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Instructional time

By Francis Eberle

Posted on 2011-10-11

NSTA Executive Director Francis Eberle

NSTA Executive Director Francis Eberle

Now that the school year is into full swing and students are settling into the routines of the school day, I was thinking about the concept of time. During a recent meeting about exemplary schools this question was asked: Are the models of exemplary schools where educators are willing to put in 60–80 hours a week really achievable or scalable models that can be accomplished in a normal work week?
A “normal” work week is different for most people. I know I don’t put in a normal work day and I suspect many teachers do not either. Should we count the contracted hours or the actual hours we put in during the day, evening and weekends?
As a benchmark of comparison on instructional time I looked at the data in the 2009 PISA report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The international mean total learning hours and allocation of learning time for science per week is 2.99 hours. The United States mean is 3.51 hours per week. Countries that had more time include the United Kingdom (at 4.25 hours per week) New Zealand (at 4.06 hours per week), Canada (at 4.00 hours per week), and Korea (at 3.58 hours per week. The other 25 countries were either the same or less than U.S.  A couple of countries that surprised me were Germany (at 3.06 hours per week), Japan (at 2 .27 hours per week) and the Netherlands(at 2.17 hours per week).
The U.S. seems to be at near the higher end for instructional time. What about you? Do you have enough instructional time? Is the instructional time more or less than previous years?  How does it compare to these other countries? Is the idea of an extended school day or an extended school year one that would give you more time to teach and think?
One last question, which is just as important—do you have time to think about your work or are you just running? Let me know how it is going this year.

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