Time Hasn’t Been on Their SideBy Lory Hough
In Massachusetts, after the first year of the initiative, “proficient” English language arts scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test at the 10 schools jumped 39 percent above the previous five-year average. At Edwards, the number of students scoring “proficient” on the math portion of the test rose 12.7 percentage points. At KIPP Ascend, where many fifth-graders start one or two grades behind in reading and math, after four years at the school, 100 percent of eighth-graders passed math and 94 percent passed reading on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test.
Reville and Gabrieli both say it will probably take at least five years before they can really analyze the results in Massachusetts. “You can see success earlier when you look at how parents or how faculty feel — that you can find pretty quickly,” Reville says. “But when it comes to trends in student achievement, we really only have one set of results. We need to see a few more years. But we’re confident that we’ll see it happen.”
Damien Pankam, an eighth-grader at Edwards, says his grades have gone up since he started the longer day. “The teachers expect more but they also explain more,” he says. “There’s also more time to ask questions. That makes the work easier for us. The teachers also have extra time to review material that we did last year.”
Some of the evidence is not based on scores, but on how students act. Riley says that last year, about 20 sixth-grade families picked the Edwards School as their first choice. This year, the number shot to 243 for 80 slots. And it’s not just parents doing the choosing: students want to be at schools with longer days. Domonique Toombs and Lauder Quitumba, Edwards eighthgraders, both say they’d even make the day longer if they could.
“I love stepping. If I have a bad day, stepping helps me let go of all of my anger,” Toombs says. “But, stepping [class] also goes like that,” she says, snapping her fingers. “I’d like to go even later, until at least 5:30 p.m.”
Quitumba agrees: “When I play sports, the teacher will say two more minutes and it’s time to go. It goes by too fast.”