Longer day or more time for teachers?

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.”

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Comments

  1. Mark Roulo says:

    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…

    It would be interesting to find some district brave enough to try *shortening* the school day. Maybe the kids are exhausted now and we’ve just accepted this level of tiredness as “normal.” See what happens when the kids are only in school for 4½ – 5 hours (including recess … less than this for instructional time) instead of the current 6½ or so and see what happens…

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      Parents would be up in arms. One of the major functions of school is daycare.

      • Mark Roulo says:

        We could extend the aftercare programs.
         
        I’d just like to see it tried somewhere. One of the things I find amazing is that senior year of high school can have 30 – 35 hours of school time per week, but for the kids who go off to college the next year has about 15.

        • Roger Sweeny says:

          That’s partly because most of college work is done outside of class. A humanities or social science class will have lots of reading assigned. A science class will have problem sets.

          I teach high school physics and I am constantly assigning problems, but many of them are done in class. “If you don’t finish, finish as homework.” Much of class time is spent helping with problems and checking to see if students are “getting it” All homework is gone over the next day. College is nothing like that.

          In a high school “honors” class, you can assign reading at home and know that most students will do at least some of it. In a “college prep” class, you know no such thing. You do know that a substantial number of students simply won’t do school work out of the building. So anything you really want done has to be done in the building.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Many other countries have significantly longer school days. We have to decide as a nation whether we want to educate to a higher level or just provide day care for the up to 18 age group.

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