Student Achievement

Americans Lukewarm on Longer School Day, Poll Finds

By Kathryn Baron — September 16, 2014 2 min read
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Parents aren’t thrilled over the idea of lengthening the school day, but they are inclined to cut short their children’s summer vacation in exchange for longer breaks throughout the year, according to a new survey.

A Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll released this week finds that 31 percent of Americans support lengthening the school day, nearly half oppose the idea, and about 20 percent had no strong feelings one way or the other.

When pollsters separated out the responses of parents with children in public school, support for longer school days dropped very slightly to 30 percent, and parents were a bit more firm in their opposition—51 percent said no—than the general public.

The poll found stronger support among both groups for adding more days to the average 180-day school year. Forty-four percent of all respondents and 40 percent of parents said they agree or strongly agree with that idea.

Interestingly, the scale tipped in the opposite direction on the question of year-round schools. For the first time this year, the poll also asked about summer vacation. Nearly half of all parents㬬 percent—and 45 percent the general public gave a thumbs up to shortening summer vacation and instead adding those days taken from the summer to give students more breaks during the rest of the year.

About one in four Americans said year-round schooling is a good idea, as long as the number of days students attend school stays the same. Of course, no one has asked the students what they think.

Bill Bushaw, THE poll director and CEO of Phi Delta Kappa, said opinions have been fairly consistent over time, with generally more support for longer years and less for a longer school day, but without any sharp differences.

“It’s not as if everyone is saying, ‘Yes, we need to change this,’” said Bushaw. “They’re a little blasé about it. From my reading of the results it’s not an overwhelming issue for Americans in general.”

Views about teachers and teacher training were more passionate. As Education Week reporter Stephen Sawchuk wrote in Teacher Beat earlier this week, well over half of those surveyed said entrance requirements should be tougher for colleges of education and other teacher preparation programs.

The public’s attitude about expanded school days and years seems to contradict the urgency in many state legislatures to push forward on these proposals, said Bushaw. According to the National Center on Time and Learning, there has been a trend toward lengthening the school day in recent years, but not substantially.

One of the reasons Phi Delta Kappa put so much time and energy into this poll, said Bushaw, is so policymakers and legislators know whether they have strong support or if “they need to either alter their proposals or do a better job of communicating why they think these [proposals] are important.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Time and Learning blog.