Senator Bingaman Spotlights Expanded Time as a Global Competitiveness Strategy

This is a guest post from Kyle Linhares, Policy Assistant at NCTL.

During a hearing on global competition on Thursday, Senator Bingaman (D-NM) called out more time on task as an important strategy for keeping American students competitive with their international peers. “We provide less instructional classroom time than most of these countries we are comparing ourselves unfavorably with,” the Senator said in his remarks at the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing.

“My experience in going through school was that the more time you spent studying the more you were likely to learn. And we do not provide enough time—instructional time—in our schools for kids to be expected to learn what we think we’d like them to learn,” Bingaman  said during the hearing, entitled “The Key to America’s Global Competitiveness: A Quality Education.” He added: “As a nation we’ve got to move from a 180 day school year to maybe a 200 day school year… one way or another we’ve got to give kids more opportunity to actually learn.”

Dr. Richard Murnane of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, testifying before the committee, echoed the Senator’s point. “I think more instructional time is a necessary but not sufficient condition” he said.  “I think the evidence for this comes particularly from charter schools that have been effective in serving high concentrations of poor kids. They do have a longer school day… but importantly, they have found ways to track the assessment of every child very frequently, and figure out where children are lacking, and then have used this longer instructional time in a very strategic way to deal with those deficiencies before they become a problem. So, I think a longer instructional period is necessary, but that alone won’t do the job, unless that time is used very effectively,” he added.

The hearing highlighted the lackluster performance of American K-12 students on international assessments such as NAEP and PISA, and how undereducated Americans miss out on potentially trillions of dollars in contributions to the national economy. The National Center on Time & Learning would like to thank Senator Bingaman for keeping the focus on the need for more learning time, and for his longstanding  leadership on Expanded Learning Time issues, including cosponsoring the Time for Innovation Matters in Education Act.

(Note: You can watch the full Committee Meeting here. Senator Bingaman's remarks begin at 80:19)