Thursday, March 19, 2015
A Short Note on Time In and Out of School
When Sam and I were first crafting Project Coach in 2003-04, we came across Richard Rothstein’s Class and Schools, a wonderful book about the achievement gap, and the role that school can play in closing it. In essence, Rothstein argued there, and continues to do so, that school alone cannot close the gap. In fact, he stated that scholarly efforts over four decades have confirmed that:
“…no analyst has been able to attribute less than two-thirds of the variation in achievement among schools to the family characteristics of their students.”
While debates ensue about the importance of school in closing the achievement gap, typically portrayed as differences in academic achievement among Caucasian youth, and black and Hispanic youth, and among children emanating from different socio-economic strata, it seems that the larger context of their lives also must be considered.
How much time do kids actually spend in school? Data from the National Center for Educational Statistics shows that, on average, children go to school 180 days in a year, and for 6.7 hours a day. This equals 1206 of the 8760 hours in a year, or 13.8% of a child’s time. Given that a youth between 12-18 needs between 8-9 hours of sleep each night, sleep occupies about 3285 hours in a year, or 37.5% of their time. If we compute the average time that children are in school while they are awake, we find that this represents 22% of their time. This leaves about 78% of a child’s waking hours outside of school! This 22% vs 78% split is not that far removed from Rothstein’s 33% vs 67% split of the in-school—out of school contributions to the achievement gap.
While there is a great deal of discussion of how schools should be structured, what curricula we should be teaching, and how we should be assessing the effectiveness of teaching and learning, the fact remains that kids spend much more of their time out side of school than within school. Rothstein’s book contains a great deal of information about the sorts of disparities kids experience out of school, including, but not limited to such things as access to health services, parenting practices, connecting to cultural and social capital, and general living conditions. For more detailed analyses on these factors one should read Annette Lareau’s Unequal Childhoods, and more recently, Robert Putnam’s Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. Clearly, if 78% of a kid’s waking hours provide differential exposure to things that significantly impact their health and well-being, how realistic is it to believe that schools alone, where they spend 22% of their time, can redress the inequities that are manifested in academic performance? On the other hand, out of school programs, like Project Coach, can, and are attempting to redress inequities in the 78% of the time that kids are out of school. Surely, other factors come into play, but we can be doing more as a nation to enrich kids lives during their waking hours, which is largely outside of school.