Time alone isn’t enough

Extending the school day without improving teaching won’t make much difference, concludes a new Education Sector report,  Off the Clock: What More Time Can (and Can’t) Do for School Turnarounds.

More than 90 percent of the schools receiving federal School Improvement Grants have chosen turnaround options that call for more class time. Some have added class time by shortening recess and lunch. Others have created after-school programs.

“New designs for extended time should be a part of the nation’s school improvement plans,” (author Elena) Silva concludes. “But policymakers and school leaders must recognize that successful schools use time not just to extend hours and days but to creatively improve how and by whom instruction is delivered.”

The limited research on extended learning time (ELT) shows only small effects on student achievement, the report concludes. “Schools that have succeeded with extended time have done so largely because they include time as part of a more comprehensive reform.” Just doing the same old thing for an extra 20 minutes a day isn’t going to help.

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  1. “Extending the school day without improving teaching won’t make much difference…”

    I haven’t examined the curriculum piece by piece, but I bet you that it isn’t perfect. In which case, extending the school day without improving the curriculum will also not make that much of a difference.

  2. BadaBing says:

    You can get more out of your students with less. 60 minute periods are too long, but 50 minute periods are on the money. Less time means a sense of urgency, and “let’s get going on this. We have a lot more to accomplish.” Kids slack-off when you’re teaching bell-to-bell in 60 minute periods. Brunch should be at least 20 minutes, not including travel time, and lunch should be at least 40. How about treating students and staff with a little dignity. People need to use the restroom, and not all of us inhale our food. This would help reduce stress, and reducing stress makes better teachers and students. You can get more with less. You can also get less with more.

    • Well said. The obsession we have with “seat time” and the way bus schedules and teacher “contract hours” govern school is part of our struggle.

  3. Some student populations need more time in class – but that’s only because they are lagging so far behind expectations. They literally need “catch up” time. However, with the rise of AP/IB/CE classes hundreds of thousands of students are completing college level work in high school under a traditional schedule. If anything, they need less overall time in school – meaning they can graduate earlier and get on with their higher education. Thus, the idea of time is fluid and contextual – and the failure to see that is one of our biggest flaws.

  4. Just like everything else more time is beneficial if it’s productive but there seems to be a fair amount of unproductive time as it is. If longer school days = more babysitting I don’t see that as fixing anything.

  5. Ponderosa says:

    Good comments. The prospect of a longer day at my middle school fills me with horror. As it is, quality suffers greatly because we’re chained to DELIVERY of material seven hours a day, leaving scant energy left for the major task of PREPARATION of materials (not to mention other significant chores). European countries –where kids go home at 1-ish –seem to recognize that quality lessons require significant prep time. In America we embrace the sweatshop model –work your butt off all day with the kids, then work all night to make world-class lessons. This is the KIPP model by the way. All you union-haters: this will be our lot when the unions are finally destroyed.

  6. Roger Sweeny says:

    Ponderosa, I didn’t understand your comment. Is “work your butt off all day with the kids, then work all night to make world-class lessons” something we have now or something we will have “when the unions are finally destroyed?”

    If it’s a prediction of a dystopian future, what do we have now?

  7. Ponderosa says:

    It’s something we have now because we’re acting out of conscientiousness. It’ll be something we have in the future because we’ll be acting out of fear. I do think we’re overburdened now, but at least we have the liberty to sound off about it, or even slough off some of the work if we want to follow the contract to the letter. In the future we’ll be silenced like the majority of America’s frightened peasants.

    I really cherish the freedom from fear that unions give us teachers –at the moment. Americans pride themselves on their freedom, but what do they mean by freedom? Are they free at work? Do they have any power or protection from tyranny at work? One’s livelihood –one’s existence –can be annihilated at the whim of a boss. How is this much better than life on a feudal manor? The corporate (read: feudal) style is advancing into the education realm. To the lay person this looks positive –more efficient. They think sandbagging teachers are the problem. To me, not a fan of the status quo, it looks like something worse than the status quo: a dictatorship of egoists and fools.

    • Sean Mays says:

      Ponderosa, simply put: Democracy = You gain political rights (speech, etc) but lose economic rights (eating). Communism: You gain economic rights (eating – albeit maybe not much), but lose political ones (gulags and secret police). Interesting choice. But maybe in America we can have the worst of both worlds! Err, I meant the BEST; yeah, the best …