Thursday, October 27, 2011

Longer school day or smaller class size?

Research you can use 
"Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has voiced a preference for expanding school days and years to increase instructional time over reducing class sizes." -- Edweek
Why do Arne Duncan, Rahm Emanuel and corporate school reformers all favor longer school days and school year while opposing smaller class size initiatives? The answer is simple. The longer school day and year require fewer teachers, with each teacher teaching  more kids in larger classes at no extra cost. This is the business model of school reform. Yes, it's cheaper in the short run.  It is also a "reform" that is meant to override collective bargaining agreements.

However, there is no evidence that more instructional time alone, especially in larger classes, has any positive effect on measurable learning outcomes or on closing the so-called "achievement gap." In fact, many studies show a drop-off in student engagement that accompanies longer instructional time and that the addition of instructional time alone is insufficient to maximize learning outcomes (See: "Time and learning in the special education classroom." by Libby Goodman). There's plenty of other research showing little benefit expected from a further increase in the amount of math and reading instruction offered per day. For example: The merits of a longer school day, Charles R. Link, James G. Mulligan and Theory and practice of early reading, Lauren B. Resnick, Phyllis A. Weaver.

Ironically, some of the best research summaries on the benefits of smaller class size can be found right on the D.O.E.'s own website.  Other resources include:


  1. It's amazing that the secretary of education ignores his department's own research. You might expect such things from Rahm Emanuel who will say and do anything in the name of political expediency.

  2. Arne Duncan is very fond of Andreas Schleicher, the OECD head of PISA analysis. Latest PISA results seem to indicate US schools are failing and this forms the DoE's justification for school closings, turnarounds, privatization, and daily, computer-based remediation for students -- opportunities for corporations to profit.

    It should be noted that PISA tests only 5,600 15 year olds in 170 schools, a vey small number for making such broad claims regarding the comparative quality of education.

    Also, in most foreign countries, only children headed for university take the PISA. Children in vocational programs are excluded. In the US, ALL children take PISA.

    Moreover, rates of childhood poverty are significantly lower in the top-performing countries like Finland, than in the US, and this also affects the US scores.

    A brilliant American said it best: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."
    MArk Twain said it first and best. There are liars, damned liars and sta

  3. thanks Mike! see also our NYC parent blog on the research on this very issue at

  4. Let's put it this way. Whenever they need someone to carry their mail on corporate school reform, Alter's the mailman.


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