Dog-day afternoons - in school

It's been a long year.

They tell me it was the usual 185 days. But it felt longer. The end-of-year rush out of school came not a moment too soon for my kids.

Which raises the question: Would I really like the kids to spend more time in school?

Educators fret annually about summer learning loss that forces extended review in September. Concern about sustaining skills is turning summer school into a booming business and required summer reading into the norm, not the exception.

Proposals for a longer school year, common in other countries, get a periodic airing. The restlessness of school's end makes clear that such a move would require a major overhaul in how we teach. But even if the current agrarian calendar lingers, some fine-tuning of end-of-year classes might be in order.

In the waning days of the school year, kids I know have done everything from visit several amusement parks to help teachers move their classrooms. Discussions often focus on the heat. (One teacher's advice: "Keep the lights off and tell the kids 'Don't move much and don't think too hard.' ") Homework wanes, parties grow -yet some schools keep kids on edge by holding final exams the last two days of school.

Why not end traditional work a couple of weeks early? Then break the mold - producing a short play, for instance. Kids would learn public speaking, literature, maybe even a little set design -but in an active way that's free of well-worn gauges of achievement. It could motivate kids those last few days. It might even stimulate a real answer to: "What did you do in school today?"

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