While state requirements vary on the number of instructional days and hours in the year, the majority of states set the school year at 180 days. 180 days times seven school hours per day equal 1260 hours.
I’m curious, how many of these hours are actual learning hours? Let’s imagine what an elementary school hours calculation might be. Take into account assemblies, recesses, field trips, driving time, lunch, line-call, transitions between classes, and half days, and we might be able to say that around two thirds—840 actual instructional hours—account for true instructional time in an academic year.
Now, consider this other question. What if we saw education not as a compartmentalized part of life but as life itself? Not as 180 days out of the year but year-round? Given that some days will account for more hours than other days, here is how the math might work out:
Traditional 180 days of school: 1260 hours
Estimated actual instruction hours in a traditional school: 840 hours
- 840 hours divided by the magical 180 days: 4.67 hours per day
- Those same 840 hours divided by 365 days = 2.3 hours per day
According to these calculations, 2.3 hours per day (year round) or 4.67 hours per day (180 days) of classroom instruction is needed to achieve a standard level of state-tested intelligence. That’s it! Everything else in the traditional education system could be considered busy work, crowd control, wasted or transition time.
Now, there is nothing necessarily wrong with transition time, waiting-in-line time, and crowd-control time. That is many times (no pun intended) a part of life. But if we had student’s best interest in mind, and if there are other educational models that cut much of that wasted time out—and if these models kept the family more central to the child’s life—wouldn’t we encourage families to consider these models? Or the least we could be would be to incorporate benefits found in other educational models into the traditional school model.
And that’s what some secular and evangelical school systems are doing. Wonderfully, the schools I am a part of are doing it too. Unfortunately however, a growing number of parents are still pulling their kids out of these traditional systems. Maybe the change was too little too slow, I’m not sure. What I do know is that many parents want to experience the benefits of a less institutionalized approach. Many of these parents don’t want to leave the system and teachers they love and support, but by their actions they are expressing a desire for these systems to continue growing in their offerings of multiple educational options beyond the one perceived cookie-cutter approach. Is it possible for traditional schools to do accelerate positive change?
Of course is is! Like John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”