A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Prisoners of Time: Research - September 1994

Chapter Three - Keep Schools Open Longer to Meet the Needs of Children and Communities

In making its recommendation to keep schools open longer, the Commission pointed to their finding that "many children, in many different communities, are growing up without the family and community support taken for granted when schools were created 150 years ago" ([NECTL], 1994, p. 34). Consistent with this finding, David Hamburg of the Carnegie Corporation notes: "Today's children are in crisis because today's families are in crisis" (Hamburg, 1992, p. 19). He goes on to say:
In the face of the world transformation of the twentieth century and its profound effects on families, one of the basic issues of human survival becomes how to meet the crucial requirements for healthy child development and adolescent development under new circumstances--how to cope with modern imminent dangers, how to make a living, how to live harmoniously with other people, how to meet one's personal needs and integrate them with those of a valued group, how to participate in the society in waysthat ensure the well-being of oneself and one's family (p. 37).
The Commission believes that families are critical actors in the education of children. The school cannot replace the family.

Yet, if we care about the academic performance of our youth, we cannot ignore the stresses placed on families and the broader communities in which they live. Unless we acknowledge the realities of their lives and work cooperatively with our students' families to remove the barriers that stand in the way of learning, our children will not be able to use their time in school productively.

This is particularly important because a significant portion of the student population in our country lives in poverty and needs a variety of health and human services to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of academic learning. In the final analysis, if children are hungry, sick, or abused, they will not be able to concentrate on reading, writing, and arithmetic.

In addition to providing opportunities for addressing students' health and social service needs and their needs for additional learning time, keeping schools open longer offers an opportunity to help children learn how to become productive workers and effective citizens.

To become contributing members of our society, youth must develop positive attitudes and constructive behaviors, a constellation of elements we call "character." Webster defines "character" as "a composite of good moral qualities typically of moral excellence and firmness blended with resolution, self-discipline, high ethics, force and judgment" (Webster's Third New International Dictionary, 1986, p. 376).

What does "character" look like? What qualities of character should students develop that "transcend cultural, religious, and socio-economic differences"? Those were the questions posed by a group of 28 national leaders concerned with the "crisis of ethics in our nation's young people" (Jackson & Sagerman, 1992, p. 1).

The 28 leaders included the chair of a state board of education, a state superintendent of public instruction, a member of the National Education Association, leaders of youth groups including 4H, Boys Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of America, heads of ethics institutions, and a number of authors and scholars. They agreed that the next generation of Americans must be "more firmly anchored to a cadre of values some called the six pillars of character: (1) Respect, (2) Responsibility, (3) Trustworthiness, (4) Caring, (5) Justice and Fairness, and (6) Civic Virtue and Citizenship" (Jackson & Sagerman, 1992, p. 1). Without these basic ethical underpinnings, human societies cannot function in productive ways.

To develop such qualities, students need structured time under the supervision and guidance of adults. The Commission suggested that the rigorous academic day, the primary mission of schools, be supplemented by an extended school day, during which supplementary services and extracurricular activities would be offered. During the academic day, students would come to better understand concepts such as respect and responsibility through the study of history, literature and the arts. The extended school day would provide additional opportunities for them to learn and practice constructive behaviors.

Such programs would depend on the needs of students in a particular school, but might include participation in youth groups, art and music lessons, community service activities, remedial and enrichment activities, student clubs, organized sports, second language instruction, and extra computer time. The activities would offer students opportunities to enhance their academic and social skills, as well as opportunities to learn and further develop the basic qualities indicated above, which are necessary for participation as productive workers and effective citizens.

The Commission learned that such "nonformal" learning time, learning time outside the formal school day, is common in other countries. In Japan, as well as Germany, many students remain in school after the formal academic day is over to participate in activities that bring richness and depth to their lives.

This chapter will respond to a series of questions considered by the Commission in formulating its recommendation to keep schools open longer: What is the nature of the "new" world inhabited by elementary and secondary students in the United States and what effect is it having? How do junior high and high school students spend their time outside school? How much out of school time is devoted to homework? What effect does part-time employment have on academic performance? Do nonformal education programs make a difference and are they available? Should schools be open longer for students at both the elementary and secondary levels?

What is the Nature of the "New" World Inhabited by Elementary and Secondary Students in the United States and What Effect is it Having?

We need only read the newspapers or listen to the news to understand that everyone in our society, including the very young and the very old, live in an increasingly difficult, stressful, and complex world. Our economy is struggling, and violence has reached into both rich and poor communities.

Americans are working harder to maintain a decent standard of living. With the increasing costs of raising children, in most two-parent families, both parents must work.

Half of our children will spend some portion of their school years in a single-parent family, and family time with children has declined 40 percent since World War II (NECTL, 1994, p. 15).

Nearly 25 percent of all children, and 50 percent of all African American children, in the United States are living in poverty (NECTL, 1994, p. 16). Poverty, meanwhile, continues to rise, so that our schools will be serving over 30 percent more poor children in the year 2020 (Legters & Slavin, 1992, p. 56-57).

It is difficult to ignore the alarming evidence that large numbers of our children, both young children and adolescents, are not developing a working understanding of the basic traits for living in and preserving civilized societies--qualities such as respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, caring, justice and fairness, and citizenship. It would be possible literally to fill pages with lists of statistics and news stories that point to the severity of our problem. In 1994, the Children's Defense Fund warned that homicide has become the leading cause of death for elementary and middle school children, noting that "the equivalent of a 'classroom' of children is killed every two days by firearms" (Vobejda, 1994, p. 3). A few findings from a 1993 study by the National School Boards Association (NSBA), 1993 make the point:

While the numbers are alarming, so is the fact that the severity of crimes committed by school age children is increasing. The NSBA noted that "it is not just the number of violent incidents that is on the increase... the incidents themselves are becoming more serious" (NSBA, 1993, p. 4). Among urban school districts responding to NSBA's study, 39 percent reported they had experienced a shooting or knifing in school; 23 percent a drive-by shooting in the district; 15 percent at least one rape on school property in the previous year. Similarly, the American Psychological Association Study (American Psychological Association Commission on Youth and Violence [APACYV], 1993) of youth violence found:

The intensity of violence involving children has escalated dramatically. In testimony presented to APA... [the] Director of Child Protection Services at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC, noted that the rate of penetrating trauma due to violence [such as bullet or stabbing wounds]... increased by 1,740 percent between 1986 and 1989 (APACYV, 1993, p. 12-13).
Why is violence growing so dramatically among our youth? Citing other research, as well as their own, NSBA concluded that "Violence is a problem that begins at home" (1993, p. 5). The increase in violence reflects changes in the family structure and norms families establish for their children. Specific changes in families cited by NSBA that have led to increased violence include the following:

In an environment where parents do not have or take the time to establish high expectations, clear rules, and consistently applied consequences for the behavior of their children, television fills in the gap as a primary mechanism for socializing children. Television provides clear and consistent messages and it spends more time teaching children than parents do. Consider the following findings from the American Psychological Association:

The findings of the studies described above and the findings of other studies to be cited below paint a disturbing picture of a world which is becoming more complicated and more violent. It is one in which parents and extended families provide less structure and guidance than was provided to children in previous generations. It is one in which television and peers have taken over the socialization of large numbers of children while parents are working.

How Do Junior High and High School Students Spend Their Time Outside of School?

In the United States, approximately 60 percent of the time adolescents are awake is devoted to going to school, chores, eating, or paid employment. The remainder of their waking time, approximately 40 percent, is discretionary.

The Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development notes that "one reason American youth have so much discretionary time is the comparatively short school day (six to seven hours, not all of which are spent in academic pursuits)" (Task Force on Youth Development and Community Programs, 1992, p. 30). Carnegie also notes that "the average American junior high school student spends 28.7 hours per week in school and 3.2 hours studying; a Japanese counterpart spends 46.6 hours in school and 16.2 hours in study" (Task Force on Youth Development and Community Programs, 1992, p. 32). In many families where both parents work or the child is living with a single parent who works, much of the child's discretionary time is unsupervised (Task Force on Youth Development and Community Programs, 1992).

What do adolescents do with that time? As previously noted recent research has found that American teenagers spend over 20 hours watching television per week. Seventy percent of 13-year-olds and 50.6 percent of seventeen-year-olds watch at least three hours of television a day NCES, 1993). In contrast, they read for pleasure only about 1.8 hours per week (Task Force on Youth Development and Community Programs, 1992, p. 67).

One study found that eleventh-graders "spend about 80 percent more time with their friends than they do studying" (Fuligni & Stevenson, 1993, p. 11). Eighty-three percent of them said they were dating and 80 percent said they held down part-time jobs (Fuligni & Stevenson, 1993, p. 11). National surveys indicate that about two-thirds of all high school juniors and seniors hold formal part-time jobs and that over half of all employed seniors work over 20 hours a week.

Researchers have suggested that we think about how American adolescents spend their "free" time, not only because they have so much of it, but also because much socialization occurs during "free" time. For example, Fuligni and Stevenson (1993) found that Chinese and Japanese students spend much more overall time at school than American students do. They make the following observation:

Activities at school apparently play a central role in preparing Chinese and Japanese adolescents for entrance into adulthood... In contrast,... [the] finding that American high school students spent almost a third of their waking time with friends suggests that interacting with peers in out-of-school settings plays an important role in adolescent development in the United States (Fuligni & Stevenson, 1993, p. 5).

How Much Out-of-School Time is Devoted to Homework?

Historically, American students have not done a great deal of homework (Murphy & Decker, 1989, p. 77; NCES, 1992). Studies show that from 1930 to 1980, few students spent more than one to two hours a week studying outside of school (Murphy & Decker, 1989). It is not unusual for parents who ask their children if they have homework to hear: "I finished it in school." In the United States, "homework" frequently does not mean work at home. It means work done during time provided by teachers at the end of classes and it means work done in study halls.

When asked how much homework they do each day, 69.2 percent of 13-year-old public school students and 64.9 percent of 7-year-olds reported doing at least one hour of homework a day. A study of 3,700 elementary teachers found that over half of first, third, and fifth grade students spend 30 minutes or less on homework per day (Epstein, 1988). It is not clear, however, how much of this "homework" is done in class or study halls, and how much is actually done at home.

Does it matter whether children do homework? Most research on the effects of homework has been conducted at the secondary level where it has been shown to improve academic performance and student behavior (Cooper, 1989; Epstein, 1988, p. 83). One study found that the grades of low-ability secondary school students who did 10 hours or more of homework a week were as good as the grades of high-ability students who did no homework (Keith, 1982). A review of 15 studies of homework concluded that assigning and grading homework has three times as much effect on student achievement as family socioeconomic status (Walberg, 1991). Eleventh grade mathematics scores in the United States, Japan, and China have been found to depend heavily upon the amount of time spent studying (Fuligni & Stevenson, 1993, p. 68).

How much time should students spend on homework? At the middle school level student achievement increases with the amount of homework completed up to two hours a night (Cooper, 1989). At the high school level, the more time students spend on homework, the better they seem to do (Cooper, 1989). At the elementary level, students who have lower achievement scores spend more time on homework in mathematics and reading than students with higher scores (Epstein, 1988). This is likely due to the fact that the parents of elementary school children tend to monitor their children's work and encourage more effort on skills students need but have not yet mastered.

Evidence appears strong that students in other industrialized countries are likely to spend substantially more time on homework than American students (Haynes & Chalker, 1992, p. 80). In one study, students in four out of five countries spent 70 percent more time studying than Americans at equivalent grade levels (Graham & Weiner, 1992, p. 59). In Asia, homework is assigned during the entire year, even when school is not in session (Stevenson & Stigler, 1992, p. 80).

There appears to be great variation in how much homework teachers give and how much students do. For example, a study of 3,000 teachers in Illinois high schools found that school districts and schools often lack homework policies. (Murphy & Decker, 1989) some teachers (85 percent) assigned homework; others did not (14 percent). Homework is also a significant part of some students'grades. In the Illinois study (Murphy & Decker, 1989), 97 percent of the teachers who graded homework counted it in the students' grade, but the importance placed on homework by teachers varied greatly. Overall, nearly half of the teachers counted homework for at least 25 percent of the student's total grade. In that study, 11 percent of the teachers counted homework for 50 percent of the grade or higher while 18 percent of teachers counted homework for 20 percent of the grade.

What Effect Does Part-Time Employment Have on Academic Performance?

Researchers have asked whether working during the school year has negative effects on adolescents' academic performance or other behaviors. They suggest that the issue is not whether students work during the school year, but rather, how many hours they work. Previous research has found that the point at which students begin to feel the negative effects of work is when they work 15 to 20 hours per week. Steinberg and Laurence's major findings are presented below (Steinberg, Fegley, & Dornbusch, 1992):

What effect does part-time employment during the school year have on students? The primary issue is how many hours are devoted to employment. The research suggests that more than 15 to 20 hours per week has negative effects. A great deal, however, depends on the individual student and the nature of the job. If the job offers the student positive role models, and teaches him or her personal skills like self-discipline, responsibility, and respect for others, it can be a valuable experience and motivate in-school learning.

Do Nonformal Education Programs Make a Difference and Are They Available?

The term "nonformal education programs" refers to those programs offered to students before and after the formal academic school day. The benefits of nonformal educational programs are well documented.

For example, a study for the Carnegie Council on Academic Development found that "high school students involved in organized activities had higher self-esteem, higher grades, higher educational aspirations, lower delinquency rates, and a greater sense of control over their lives" (Medrich & Marzke, 1991, p. 63). A 1987 survey of 4-H alumni and other youth groups found that, "on average, alumni believe that program participation contributed to their personal development by giving them pride in accomplishment, self-confidence, the ability to work with others, the ability to set goals and communicate them, employment and leadership skills, and encouragement of community involvement" (Task Force on Youth Development and Community Programs, 1992, p. 71). Another researcher claims, "Participation in extracurricular activities may lead adolescents to acquire new skills (organizational, planning, time-management), to develop or strengthen particular attitudes (discipline, motivation), or to receive social rewards that influence personality characteristics" (Holland & Andre, 1987, p. 73).

The importance of the skills and attitudes promoted through nonformal learning cannot be underestimated. For example, a 1991 Committee of Economic Development survey found that "lack of dedication to work and discipline in work habits are the biggest deficits that employers see in high school graduates." Other surveys of prospective employers echo the need for qualities such as "character, sense of responsibility, self-discipline, pride, teamwork, and enthusiasm" (Cappelli, 1992, p. 64). In identifying the skills and competencies that students need to develop for success in the workplace, the Secretary of Labor's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) found that personal qualities, such as individual responsibility and integrity, and strong interpersonal skills are some of the most valuable (1992, p. 45-46).

Other countries pay attention to the development of desirable personal qualities associated with good character. Japanese schools, for example, have long recognized the need to foster personal and moral, as well as intellectual, development in students and offer moral education classes as part of their regular academic curriculum (Stevenson & Stigler, 1992, p. 40).

Participation in nonformal learning experiences seems to have the strongest positive effects for those who are at greatest risk of scholastic and personal failure (Holland & Andre, 1987, p. 73). Likewise, there is evidence that the young "children who benefit the most from child-care centers are those who come from relatively poor families" (Task Force on Youth Development and Community Programs, 1992, p. 74). At least two-thirds of the children served by grassroots youth organizations that currently offer organized extracurricular activities are from low-income families "and are defined as facing serious risks... About the same proportion have had some involvement with the juvenile justice system" (Task Force on Youth Development and Community Programs, 1992, p. 71).

Government funding, however, has been shrinking during the past 15 years, and most parents of children who need these programs can rarely afford to pay for them. For example, existing out-of-school programs tend to serve young people from more advantaged families: "Only 17 percent of eighth graders from families in the highest socioeconomic quartile did not participate in organized out-of-school activities, while 40 percent of low-income youth reported no involvement" (Task Force on Youth Development and Community Programs, 1992, p. 63). Other studies support this conclusion. A 1992 Carnegie Corporation of New York Task Force on Youth Development and Community Programs, for instance, found that more and better services reach relatively affluent suburban areas while disadvantaged students in low income urban and rural areas have less and less access to the services they need (Task Force on Youth Development and Community Programs, 1992). All of this suggests that schools do more with organized activities.

Schools have not traditionally viewed day care, social services, and organized youth activities as within their purview, although they have been involved to some extent in the provision of extracurricular activities such as team sports and fine arts programs. The private nonprofit sector, including municipal recreation programs, social service or charitable organizations, religious groups, or local government agencies, and for-profit schools and day care corporations have traditionally accepted responsibility for providing extended "full service" children and youth programs (Seppamen, deVries, & Seligson, 1992, p. 65). The great bulk of revenue (83 percent) for these programs has come from parental fees, and most of the remaining income is obtained from local, state, or federal government sources (Seppamen et al., 1992, p. 67).

At the elementary level, existing programs often fail to provide the needed degree of support. For instance, before-school programs average 1.8 hours a week, and after-school programs 3.2 hours a week. Only 11 percent of the programs are available after 6 p.m., and only 3 percent are offered on weekends (Seppamen et al., 1992, p. 66). In addition, such programs cater overwhelmingly to very young children (Seppamen et al., 1992, p. 65).

While the needs for quality care for elementary school children are great, schools cannot meet all of the needs. This fact has been recognized by many schools.

Currently, "17 percent of public school-based programs operate as partnerships with other agencies. Thirty-eight to 45 percent of public school-based programs indicate cooperative arrangements in the form of in-kind donations" (Seppamen et al., 1992, p. 65).

Should Schools Be Open Longer for Students at Both the Elementary and Secondary Levels?

As these statistics suggest, the problems of society touch both elementary and secondary students. In addition, they affect students' performance, behavior, and attitudes both in and out of school.

The severity of the problem with adolescents is captured by findings from many recent commissions. For example, the National Commission on Children documented "the need for additional adult guidance and involvement in the lives of adolescents, a substantial portion of whom are exposed to peers and friends engaged in high-risk activities that threaten their and others' safety and well-being" (National Commission on Children, 1991, p. 7). The Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development issued a report called A Matter of Time: Risk and Opportunity in the Nonschool Hours. In it Carnegie (Task Force on Youth Development and Community Programs, 1992) noted:

Millions of America's young adolescents are not developing into responsible members of society. Many will not lead productive lives...lacking clear and consistent adult expectations for them, they feel alienated from mainstream American life (p. 9).
In former decades, American parents monitored their adolescent children's activities more closely and expected children to be contributing members of the family. This is not the case today.

The financial cost of raising a child, which ranges from $150,000 to $300,000 per child, places significant financial burdens on parents. As children cost more and contribute less to families, parental attitudes change. For example, "two-thirds of parents now report that they are less willing to make sacrifices for their children than their own parents would have been" (Hamburg, 1991, p. 34).

It also is well documented that the teenage years are a time of conflict and pain in many American families (e.g., when teenagers are with their families, they report that negative thoughts outnumber positive ones about 10 to 1) (Csikszenztmihalyi & Larson, 1984). Nevertheless, teenagers still look to adults for guidance. Surveys and focus groups with young adolescents indicate that they "want more regular contact with adults who care about and respect them, more opportunities to contribute to their communities, protection from the hazards of drugs, violence, and gangs, and greater access to constructive alternatives" (Task Force on Youth Development and Community Programs, 1992, p. 71). In one survey of children age 10 to 17, 39 percent said they 'sometimes' wished their parents were stricter or kept a closer watch over them and their lives...[while] only about 1 percent said they 'never' wanted their parents to be stricter or more attentive" (National Commission on Children, 1991, p. 15).

All of this suggests that many adolescents are not getting the guidance they need from their parents. The Commission recommends that schools join with other agencies to provide the time and experiences adolescent children need.

Research also suggests that schools need to be open longer for elementary school students. Throughout the United States, more mothers work outside the home, leaving large numbers of "latchkey" children home alone. In 1992, 66 percent of all families with children under age 18 had mothers in the labor force (Outtz, 1993). Exact numbers are unavailable because parents who do leave their children alone are reluctant to report that they do so. However, researchers estimate that 12 percent of elementary school children re for themselves regularly after school, and by the time children reach age 10, as many as 70 percent may be on their own (Seligson, Gannett, & Cotlin, 1992, p. 64).

Latchkey children are especially likely to experiment with alcohol and other drugs. In fact, a study of approximately 5,000 8th-graders found that students who had no supervision for 11 or more hours a week were at twice the risk of substance abuse as their peers (Task Force on Youth Development and Community Programs, 1992, p. 65).

The research findings about how the latchkey syndrome affects student achievement are mixed. However, as Selignson and Fink (1989) note in No Time to Waste: An Action Agenda for School-Age Child Care:

Almost every American who reads a newspaper knows the meaning of the term "latchkey children"--young children left on their own during the hours when school is out....There are so many school age children taking care of themselves that even if only a fraction, say one-fifth of them, ends up doing worse in school, or has developmental, health or other problems as a result of the experience with self-care, this fraction will translate into a huge number of children (Seligson et al., 1989, p. 1).
Are additional services needed for both elementary and secondary school students? Clearly, they are. The Commission recommended that school facilities be available for a wide array of services for children and their families. To do this will require a longer school day that stretches beyond the confines of the six-hour core academic day and may operate before school, during the evenings, on weekends, and over summer break to protect children and to provide them with positive learning experiences.
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