Tuesday, March 24, 2015

180 days of school…sez who?

Why 180 days of public school?

The short answer is: there’s no particular reason, it isn’t based on any educational theory, it’s just a political compromise.

It’s more or less common knowledge that the September-June school year with summers off is a vestige of America’s largely agricultural society in the 18th and 19th centuries, when kids were needed to do farm work in the busy seasons.

However, it ain’t necessarily so, according to Rebecca Steinitz in the Boston Globe Magazine  on March 22, 2015.

Well into the 19th century, some rural states opened schools for only a couple months during summer and winter, and kids helped with planting and harvesting in spring and fall. Some cities extended the school year to as long as 245 days (e.g. New York City in 1842) to maximize school attendance.

In time, nationwide efforts to establish education standards embraced extension of the scope of public education to include high school, adoption of a common curriculum, and agreement on the length of the school year—the 180-day schedule was a compromise between the two rural and urban extremes, and nothing more.

So, in fact, slavish commitment to “get in 180 days of instruction” has no particular pedagogical rationale.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

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