The National Center on Time and Learning reports that more than 170 schools around the country have extended their school year to more than 190 days, including at least two schools in Missouri. Both schools in Missouri and the majority of schools across the country that are opting for longer days or longer years are charter schools. For example, the renowned national charter network Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) lists “more time” as one of their strategies for delivering a high-quality education to their students. Students at KIPP Inspire Academy in Saint Louis attend school from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every other Saturday. Additionally, students are required to attend summer school. Having visited several KIPP schools, I commend their efforts to improve education outcomes for disadvantaged students. Nonetheless, I do not believe their strategy should be mandated everywhere.
As Hess notes, many families are able to provide enriching activities for their children in the summer, like vacations and summer camps. For these families, summer school may stifle their learning. On the other hand, some students may benefit from the additional learning time. Too often, researchers and policymakers develop a “we know best” mentality. When they believe a program or solution will benefit individuals, they attempt to mandate that strategy for everyone. In reality, people are different and need different solutions.