Schools try longer, smarter school day

If the school day is longer, will students learn more? The TIME Collaborative will experiment with different ways to use a longer school day or year in schools in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Tennessee. Schools in low-income communities will add at least 300 hours to the school year.

That won’t mean more time doing the same thing,reports the Christian Science Monitor.  Connecticut, Colorado, and Tennessee are all taking part in a pilot project in which select schools – particularly those that serve low-income communities – add at least 300 hours to the school year, whether through a lengthened school day or a longer school year.

For example, teachers might start staggered schedules. Schools might explore both traditional and computer-mediated learning. Students might get more time for internships or project-based opportunities. Teachers should gain time for collaboration and planning.

Community groups that run after-school programs may offer enrichment activities during the longer school day, such as music, art, robotics, or sports, said Jeannie Oakes, a Ford Foundation official.

To make a longer school day cost effective, teachers would have to allow lower-paid non-teachers to run computer labs, theater programs, karate class, etc.

What to do with a longer school day

It’s n0t enough to add time to the school day, advises a new National Center on Time & Learning report. Effective extended-learning schools use eight “powerful practices” concludes “Time Well Spent,” which profiles successful schools serving low-income students.

  1. Making every minute count or maximizing added time;
  2. Prioritizing increased hours that are tailored to the school and their students;
  3. Individualizing the added time for each student based on diverse needs;
  4. Building a positive school culture of high expectations and mutual accountability;
  5. Providing new experiences for students that make their education more well-rounded;
  6. Preparing students for the future by encouraging college readiness and career goals;
  7. Strengthening instruction by providing increased time for teacher professional development; and
  8. Evaluating how well goals are met by assessing and analyzing data.

Massachusetts  is the only state to fund longer school days: 19 schools now get the extra funding. However, NCTL estimates there are 1,000 expanded-learning-time schools nationwide. Not all have seen significant achievement gains.

Schools applying for No Child Left Behind waivers should use extended learning time as a reform strategy, NCTL urges. At a Center for American Progress forum on the report, Education Secretary Arne Duncan endorsed a longer school day and year.

“Right now, children in India, children in China and other places, they’re going to school, 30, 35 days more than our students. If you’re on a sports team and you’re practicing three days a week and the other team is practicing five days a week, who is going to win more? Anybody who thinks we need less time, not more, is part of the problem,” he said.

Top-performing students don’t need more time in school, forum participants said. For disadvantaged students, schools can be both places to learn and safe havens from dangerous neighborhoods.