Rich Tucker

After all, test scores go down the longer children remain in school. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study studies students in 46 countries. In 2003, it found that American fourth-graders trailed students in 11 other countries. As if that wasn’t bad enough, by eighth-grade, American students trailed 14 countries. There’s a similar trend in science. 

Maybe that’s because our school year isn’t long enough. Japanese students spend seven weeks longer in school than American students -- about 240 days instead of about 180 here. That’s a problem, so here’s a bold proposal: Let’s make school a full-time job.

Our current school year -- 10 months on and two off, with frequent breaks during the year -- no longer makes sense. If we treated school as a job, students would have a similar amount of time off as their parents do. Let’s say four weeks total. That’s two in the summer (those weeks can vary by district, so all the students in a state aren’t off at once) and two throughout the year.

Parents would still be able to pull their children out of school for vacations.
But just as you have to make sure your job is getting done when you’re away from the office, the students would need to check with their teachers and determine what material would be covered while they were gone. They could take those books along and read them instead of the latest Harry Potter. Or, maybe, in addition to the latest Harry Potter.

The teacher’s unions will oppose this proposal, of course. But they also oppose school vouchers and any number of smaller measures that might improve education.
As long as we’re going to consider changing the way we approach education, let’s make sure that change is large enough to make a real difference.

Each June, teens graduate and head for the beach in cars with “The tassel was worth the hassle” soaped on the windows. Well, it’s time to make school a real hassle.

Going to class should be a full-time job, not a part-time one that’s frequently interrupted because of bad weather. When we get serious about school, we’ll get serious students who are prepared for real life.

Rich Tucker

Rich Tucker is a communications professional and a columnist for