Extend the school day to improve learning, argues Christopher Gabrieli in U.S. News. He points to Massachusetts, which pays 15 percent more to 26 schools for 30 percent more time.
At Edwards Middle School in Boston, where about 90 percent of students are poor and most school days are 7:20 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., achievement has soared. The eighth-grade gap with the state average has been narrowed by more than half in English and almost 80 percent in math in two years of expanded learning time. The school boasts an outstanding music and arts programs, the only middle school football team in Boston, and an apprenticeship program for every sixth grader.
More than 75 percent of parents of students in the first 10 schools to adopt expanded learning time in Massachusetts indicated the longer day had a positive effect. Teachers report large gains in the ability to reach every student and cover all of the material in depth.
First, learn to use time well, counters Rick Hess. High-performing schools, such as KIPP, don’t just lengthen the school day. They provide “talented and impassioned faculty, firm discipline, a powerful school cultur” and teach “students who have chosen to be there.”
Unfortunately, the “more time” crowd focuses only on the most expensive part of that recipe, apparently hoping the other ingredients will sort themselves out if kids sit in classes longer. In fact, research is more mixed than advocates usually acknowledge.
A 2003 Review of Educational Research analysis tallied dozens of studies and found no systematic evidence that additional time raised student achievement. Some studies, including the 1994 National Education Commission on Time and Learning report, have found increased instructional time modestly linked with higher achievement—but that argues for making good use of time before seeking more.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, teachers spend two-thirds of classtime on instruction, he writes. “The rest is consumed by everything from paperwork to assemblies.”