Obama's World-Beating Business Plan: Keep Kids in School Longer

Will extending the school year save innovation in America?

President Obama has made his views on teachers and the American education system publicly known—he announced yesterday that not only do bad teachers need to get going, but the school year needs to be extended in order to improve educational outcomes. This basically points to the assumption that our school system is not doing so hot these days, something we wrote about yesterday with the news that the United States is losing its innovative edge due to a lack of investment in math and science education.

Extending the school year may just give America's kids the extra boost they need to start competing with China and other rising innovation giants. Japan, South Korea, Germany, and New Zealand send their kids to school for 196-197 days per year, compared to 180 days in the United States, and Obama said a month more for U.S. students could make a world of difference. He went further, too, expressing concern that children, especially in poorer areas, may not retain what they have learned when on summer break and thus extending the school year may help maximize learning retention.

It's clear from recent reports that the U.S. is anxious about its future of innovation and education is one place to ensure global competitiveness. But without investment in quality teachers and comprehensive curricula—and perhaps an extension of the school year—we will be playing catch-up with the rest of the world for a long time.

[Image: whitehouse.gov]

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  • James Dias

    yes - its important we find new strategies to reform K12 education in the US but I find most of the discourse on this matter quite uninspired. Most of the solutions we're talking about (again!!) have been bounced around for a decade with very, very little actual implementation or gains made. Root cause: we don't have smart and courageous leadership at local levels to push these changes through. The White House ought to select promising superintendents from around the nation and develop a commando unit of Michelle Rhees that can go back to their districts with tools, funds, and attitudes to make key changes happen in the context of their state and local needs. To do that, these "supers" need to have the chops to plan and manage change; fast and effectively. They need judo skills for dealing with cranky, know-it-all, selfish parents that can't see past their television sets, and some political jujitsu to deal with local, make excuse politicians. In each case where change is happening in the edu system, there is a smart, strong-willed superintendent. Its time to put some more muscle like that out there. [FTR - I've worked with 5 superintendents in my professional capacity and as a parent of children in public school - only one of them had the skill and will required to make changes - and he did - but 1 in 5 is a pretty lousy ratio]

  • Scott McLeod

    Students are BORED. Much of what passes in school is mind-numbingly dull for kids. Just ask 'em. It was like that for us too, but today's students - exposed to other ways of learning, communicating, and interacting - are less likely to play "the game of school."

    When our kids go home, they get the opportunity to interact and connect and collaborate with people all over the globe. If they wish, they can do this on a regular basis.

    When our kids go home, they get the opportunity to learn about areas in which they’re interested and to act on issues about which they’re passionate. They get the opportunity to be creative. They can make and share videos and stories and pictures and other things and, if others see value in them, find audiences in the hundreds or thousands or even millions.

    When our kids go home, they get the opportunity to be immersed in personalized, individualized learning environments. We call them ‘the Internet’ or ‘video games.’ These environments are characterized by active inquiry and – in the case of video games – continual problem-solving.

    What do our kids get when they go to school? Do they get the chance to regularly and frequently interact with diverse people from all over the planet? Nope. If they’re lucky, they might get the chance to interact with other students in their class, who like as not come from the same place and/or culture that they do.

    Do they get the chance to be active content producers rather than passive information consumers? Do they get the chance to reach authentic audiences? Nope. If they’re lucky, they get to be creative every once in a while for a ‘special project’ or occasionally exhibit their work one evening at school for the local community.

    Do they get the chance to experience individualized learning? Nope. Instead, they’re exposed to a mass model of education, one in which they’re lucky if occasionally the lesson is at “their level.”

    Of course there are some exceptions to what I’ve written here, but for the most part this holds true for most students in most schools.

    Bottom line: More of the same ol' thing isn't going to cut it.

  • M Kats

    I could not agree with Obama more. As much as we want kids to grow up "our" way, we can;t do it anymore. The new world order is globalization. Kids would have to compete against those from India and China and unfortunately do have to work as hard as they do and smarter than them to stay on top.

    Go Obama... lead new gen to work harder and "earn" rather than feel entitled to get it....