Friday, September 7, 2012

Less is more

In the majority of schools in the United States the amount of time a student spends in a seat is the single most important item when receiving credit.  For over 100 years the Carnegie Unit continues to drive our nations schools.  As I was reading, Finnish Lessons: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland?  I came across an interesting segment on seat time comparisons to other countries.  The United States leads the way in the amount of instructional hours we require of students.  Here are some actual numbers from the book.
"Finland teaches about 600 hours annually compared to the United States' 1,080 hours." - Pasi Sahlberg
US policy makers have typically increased the hours of instruction as their fix to the problems that exist.  It begs the question, does seat time really matter?  Based on this study and comparisons to high performing countries like Finland seat time does not matter.  Finland greatly outperforms the United States with half of the amount of instructional hours.  
"There appears to be very little correlation between intended instruction hours in public education and resulting students performance, as assessed by the PISA study." - Pasi Sahlberg 
I have been thinking a lot about how we can embed more collaborative time within the school day K-12.  It makes it very difficult to embed school improvement processes when it is all about seat time and the length of the day.  When will policy makers realize that it is not about the amount of hours or minutes that make up the day? It is the quality of the instruction given to students.  This in my opinion cannot be accomplished without flexible scheduling by schools.  
"Lower teaching hours provide teachers more opportunities to engage in school improvement, curriculum planning, and personal professional development during their working hours." - Pasi Sahlberg 

It's about QUALITY not QUANTITY.

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