Longer school days
may be necessary


The Department of Education has proposed revisions in requirements for high school graduation.

IF you're making a stew that requires 10 ingredients and find that the pot is too small, you don't eliminate the carrots and potatoes. You use a larger pot.

That's what the Department of Education needs to do. Instead of cutting courses to fit a limited school day, the DOE should be looking to extend the time students spend in classrooms.

The department's plan to change public high school graduation requirements appropriately broadens the range of courses for students, but at the expense of what should be basic elements of education. The new formula appears to pit various courses against one another, but the fundamental problem may be that the school day is too short to satisfy the scope of classes needed to round out education.

The new formula would cut credit requirements for social studies from 4 to 3, eliminating a year of coursework. While the main areas in U.S. history and government, world history and culture and modern history of Hawaii would be retained, other topics -- such as economics, geography, philosophy and anthropology -- could be eliminated.

Another change would cut physical education from a full year to a half, which butts up against current concerns about obesity increasing among young people. This idea received strong opposition when it was first brought up last year and is expected to draw protests again as the DOE conducts meetings on its proposal through Dec. 16.

Other changes widen the options for students, allowing credits in foreign languages, fine arts and career and technical education to be part of graduation requirements. They reflect the diversity of interests among students and help them prepare for either higher education or job entry. Another worthwhile idea would have students design individual academic plans and assign them advisers to assist them all through high school and to help them adapt for the year beyond graduation.

The difficulty with the changes, however, is that the add-ons require abandoning of others, and while extending the school day -- which generally runs from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. -- or the school year would seem to be simple matters, they aren't.

Contractual agreements with teachers, principals and other public employee unions would have to be negotiated. The additional costs for pay and other expenses like electricity would be huge hurdles for the DOE. Nonetheless, if public education is to be improved, the DOE must push hard against the boundaries of the current framework that restrict advancement.



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