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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Hawaii Can Turn the Tide Despite a Shortened School Year

Maurice Elias

Professor, Rutgers University Psychology Department and Edutopia Blogger

You may have heard the story that due to the recession, Hawaii has cut 17 days from its school year, leaving 163 days of instruction instead of the more typical 180 days. The story suggests that with Hawaii near the bottom of educational achievement, it can't afford to lose those days.

But I would like to suggest that because Hawaii already ranks as one of the lowest states academically, restoring those 17 days won't matter -- nor would adding ten more.

The bottom line is that we must make changes in the way our schools greet, value, and inspire students. If schools do not provide climates that are safe, challenging, supporting, and primed to help students' social-emotional and character development as a complement to their academic learning, 180 instructional days offer little clear advantage over 163.

Perhaps this crisis will force those in charge of education to think out of their current box.

It could propel those leaders to embrace the growing research on the academic benefits of student engagement, project learning, service learning, and safe and supportive school climates where teachers are empowered to be creative in their instruction while still following curriculum goals.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts on this issue.

Maurice Elias

Professor, Rutgers University Psychology Department and Edutopia Blogger
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