Why School Still Starts After Labor Day in Michigan

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Media Outlet: The Atlantic

Elena Silva was quoted in the Atlantic on how shorter school years affect learning:

“For kids with fewer opportunities, who aren't going to museums and traveling to foreign places … a longer summer translates into bigger learning gaps once school starts up again,” said Elena Silva, the director of pre-k-to-12 education for New America. “For teachers, it means starting the year with even more need to review last year's material. If we were really serious about providing all kids with a better education, we wouldn't shorten the year. We'd lengthen it and strengthen it by diversifying the kinds of learning we offer all year long.”

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Silva, who’s conducted extensive research into how schools use learning time, said Maryland’s new policy will make it tougher for many districts that don’t have waivers to meet the state’s existing requirement for 180 school days, each with more than six hours of instruction.

“Now it's just going to be crammed into a smaller window with shorter breaks, fewer planning days for teachers, and working parents more desperate for summer child care,” said Silva, a Maryland resident. “Parents complain about too much homework and testing but part of this is because schools and teachers are pressured into fitting too much into a small box. Broaden the box, spread it out, and there will be more space for real learning to happen.”

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Elena Silva is director of PreK-12 for the Education Policy program at New America. Her research and writing focuses on a wide range of educational issues, including teacher’s work, school design and improvement, and the assessment and measurement of student learning.