To the Editor:
I applaud Jennifer Davis and David Farbman for focusing on the need to extend the school day and school year as the “next frontier” for school reform (“Rethinking Time: The Next Frontier of Education Reform,” Commentary, Dec. 1, 2004).
As an advocate for quality arts education for all students, I am struck by the brutal either-or choices educators now confront in trying to squeeze too many curricular mandates into too little time. Elementary teachers are mandated to set aside a “morning block” for reading, often limiting opportunities for instruction in the arts. Struggling middle school students are mandated to attend additional hours of remedial instruction, losing access to elective courses in the arts. These are just a sample of the torrent of mandates that expand what must be taught, but fail to provide the additional time required.
Secondary schools with the strongest arts programs have found ways to extend the school day, whether through a “zero period” early in the morning or a “7th period” in the afternoon. But these programs tend to be specialized academies that serve students who are already engaged in the arts. Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of students who attend regular schools are left without a truly comprehensive curriculum.
Clearly, it is time to confront the powerful and enduring constraints that have maintained the traditional school day and year for so long. Let the debate begin.
Vice President for Education
Performing Arts Center
of Los Angeles County
Los Angeles, Calif.
A version of this article appeared in the January 05, 2005 edition of Education Week as More Time in the Day for Giving Students More