A new bill introduced in Congress would greatly improve academic achievement for low-income and minority children. Recently, Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NY) and Reps. Donald Payne (D-NJ), Mike Honda (D-CA), Steve Chabot (R-OH) introduced the Time for Innovation Matters in Education Act, or TIME Act, catalyzing a conversation at the national level about the importance of time. Targeting high-poverty schools, the TIME Act provides funding to states and districts to support the creation of expanded learning time initiatives to expand the school calendar by a minimum of 300 hours for all students in participating schools.
The school calendar in the United States has remained largely unchanged since a time when children were needed to help harvest summer crops and work in the field in the afternoon. A lot has happened since that time. Industries emerged many decades ago that moved us far beyond an agrarian economy and technology has raced ahead, demanding new and complex skills. Yet the school calendar has not shifted to reflect these changes.
Today, children in the United States attend school for an average of six and a half hours per day, 180 days a year. In this age of global competitiveness, it is important to put that in an international context. Students in Finland, Japan, and Korea receive an average of 197 days of instruction per year. All three countries also outrank the United States in an international comparison of academic achievement.
Our education woes don’t end there. Domestically, it is no secret that there is a stagnant and stark achievement gap between low-income or minority students and their more affluent peers. The confines of the traditional school schedule limit the ability of teachers and students to engage and delve deeply into academic content and develop skills for the 21st century. More time is needed to better prepare students for college and careers in an increasingly competitive global economy. Students nationally—especially low-income and minority students—stand to benefit from an expanded schedule.
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