ED. Magazine

Time Hasn’t Been on Their Side

By Lory Hough

American students spend about 20 percent of their waking time in school. As schools struggle to meet standards and parents continue to juggle complex afterschool care, many are pushing for a longer school day.

edwards_school_stairs.jpgNine students are sitting in Kevin Qazilbash’s math class on the second floor of the Clarence R. Edwards Middle School in Charlestown, Mass., just a few blocks from the Bunker Hill Monument. The fluorescent lights in the room have been turned off, and the slide on the overhead projector shows an algebra test that Qazilbash, Ed.M.’98, took when he was in college. One boy is drumming a pencil, but the other eight students, a mix of girls and boys, are fixated on the screen.

Down the hall and on the floor above, in small groups and one-on-one sessions, a couple hundred other students are fact-checking stories, mapping longitude and latitude coordinates, learning how machines help with technology and engineering, and reading aloud personal essays.

It’s 1:45 p.m. and their school day is far from over.

As one of 10 (now 26) Massachusetts schools initially participating in a first-of-its-kind, statewide pilot initiative that allows schools to expand hours by 30 percent, the is being watched around the country. Under pressure to meet standards and better prepare students to be 21st century skilled citizens (and for a smattering of other reasons), more and more across the country are following the ’s path and figuring out ways to add time to student learning, sometimes by shoring up existing , adding Saturday and summer hours, adding days to the academic year, or, more recently, by expanding the length of the school day — in some cases by three or four hours. Between 1991 and 2007, the Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress found that more than 300 initiatives across 30 states had , primarily in high-poverty and high-minority schools. In September 2006, Edwards changed its final bell from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Last fall, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Representative George Miller (D-CA) introduced legislation that would expand learning time nationwide and provide money for training teachers to better use the extra hours. Labor unions have, for the most part, backed existing initiatives.

As more schools move forward with their own efforts, many are taking their cue from the mavericks on time and learning: charter schools, where more than two-thirds run on longer days, many successfully.

“Expanded time certainly isn’t the only thing these charter schools are doing, but I don’t think any of them could conceive of going forward without more time,” says Chris Gabrieli, cofounder of Mass2020, the nonprofit overseeing the pilot program in Massachusetts, who spoke at the Ed School in December. “Especially for achievement gap kids, I don’t know of any charter schools like a KIPP [Knowledge is Power Program] or a Roxbury Prep that are running on today’s ordinary schedule.” It is this ordinary schedule that has caused expanded learning time to become such a hot issue. In his new book, Time to Learn, Gabrieli calls this schedule, which most public schools in the country follow, a “relic from the past.”

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  • Bess Kapetanis

    Clearly the quality of teaching and learning is key to the success of ELT schools. Teachers must have rich professional development to engage, challenge, and provide students with 21st century skills. Perhaps,then, PD needs to be reenvisioned and expanded beyond current teacher collaboration within buildings. Quality online learning for teachers, for example, offers the flexibility to be incorporated within the ELT day or completed at other times convenient for teachers.

  • Cornell Woodson

    I think expanding the hours that students spend in school is not very creative and does not address many other issues that play a role in the success of students. I would like to know if anyone has studied when a person’s brain becomes completely functional in the morning and at what point in the evening does it slow down.
    In my high school we start at 8:25 p.m. and had a 20 minute break at 10 a.m. We did that because they found that starting to early was not helping anything because people are still waking up. Also, having a brief break and allow students to get a snack to energize themselves was helpful.
    Lastly, I really think if we want students to be successful we need to pay close attention to other aspects of their lives that cloud their minds when they are being taught geometry or discussing World War II. I know when I was in middle it was hard for me to concentrate on the work in front of me, because I was thinking about the bully that was going to chase me home after school. We need to support the whole student and not pieces of him or her.

  • Maria Leaver

    During the Australian summer holidays I read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, The Story of Success. It resonated well with what I have observed having worked as a teacher for 30 years across various socio-economic environments. Generally, Gladwell maintains, students from high socio-economic groups are given more out of school oportunities. Gladwell calls this concerted cultivation and intense scheduling. It made me reflect on the absurdity of our “one size fits all” approach to education. If education is meant to be an equaliser, and it should have this potential, why ar we not providing opportunities within education systems for students from poorer homes to access extra time. What about, as Peter Senge says, some systems thinking about opportunities for all for concerted cultivation, and intense scheduling. Creative thinking, 21st century technology, an awareness of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences and a concern and love for all children could make this happen’. And in the words of Otto Scharmer’s Theory U, accessing our Open Mind, Open Heart and Open Will.

  • Qidi Lu

    Expanding the hours that a student spent at school is not a good idea if we wnat to improve their academic ability, since the same medicine would have different affect on different people. For the students who really want to study in a quite place, adding the hours at school would only have an opposite effect. While for the students who do not want to study at all, it would only be a waste of time and energy, for the student and the teacher as well. Students would not learn much if they are forced to do so.
    So, why not ask the students if they really wanna stay at school for a longer time before the school make this decision? If they want to study at home, let them go; if they do not wnat study, let them go; if they want more hours at school, keep them. That would be more efficient, at least, we should respect the students’ wishes.

  • katriona

    Interesting idea. If you want public school teachers to do this, its going to mean two things….first, money. secondly, very clear parameters around extended duties. I teach all day and go home to being a parent of school age children that need my help with their homework. How can I help my own kids at night if kids I teach during the day are calling me? There are privacy issues there as well. Another consideration is as teachers who are also parents, how are we supposed to have time to get our kids to the doctors or dentists or their commitements if we’re teaching so long? Whats the matter with various tutorial programs and on site assistance without lengthening the day?
    What happened to the outstanding success we had with homogeneous grouping, and why wont anyone talk about doing that again? not everyone is born to be a rocket scientist and it is foolish for educators to be expected to train every kid to be one. As a middle school teacher, activities have to be switched every 25 minutes in order to keep students’ attention. How much are they going to listen after 60 minutes, let alone 110? After an hour they’ll be so disinterested they wont listen to anything, even a chance to earn free iTunes downloads.
    thanks for listening.

  • chris perez

    I am a student of the Edwards Middle School and i beleive that the academics and the different types of programs and oppurtunities that they provide really help us as students with the things that we must prepare for and get through both academically, socially, and physically.

  • angela

    I think expanding the school day is a great idea. NCLB has obliterated the time that used to be devoted to recess, arts, gym etc. to teach to tests. Why not give young students the opportunity to exercise and use their creative talents during the extended school day? France has always had extended days as well as a Saturday schedule. I wonder what India’s and China’s student schedules are?
    Most parents have to work 8 to 12 hour days and take another hour commute to get home. Although an extended day is not supposed to be “in loco parentis,” it could certainly augment their work schedules. To respond to the teacher who commented on “How are we supposed to have time to get our kids to the doctors or dentists or their commitments if we’re teaching so long?” Welcome to the world of the parents, they’ve been doing this all along.

  • Juan

    All I can say is that I love music no matter what.

  • heimarbeit ohne kosten

    Teens with great talents should be well taken care of and should be encouraged to do well in their respective endeavors.

  • Anonymous

    Expanded learning time is a good idea so that students have longer time in school, studying and being busy in school activities.

  • Janestadermann

    I agree. If schools are trying to create an enriched person through education, then the student’s perspective, especially from teenage years is crucial in order to expect a reciprocal respect for the education system. Providing opportunities for a extra subjects and constructive time use is an excellent idea but to force it as an expectation could lead to an overload for the student which may lead to poorer results or lack of motivation if they feel overwhelmed: with some it would work, others not. The biological makeup of teenagers goes through a big shift during these years, when they actually need more sleep than a younger child and their waking/sleeping body clock is in misalignment with ‘regular hours’. They need time for themselves, and whether they decide they want to spend this furthering school work or on more creative or sporting extra-curricula hours, then this should be up to them. The rat race comes all too soon and they need to be given their own -not imposed- mindset.

  • http://www.thatwayhat.com/ Geoffrey

    I agree with Qidi Lu and Janestadermann up to a point — students should get a choice because by their nature some will benefit more from more time in school while others will be stifled or bored. Especially for lower income students who may have less attention at home from parent and fewer alternative choices for their time out of school, longer school hours may be beneficial. The problem with a complete choice is that it relies on the parents being concerned about making the best choice and/or the students able to direct themselves wisely in their choice. Probably longer school hours unless a somewhat compelling reason (with an alternative plan) is presented for not participating would be a good compromise on the compulsory vs choice issue.

  • http://www.thatwayhat.com/ Geoffrey

    I agree with Qidi Lu and Janestadermann up to a point — students should get a choice because by their nature some will benefit more from more time in school while others will be stifled or bored. Especially for lower income students who may have less attention at home from parent and fewer alternative choices for their time out of school, longer school hours may be beneficial. The problem with a complete choice is that it relies on the parents being concerned about making the best choice and/or the students able to direct themselves wisely in their choice. Probably longer school hours unless a somewhat compelling reason (with an alternative plan) is presented for not participating would be a good compromise on the compulsory vs choice issue.

  • http://www.joycheapbuy.com/ Jerry Hardy

    In my opinion,for the students who really want to study in a quite place, adding the hours at school would only have an opposite effect. While for the students who do not want to study at all, it would only be a waste of time and energy, for the student and the teacher as well. Students would not learn much if they are forced to do so.

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