Finnish Finish School with Better Grades

October 20, 2010
Below standard test scores, especially in math and science, spurred President Obama
to suggest a longer school year. His notion is that if students are in school a month longer, preferably with an August start, then they are taught more of the
curriculum, thus they improve their scores. However, we must realize that although an extended year may somewhat help students retain more information longer, it would be an ineffective way to raise test scores and an unnecessary financial burden.
The importance of summer vacation is critically underestimated. The summer
symbolizes a period when we get together with family and friends to enjoy a few relaxing moments without being preoccupied about homework assignments, due
dates, tests, or waking up early. If school is extended another month, only eight percent of the year remains for vacation time. In addition, the amount of time that we will be able to spend on extracurricular activities and
volunteering in order to get scholarships for college will be reduced. There needs to be a balance of school time and vacation time; Obama's eleventh month plan tips the scale. The disproportionate balance will affect one of the most
important aspects of life, sleep.
Teenagers are prone to sleep an average of two hours less than what is considered healthy during the school year. Our concentration isn't what it should be because of sleep deprivation. Low attention spans disable us from comprehending anything we hear from teachers. Researchers have found poor grades are directly linked to the lack of sleep. Having a longer year, therefore, is nonsensical if the goal is to raise scores because it would indisputably result in deficiency of sleep.

And extensive research since the 1980s suggests that there is no correlation between an extend school year and better scores on tests. For instance, Sweden
has an average of 170 days of school, which is fifteen days shorter than the school year in the US. Nonetheless Sweden's students achieve better grades in
math and science than America's students. America also spends more hours in school than many of its competitors. According to the University of Southern Maine, March 2009, around the world, countries that score higher on tests, like Canada, Japan, and Korea, spend an average of 701 hours in school. Finland
spends even less, only about 600 hours. Americans spend almost twice as much as the Finnish with a mean of 1100 hours. In spite of having extra time, Americans
usually score ten to twenty percent lower than Finnish students. Longer school years prove to be futile in improving scores, and the operating expenses may be more then what our country can bear.

Obama's educational plan will have severe consequences on our already fragile economy. Expenses such as teachers' salaries, school supplies, per-pupil costs,
utilities bills and miscellaneous payments would accumulate to a point where we might not be able to handle them. Fox News reports that every extra week of school would cost four hundred to five hundred million dollars. An extra month of school consequently has a price tag of a whopping one point six to two billion dollars. Where are we going to get that type of money, especially if the
federal government has set approximately only three percent of the country's budget for education? Even if we find funding, means alone do not necessarily assure better grades.

Since the early 1970s, per-pupil expenditures have more than doubled from four thousand dollars to nine thousand dollars for the purpose of improving scores.
Yet despite the increase in costs per student, scores have remained relatively constant, according to Dan Lips, senior policy analyst, and Shanea Watkins, Ph. D, policy analyst in Empirical studies.

Although some may argue that longer school years may improve
student's understanding of topics learned, we must recognize that quality of teaching is far more important than quantity of days in school. We should be concerned about reinforcing more in depth lessons, rather than trying to space lessons out. If Finland can finish the curriculum in half the time we can, and score higher on exams, then there is something seriously amiss in our educators'
teaching skills.

We need higher scores on tests, but a longer year does not guarantee them. A stress on quality, however, may do the job. Only then, may we step up to
the plate with competitive countries like Finland, Sweden, Korea, and Japan.

Join the Discussion

This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

boberific said...
Mar. 8, 2011 at 3:44 pm
Wow! I didn't know our teachers are that bad. Twice the number of hours in school as Finland, yet we score lower. 
twifreak said...
Mar. 8, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Thanks, I needed this. I'm in the debate team in my school and this helped my team win the longer school aurgument.

thanks again for being a life saver

muzikgirl said...
Dec. 22, 2010 at 4:23 pm
i like your essay, it's very clear and persuasive.
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