WE RECOMMEND that schools respond to the needs of today's students by remaining open longer during the day and that some schools in every district remain open throughout the year.
No magic number of hours in the day, or days in the year, will guarantee learning for all students. As a rule of thumb, about 5.5 hours of core academic instruction daily is a useful frame of reference for the typical student. But it is only a frame of reference. Many students will need more time; some will need less.
As noted under Recommendation III, establishing an academic day of necessity requires lengthening the school day, both for extracurricular activities and for time to offer some students academic programs designed to give them special help or opportunities.
Schools open throughout the year can also provide many services to adults, serving as centers in which community agencies offer adult education, "intergenerational" literacy efforts teaching parents and children together, and programs stressing, for example, parenting or job skills. When the walls of the prison of time are torn down, schools can realize their full potential as community learning centers, vibrant and responsive to the educational needs of citizens of every age.
We stress again that many children, in many different communities, are growing up today without the family and community support taken for granted when the public school was created 150 years ago. The documented need for child care and unco-ordinated nature of the variety of public and private providers now trying to meet it-licensed and unlicensed, for profit and not- for-profit, in homes and in community facilities-can no longer be ignored.
No single agency can meet all of the needs of today's families, nor can any major public agency ignore them. Extended-day services that offer safe havens for children in troubled neighborhoods are a logical solution to the child care problem; a problem that does not go away when schools close for the summer. Moreover, schools have every interest in making sure that a wide variety of other services-immunizations, health screening, nutrition, and mental health, among others-are available to children and their families. Without such services, it is unlikely that the first of the National Education Goals ("school readiness") can be achieved.
Fixing the design flaw requires acknowledging something else as well: state mandatory attendance requirements defining how many days students should attend school should not define how many days schools should remain open. In fact, state financial support should encourage more learning time. If Americans are ever to escape the education time trap, some schools in every district should be open throughout the year so that students can find the help they need, when they need it.
Finally, we note that in suggesting greater use of school facilities to meet the needs of children and communities, we are not recommending that schools provide these services directly or pay for them. Schools should act as advocates, insisting that the needs of children and families be met and making school facilities available whenever possible for services essential to student learning.
Establish an Academic Day. Give Teachers the Time They Need