to run a school district.  Do what the students want to do.  Do not tell them what to do.

Unfortunately, requiring homework is an ongoing debate elsewhere.  If you have access to the internet, you can participate in some of the discussions.

Now look at what we get from a nine month school year of four day a week classes, and no homework.  In recent educational rankings of countries, the U.S. was 33d in reading, 27th in math, and 22d in science.  

In another survey of 80 nations, we are ranked 8th after Switzerland, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, Sweden, and Australia.  In those countries, the school year stretches for ten months or more.

The few days a year that youngsters are now required to go to school have been aggravated in recent years by some super smart (in their own minds) men and women in Washington and Austin dictating what has to be taught in our schools.  Aggravating their grand schemes are their directives that the students must be tested on those areas directed from on high and that the test scores will indicate whether the local district might have to be taken over by higher authorities.

So here’s the perspective.

Our school system needs an overhaul from top to bottom.  Start by returning full authority to local school boards.  Local community leaders and parents know much more about the educational needs of their students than some nerds in a far away state.

Those leaders will also know whether the school year needs to be only nine months long or whether a full calendar year with frequent breaks would work better.

Underpinning the whole process will have to be a recognition that the system has to be fully funded.  Until we fund the education system at a level that attracts the best and brightest teachers who can inspire our students to reach for the stars, we will not rank in the top tier of education.



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