Longer school day? How five states are trying to change education.
Five states are participating in a pilot project designed to recast and improve education in low-income communities by leveraging a longer school day or year in innovative ways.
Starting next year, students in 40 public schools in five states will be spending significantly more time in school.Skip to next paragraph
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Massachusetts, New York, 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.
It’s a comprehensive effort involving state and federal governments, community organizations, teachers unions, and private groups.
But what, exactly, will students learn?
Most research, say education experts, shows that simply having students spend more time in school means little.
Part of what’s key about this new project, however, is not just lengthening the school day or year, but doing it in innovative ways that could reshape the structure of the school day, and how teachers and students think about learning.
“If you’re looking just at an extended school day, it’s hard to figure out what if any impact it has,” says Robert Stonehill, managing director at the American Institutes for Research in Washington, which has done significant work on expanded-learning programs. “But if you look at the real quality programs, that’s a different story.”
So far, Mr. Stonehill says, the backers of the new five-state initiative – called the TIME Collaborative – are emphasizing the sort of innovative solutions that do make a difference. “They’re pushing all the right buttons,” he says.
The 11 districts taking part in the initiative will have a year to plan. Their plans will all be different, but backers of the program expect them to adhere to some basic principles and hope that the new schedules will involve a rethinking of what’s possible.
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.
The models for this program “are quite different from what you’ve seen historically,” says Jennifer Davis, president and cofounder of the National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL), which is a part of the effort.
Traditional “after-school” community programs will no longer necessarily be after school, she notes.