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Weekly editorial recap

WEDNESDAY

LONGER SCHOOL YEAR?

On Monday, the president tried to boost his school reform bona fides by granting a half-hour, education-focused interview to NBC. His most newsworthy statement was a call for a longer American school year, which currently averages 180 instruction days. More days in the classroom would be "money well-spent," he said.

It’s a reasonable suggestion, given that countries with much higher levels of achievement — especially in math and science — typically keep their kids in class an extra month each year.

The problem is, testing data consistently show that the longer American kids spend in public school systems, the farther they fall behind their peers in other countries. Our fourth-graders fare well against the rest of the developed world. Eighth-graders, not so much. By the 11th grade, they’re well behind the pack.

And President Obama wants American kids to stay in class even longer?

In addition, the president’s recommendation would cost billions.

Most states, including Nevada, are grappling with the fiscal effects of the crippling recession, shrinking some bureaucracies and raising taxes just to preserve existing K-12 systems. Pouring vast sums of new money into schools isn’t fiscally possible or cost effective.

But states can provide more classroom instruction if Mr. Obama and Congress are willing to go a different route: Get the federal government out of state-run schools, leaving the money in local hands and allowing districts to implement the reforms necessary to build a foundation for achievement.

A longer school year is a policy change worth debating — after our schools are subjected to serious reform and public education monopolies face increased competition. More of a bad thing is not a good thing.

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