MSNBC: Chicago pushes longer school days as key to achievement: ‘We had to do something’

14 06 2012

I’m very curious to see how this works out. Everything I’ve seen about the impact of longer school days on student achievement has been inconclusive, but I don’t recall seeing anything attempted on this large of a scale. I’m open to the idea of a longer school day, if it will truly make a difference. Then again, I thought year-round school was an idea that made sense, and that turns out to be much more expensive of a model with a neutral or negative effect on student success.

– dEV
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By Sevil Omer,

Many children in Chicago Public Schools will go from having the shortest school days in the nation to some of the longest this fall, a move that some experts say is needed to help push the struggling system ahead in student achievement.

Other school districts are reporting improvement in achievement after extending the school day, and if President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan had their way, all of America’s kids would be in school longer with shorter summer vacations.

But one researcher said the perception among policy makers and the public that U.S. students spend less time in school than their peers in other countries is not backed by fact.

“To paint a broad brush is misleading,” said Jim Hull, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Public Education in Alexandria, Va. The center is an initiative with the National School Boards Association. “The vast majority of American students are required to go school for as many hours a year as students in most all other countries.”

Still, in Chicago, public school students have the shortest school day — 5 hours and 45 minutes — among the nation’s 50 largest districts, according the National Council on Teacher Quality. The national average is 6.7 hours in school. Under Chicago Mayor Rahm Emnauel’s plan, elementary schools will move to seven hours and most city high schools will extend their day to 7½ hours, although one day during the week would be shorter by 75 minutes.

“More districts are now looking to break free of the standard school schedule because there are too many students who are not reaching higher academic standards,” said Jennifer Davis, president of the National Center on Time and Learning, a Boston-based nonprofit group dedicated to expand learning time to improve student performance.

School districts across the country are using federal or state funding to extend the school day and/or school calendar, said Staci Maiers, spokeswoman for the National Education Association, which supports teachers and school employees. The NEA has 3 million members.

But Hull said time spent learning in school and time spent studying are two different things.

Students in China, Korea, Japan and India are not required to spend more time in school than most U.S. students, Hull said. According to the U.S. Department of Education, American schools average 180 days on instruction each year. Most nations require between 175 and 180 days of school and/or between 900 and 1,000 hours of instructional time per year, depending on the grade level, he said.

“It should not be taken that time is not important because it is very much so,” Hull said. “In the case of Chicago Public Schools, it can be an extremely valuable tool for students who need the extra time.”

(Full Story)




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