In a bid to start a national conversation about education reform, President Obama said Monday that U.S. children need to spend more time in school each year to catch up with their counterparts in other developed countries. "We now have our kids go to school about a month less than other advanced countries," Obama said during an NBC Today show forum. "And that month makes a difference." Will adding days to the school calendar help children learn more?

Obama is on the right track: "Obama's assessment of this outdated system is spot-on," says Olivia Meeks at The American. The traditional U.S. school calendar is a throwback to a bygone era when "cutting-edge" educators "warned against overtaxed minds and overheated classrooms in the summer months." Now we know that lengthy vacations only widen the achievement gap between privileged and disadvantaged kids, and that all our children need more learning time "to boost student performance and restore national competitiveness."
"Obama urges longer school day"

This is just empty rhetoric: Obama has been talking about giving kids more class time for years, says David Freddoso at the San Francisco Examiner. But it is just noise unless this time he puts "some meat behind his rhetoric." Talk is cheap when it comes to education reform. But the truth is that the teacher unions that support Obama don't want to give up their three-month vacations, so Obama is not going to seriously push this.
"So, Obama wants a longer school year? Sure he does"

We can't afford longer school years: Lengthening school days or years can help students learn more, says Tom Luna, a school administrator, at But it is also expensive, as it means paying teachers and other employees more, and keeping buildings heated and cooled longer. In this economic crisis, schools are slashing budgets. So maybe the solution is doing more with less — "if we could free up just 15 minutes within the day for additional teaching, it would equal nearly seven extra school days a year."
"Obama’s call for a longer school year gets mixed reviews in Idaho"