A low-performing K-8 school extended the school day by 85 minutes, but found students and teachers were exhausted — and test scores went down. Now the New Haven school provides more time for teacher collaboration in a normal 6 1/2-hour day, writes Melissa Bailey on the Hechinger Report. Scores are rising.
Brennan-Rogers School serves three public housing projects. Once Brennan had been a “community school” that stayed open nights and weekends for basketball tournaments and neighborhood events, writes Bailey.
By the 2009-10 academic year, that effort was long gone. Test scores were low. Student behavior was out of control. Principal Karen Lott was brought in to turn around the school.
Brennan-Rogers students began to attend school from 8:20 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. four days a week, with an early dismissal on Wednesdays. Much of the extra time went to enrichment activities like gardening and other student clubs and assemblies with student performances. Brennan-Rogers added 45 minutes a day for teacher collaboration while students were sent to art and gym. The school extended academic periods every day but Wednesday, when kids left between 1:00 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. while teachers stayed for training. The effort was funded by a federal grant to overhaul failing schools, which required them to expand learning time.
Parents received no advance notice of the longer schedule. Students thought they were being punished.
After a year, Lott proposed returning to the normal school day with extra time for teacher collaboration.
For the past three years, teachers have met for an hour each morning without kids. Some days, they work with colleagues teaching the same grade to plan field trips or interdisciplinary projects on topics like slavery. Other days, they learn how to use iPads and Apple TVs. Teachers also comb through student data, help each other plan lessons and analyze how those lessons went.
. . . Though the day is shorter, instruction is more efficient, said sixth-grade teacher Tavares Bussey. “The kids are getting more out of it.”
In September, Brennan-Rogers plans to add 15 minutes a day for students, but the time won’t be used for academics, writes Bailey. “Instead, there will be a 30-minute morning meeting for kids to work on communication skills and conflict resolution.”