by John Martin, CNN
Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
(CNN) – Chicago's mayor and the city's teachers union have come up with a plan for a longer school day for students: hire additional teachers, but don't extend the school day for most teachers. We asked our readers how this might impact students. The forum shifted from the impact on students to a lively debate over how hard teachers work compared to other professions.
Some readers questioned whether longer school days would benefit students, with some offering opinions on how a longer day could be structured:
Felix: This is only the 1st step....IMO the trend should be towards what the countries that have surpassed the US have done – longer Days...less Summer vacation if any at all (Some school systems don't have a summer break anymore...just weeks of hiatus during the summer), Less television, more after school sports/activities and more teachers.
Cindy: As a teacher, the days are long enough, what we need is a longer school year. More contact days. Students lose ground over the summer breaks (which 200 yrs ago were so they could work on farms...I don't think we need that farm help now.) Longer school years will allow more remediation time that is needed with some students or more time for deeper teaching of intense subjects.
teechr21: Extending the school day isn't the answer. It's about changing what happens DURING the day that makes all the difference. An ineffective teacher is still going to be ineffective, just for a longer amount of time each day.
Maggiemae: If the schools use this time for students to do their homework in a supervised environment I would definitely support it. Kids seem to have a great deal more homework than when I was in school. The education folks often bemoan the fact that parents don't make sure kids do their homework. Why not do this in a room with a supervisor who can assist with questions?
Robert: You can make the school days longer as you want, that doesn't mean anyone will learn. That's like sitting in a cardboard box for an extra 30 mins thinking you're about to learn how to save the world. IF you don't have teaching skills, it won't work...
Dave: Something that is often neglected in these discussions is the fact that research on longer days has shown they are not effective in increasing student achievement. The mayor's claim that lengthening the day to increase time in the core subjects will lead to a significant increase in academic achievement has no basis in the research. Look it up.
Dave, we looked it up. A 2010 study of other research studies found that sometimes longer school days are effective, sometimes not. They found that longer school days seem to work in some programs, but the research also suggests that students who already are mastering the curriculum may be better served participating in alternative learning experiences. The study's authors say their biggest conclusion is that more research needs to be done on the effectiveness of longer school days. So that debate continues.
Some might call the resolution of the dispute in Chicago a win-win. But as the debate shifted focus from students, to teachers, most of the comments centered around the length of a teacher work day, and whether teachers are paid adequately.
coloradom: Wish my job was limited to 296 minutes per day!
Jolyn: That 296 minutes is the time spent in front of the students. It doesn't count the hours teachers spend preparing for lessons for each subject they teach and grading.
doctorguy: I just fail to understand why it is so difficult to put in an accountability system for teachers and why unions oppose it so much. As taxpayers, I feel like we give them lots of things that most people do not have. Teachers get great benefits, get summers to do as they please, get every weekend off and get instilled vacations for winter and spring breaks on top of their personal and sick days. I know that many teachers use their weekends and "breaks" to plan, but they get to use this on their own time and do not directly report to someone at these times and class planning time severely decreases after several years. However, I digress. I just think that given all these niceties, tax payers should get to see that the best teachers are the ones with the jobs and getting their money.
George: We don't believe a word about all that supposed extra time teachers say they put in. No one in the real world can imagine having 3-4 months a year off from their job. Teachers have this little habit of saying what their ANNUAL salary is, but not wanting to note that they only work about 8 months for that pay. A little more honesty from teachers would go a LONG WAY.
Teacher: My salary is for 9 months that I choose to have allocated over a 12 month period. I don't get paid for not working. I get paid less while I'm working so I have a paycheck when school is not in session. Furthermore, while I may not have students over the summer, that does not mean I am not working. I have spent this summer doing a summer movie program for my students because there is no where for them to go in our small town. This is not contracted time, but something as their teacher I choose to do. I also spend my summer at workshops and writing curriculum units. It would be best to not judge someones profession unless you have walked a mile in their shoes.
John in NY: What makes you think teacher's salaries are substantially less? Locally we have many teachers making over $90k a year, not counting any summer classes they teach and/or coaching they might do. Now add to this that it's only for 180 days a year and that each day includes less then 5 hours of actual teaching I have to wonder why more people aren't disgusted by this?
Some readers compared the American education system to that of other countries.
yardbird1: Oh pahlease, not all children are educated in other countries. If a child can't cut it in many countries, they are only educated until 8th grade. In countries that do educate all, like Germany and Switzerland, teachers are respected and paid way more than here.
GabeK: Let's get the facts straight. Yes, most Europeans do go 13 years and yes, many only go 8. That's because they split off after "Junior High" and MASTER a trade for 4 years after the split. Not everyone goes to university, but everyone leaves the system with the skills to earn a decent living...
Lori Ceangailte (-High school teacher): "In Europe they go to grade 13." I dispute that. I live in Sweden, and obligatory schooling here begins in grade 1 (the children are 7 years old when they start) and ends in grade 9 (age 16). The school year is 180 days, 6 hours a day. High school is voluntary and, if the student chooses it, lasts 3 years.
bdougherty: Students in other countries who perform well are not coming out of public schools, they are attending the best private schools and most of their teachers are Americans. I know because I have been teaching at international schools for the past decade and would never return to teach in the US (in a public school) – the reason being that classrooms back home (and the kids in them) are not conducive to teaching and learning.
And finally, a teacher offers a comment about commenters:
julie: I don't want sympathy- I want to not be villainized. The average working stiff is not discussed on the internet by 8 million people. I like my job and even though I would love to be paid more- who wouldn't- I'm happy with my compensation. I'm unhappy with being accused of being a lazy loser all the time.