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Obama Suggests Longer School Year - Is it Right for Tennessee?

October 1, 2009

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - President Obama has suggested that American school districts extend the school day and year, in order to give students an edge globally in the 21st century. Earl Wiman, president of the Tennessee Education Association, says while that is one option, other tools exist to boost student achievement that aren't as costly.

"You're talking about spending a tremendous amount of money to be able to do that. And the second part of that is it once again wrests control away from local school systems."

Wiman points out that some students already excel, so instruction need not be expanded for all students.

"I know as a former elementary school principal that we extended our school day for students who had demonstrated areas of need, and we felt like we could work with them in the extended day."

He says focusing resources on students who need the most help is another way to boost performance without a lot more money. Critics of changing the school year complain students are already overscheduled and need more time to play. Proponents say the school calendar originally was shaped to align with agricultural calendars, but that was in an age when the economy was more farming- and ranching-based, so it is now out of date.

Dick Layman, Public News Service - TN