Article Spotlight: Time in School

Written by Jake Murray

A new comparative study confirms a common adage: it’s not the amount of time,  it’s what you do with the time that counts.  A new research brief from the Center for Public Education looks at standard hours of instructional time in the US in relationship to countries such as Korea, Japan, Finland, and Canada. Top performing countries (based on international academic assessments) such as Finland have over 300 less hours of mandated instructional time than Massachusetts!

This analysis should give pause to policymakers advocating for en vogue strategies, such as extending the school day or school year, or expanding summer school.  Perhaps the real work stills rest squarely with improving the quality of instruction in the current school day.   

What is of course missing  is a more fine-grained analysis of whether certain types of instructional time strategies are more or less beneficial for different student sub groups – e.g. low income vs.  middle class students.   Does Finland’s data shed light on this type of distinction? The next research brief perhaps…

For the full brief on time in school in the United States, click here to go to the Center for Public Education’s website. 


Jake Murray is the Senior Director of Aspire Institute. He has over 20 years of experience in the education, health and human services fields, serving as a program leader, policy analyst, and strategic planner.