HuffPo: Why We Need a Longer School Day

17 05 2012

It’s an interesting thought, but I don’t think an expanded school day is the “magic bullet” that is going to close the achievement gap. Still, it’s interesting reading.

– dEV

#     #     #


Co-founder and CEO, Citizen Schools

Posted: 05/11/2012 10:55 am

Yesterday, the National Center on Time and Learning and the Ford Foundation announced the launch of the“Time to Succeed” Coalition, a group dedicated to — gasp! — more time in school. I added my name as a signatory, along with cosignatories such as Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin of KIPP and Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers, with great enthusiasm not because I’m a joykill who is looking to make kids “suffer” longer hours in school, but because I know without a doubt that if we don’t provide more learning time for the students who need it most — primarily those disadvantaged by poverty — we will leave the bulk of these children unprepared for success in school and careers. That is not fair and is not the American way.

I founded Citizen Schools, a nonprofit education organization, seventeen years ago because I believed that we could do more with the 80 percent of students waking hours that were not spent in school. The achievement gap between low-income and high-income students is 30 percent to 40 percent higher than it was a generation ago. For most of the low-income students that Citizen Schools serves, the afternoon hours used to be an untapped resource. While their peers in middle and upper class families were getting extra tutoring, taking music lessons, and attending science clubs, our students could not count on the same experiences. Our idea was to level the playing field and ensure that all children have access to quality educational opportunities that help boost academic achievement and get them excited about learning.

Carol Johnson, Superintendent of Boston Public Schools and a cosignatory of “Time to Succeed,” has described the need for more learning time as follows. Imagine all of our students running a race where high school graduation is the “finish line.” In theory, all students start the race at the same time, with the same running gear and enthusiastic supporters on the sidelines. In reality, however, some of our students get a head start, fancy running shoes and an extra push from the adults in their lives. As a result, the students left behind might need some roller skates in order to catch up and reach the finish line on time. More learning time can serve as a set of roller skates for the students who need them.

To be sure, expanded learning time will only work as a school turnaround strategy if the additional time is used well. Otherwise, expanded learning time could degenerate into mediocrity or worse — a modest extension of the learning day, using the same methods that weren’t working well for the first six hours. This type of more-of-the-same expanded learning time has been tried in too many schools and the evidence indicates that it usually fails to significantly improve student outcomes. Citizen Schools has built deep partnerships with schools in eight states to significantly increase learning time by at least 30 percent. Our “second shift” of trained educators and community volunteers collaborate closely with traditional day teachers and provide additional academic support and engaging learning opportunities, including “apprenticeships” where students work in hands-on projects with professionals from a wide variety of fields. We have seen that expanded learning time “done right” — a substantial increase in learning time, community partnerships, and more engaging content — can erase and even reverse opportunity and achievement gaps.

(Full Story)



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: