At least one recent report on improving school quality, "A Nation at Risk," suggested a 200-220 day school year, instead of the 180-day year, as it is now. That recommendation undoubtedly arose from the antiquated basis on which we now operate and comparisons with Russian, Chinese and Japanese school years of approximately 240 days.
A longer school year has received little attention in Montgomery County, probably for two reasons. First, moving from a 185-to a 200-day school year would be very expensive -- adding an estimated $53 million (a 12 percent increase) to the school budget, plus the cost of air-conditioning many existing buildings. Second, a school year that ran until mid-July would disrupt many established patterns, including family vacations, jobs, summer school and camps.
No one suggests that most young people couldn't profit from more schooling and school employees from more pay, but many teachers believe that a paid month for training or study, rather than more teaching, would achieve greater payoff in educational quality.
Rather than attempting to change a century-old pattern of summer vacation, many educators share the view of Ernest L. Boyer, former U.S. commissioner of education and now president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. In "High School," which contained his recommendations for school improvement, Boyer states: "Our school visits convinced us that lengthening the school year is not a top priority for school reform. The urgent need is not more time but better use of time."
That's the direction in which we're looking. 90:By Kenneth K. Muir; the writer is director of long-range planning for the Montgomery County Public Schools.