Long days

Is longer better? The Washington Post looks at Washington Jesuit Academy in Northeast Washington, where students — most come from low-income black families — attend for close to 12 hours a day.

“I am going to go to a good high school and a good college and make a good living,” (middle schooler Troy Presbury) said, “and I think it is worth it.”

Fewer than half of entering sixth graders were reading at grade level; 90 percent of students are at grade level by eighth grade.

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who wants control of the city’s schools, admires the KIPP schools’ nine-hour school days, Saturday classes and mandatory three-week summer school, the Post notes. KIPP’s KEY Academy has the highest test scores of any middle school in D.C.

More learning time appears to benefit low-income and minority students the most, concludes an Education Sector study by Elena Silva, discussed here. But not all school time is learning time.

Much of the school day, however, is filled with announcements, recess and other activities that do not help achievement, studies show. More academic time in which students are engaged correlates with higher achievement, Silva said, but longer school days do not. One Chicago study showed that schools delivered less than 240 minutes of instruction each day, despite a state mandate of 300 minutes.

Lengthening the school day and year is becoming popular, despite the high cost. Massachusetts is experimenting with an eight-hour school day in 10 low-performing schools. Some Washington schools are trimming the long summer vacation; low-income students, who rarely spend their summers in enriching activities, lose academic skills over the summer.

No public school works students as hard as Washington Jesuit Academy, which starts classes at 8:10 am, breaks for sports and activities at 3:20 p.m., feeds students a half-hour dinner at 5 p.m. and then schedules a 110-minute supervised study hall. Students may arrive at 7:30 am for breakfast and leave after study hall at 7:15 pm. Students also must attend summer school.

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  1. Michael E. Lopez, Esq. says:

    Regardless of the amount of instruction, a student in school for 12 hours a day has far fewer opportunities to get into trouble.

  2. tim from texas says:

    In some situations longer is better, but most not. The school day is long enough. There are valid arguements for a longer school week or school year, but not for a longer day. A longer day exacerbates problems already in existence. Students get worn out with long days. They need down time after homework and study. Teachers need preparation time. For each hour of instruction a teacher needs at least 45 minutes of preparation time, and that is with a good curriculum in place. Even with a good curriculum in place preparation time is vital, for delivery of the material is the key. Longer school days just exhausts everyone.

    School districts don’t have curriculums in place. That is the problem. Everyone knows that, I suppose. We pussy-foot all around it, because it makes money. Too many people, concerns and companies are making loads of money from the miseducation and the undereducation of the youth.

  3. Hunter McDaniel says:

    I think Michael hit the main point. These longer days keep the kids in a protected environment for more of the day, and let them do what would be “homework” for other kids.

    Even without a longer day, most public schools could take better advantage of the time they already have. How many companies can you think of which interrupt their workers with PA announcements on a regular basis, or use up lots of time on all-hands meetings? Companies that remained in business, that is.

  4. Mark Roulo says:

    I wonder how much parental support for longer school days
    is because with a long enough school day there is no need
    to pay for daycare after school.

    The Jesuit prep school I attended was kinda interesting.
    We took only 6 classes per semester (compared to 7 for
    my currently local high school and to the 8 my wife took
    in high school). Each class met only 4 times per week.
    Our school day was about 1 hour shorter than the typical
    public school, but we made up for it by having only a
    1/2 day on Friday and going to school for fewer days per
    year. The education was excellent.

    I really wonder how much of this drive for a longer school
    day is:

    *) A case of “work harder, not smarter”, and
    *) The attractiveness of free daycare.

    -Mark R.

  5. complementing this question is one of where family time fits in. Perhaps all the home work is done by 7:15. Dinner at the schools flies against other studies that have noted the importance of family time over meals — it becomes, in some ways, a boarding school without beds.

  6. A boarding school without beds may well be just what the dr. ordered for many kids, especially if they’re from poor, often fatherless homes.

  7. For students who return home to stimulating extra-curricular activities or a good place to do homework, there is probably no good reason to extend the school day. For students who would return to an empty house and soap operas, while their parents work late for low pay, a longer day would be a blessing.

    Perhaps we need to have the option of a longer day for those who need or would benefit from one. At least for those students, “closing the gap” (or moving ahead) would be a realistic possibility.