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Will More Days Make a Difference?

January 17, 1998

Gov. Pete Wilson's final budget proposes big spending for education for kindergarten through 12th grade. Calling school spending "an investment," Wilson proposes spending $30.8 billion in state and local money on a variety of school projects, including remedial reading programs and school safety. One of the most significant proposals would require that the state's 922 school districts provide a minimum of 180 days of instruction, up from an average of 173 days. Would these additional days make a difference? How would the extension benefit students and teachers? What other issues should be considered instead? MAURA E. MONTELLANO spoke with high school students and an administrator to find out what it means to them.


16, junior, Bassett High School, La Puente

It really doesn't matter if we have a longer year. The attitude of the teachers and students is what's important. No matter how long the day or the year, students won't learn if they don't want to. I come from a family where education is stressed. I want to learn so a longer year would only help me.

But I think Gov. Wilson is not focusing on the real problem: what's going on in the schools. We need computers, books, desks, more teachers and smaller classes. When I want to do research, I can't go to the library because the books and the equipment are so outdated. I have to do a lot of my homework here at school because there are not enough books to go around, much less to take home.

Most of the problems don't come from how many days we spend in school but how the time is spent while we're here. We have classes with 40 students and it's hard for the teacher to give personal attention because it's so crowded. The teachers end up spending more time trying to bring the class to order than they do teaching. Sometimes you end up sitting on the floor or sharing a seat with someone because there aren't enough desks. I cannot learn that way. No one can. The length of the school year isn't the main problem.


17, senior, Alhambra High School

We took a vote of the editorial board for our school paper and the majority was against having a longer year. If the curriculum here was modeled after that of other countries, such as Germany and Japan, perhaps we wouldn't need a longer year. Both these countries have more than 200 days of instruction, compared to our average 173. They take more classes than we do, so they need more time. Smaller class sizes would be good. Teachers should not spend so much time reviewing what we've already learned but instead should teach new material and encourage students to think creatively rather than just assigning reading and repetitive tasks.

Better textbooks should be purchased, books that include more detailed instructions.

When teachers take staff training days, they miss valuable time with us. I heard there is a plan to train teachers during the summer months. I think it would be a good idea because they wouldn't have to take time off during the school year. Higher standards should be implemented rather than adding days to the year.


17, senior, Burbank High School

The length of time we're in school won't make a difference. The quality of the teachers is the important thing. I had a teacher once whose class I could have been in for four hours a day and still not learned a thing, while another teacher helped me understand another subject in one class period. The teacher's enthusiasm for teaching and not just doing a job, really affects students.

Some kids are here because they have to be, not because they want to be. Lengthening the school year just adds that many more days they don't want to be there. A better school curriculum can make teaching and learning better. More creative ways of teaching can also make it more interesting for us.

Teachers have to learn to approach students. A lot of teachers feel they have to intimidate. They could be more involved with us in many ways. Some teachers make it clear that they only are available at certain times.

California schools are way below the standards of other schools. I'm from Texas and there, we were required to take four years of math and science; in California schools we are only required to take two years of each. This makes a big difference in what we learn. My education could be better with quality time in class with the teachers, a more challenging curriculum and better explanation of course work. We don't need a longer year, we need more dedicated students and teachers.


17, senior, Simi Valley High School

Educational standards are lacking in the United States. We are falling behind other countries, so I think it's a good idea to add more days. Wilson should focus on keeping up with the technology age and providing resources that would help keep students in school. Students, in turn, need to come to school prepared and ready to learn.

Smaller class sizes, better resources and the extra school days would make the education process work better. Schools need to rethink their priorities too. Most schools really stress athletics as opposed to academics. At my school, a lot of what is singled out are the sports accomplishments and not how well we're doing or how high our test scores are.

A lot of students don't even attend the last week of school, which just might just defeat the purpose of extending the year.

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