Longer school days won’t improve grades

One of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposals for a higher graduation rate is for full-day kindergarten and the extension of the school day and school year.

I am an elementary school teacher who is certified in elementary K-6 and art K-12. I taught kindergarten in the Boston Public Schools (inner city) for nine years. I had 34 kids and no aide. Contrary to what some people believe, kindergarten teachers are not baby sitters. We teach readiness for math, reading, language arts, science and social studies, as well as music and art. We teach in units, and it is one of the hardest grades to teach because the attention span for students is minimal. Thus a teacher has to be extremely organized, with complete control, yet in a manner that is non-threatening.

With that said, I am not in favor of full-day kindergarten. I feel it is simply too much pressure to put on children of that young age. In fact, I doubt a longer day, or even a longer school year for that matter, will improve the grades of students.

Children who fail at a later age usually did not grasp the basics when they were in the primary grades, and since most learning is based on, and added to previous learning, their grades decline further and further. One way to compensate for this would be to give these students (while they are still in the elementary grades) one-on-one tutoring to master the basics, especially in math, reading and language arts. That is where a longer day (for those students only) could be extremely effective.

Other problems play into failure as well, such as a lack of motivation and discipline from home, and basic needs in the students’ environment that are not being met. As much as the government would like to control those aspects, it is simply not its place.

Ellie Corcoran