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Five states to increase class time in some schools

“Whether educators have more time to enrich instruction or students have more time to learn how to play an instrument and write computer code, adding meaningful in-school hours is a critical investment that better prepares children to be successful in the 21st century,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement.

The project comes as educators across the U.S. struggle to identify the best ways to strengthen a public education system that many fear has fallen behind other nations. Student testing, teacher evaluations, charter schools, and voucher programs join longer school days on the list of school reform initiatives that have been put forward with varying degrees of success.

The report from the center, which advocates for extending instruction time, cites research suggesting students who spend more hours learning perform better. One such study, from Harvard economist Roland Fryer, argues that of all the factors affecting educational outcomes, two are the best predictors of success: intensive tutoring and adding at least 300 hours to the standard school calendar.

More classroom time has long been a priority for Duncan, who warned a congressional committee in May 2009—just months after becoming education secretary—that American students were at a disadvantage compared to their peers in India and China. That same year, he suggested schools should be open six or seven days per week and should run 11 or 12 months out of the year.

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School Reform Center at eSN Online

But not everyone agrees that shorter school days are to blame. A report last year from the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education disputed the notion that American schools have fallen behind in classroom time, pointing out that students in high-performing countries like South Korea, Finland, and Japan actually spend less time in school than most U.S. students.

The broader push to extend classroom time could also run up against concerns from teachers unions. Longer school days became a major sticking point in a seven-day teachers strike in September in Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel eventually won an extension of the school day but paid the price in other concessions granted to teachers.

Just over 1,000 U.S. schools already operate on expanded schedules, an increase of 53 percent over 2009, according to a report being released Dec. 3 in connection with the announcement by the National Center on Time & Learning. The nonprofit group said more schools should follow suit but stressed that expanded learning time isn’t the right strategy for every school.

Some of the funds required to add 300 or more hours to the school calendar will come from shifting resources from existing federal programs, making use of the flexibility granted by waivers to No Child Left Behind. All five states taking part in the initiative have received waivers from the Education Department.

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  1. teacherkmo

    December 3, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Expanded learning time might be something that schools in this country should consider, AFTER other factors are considered. Here in NYC we have 32 – 34 students in 1st grade classrooms and the school’s budget has been cut to a minimum. Add to that the fact that teachers are struggling to meet the common core standards with little to no guidance and very little opportunity for professional development.

  2. Mrwrig

    December 3, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    There is no mention in this article of the current time spent in class. Why is that?

  3. kirkycow

    December 6, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Remember, this is a pilot program. The outcomes should be interesting to study. Meanwhile, I wish all these students and teachers good luck. When I was in the classroom, the regular 8AM to 3PM time was more than enough. How the time is used is the more important factor!

  4. cnagy

    December 12, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    The bigger question is what happens after the initiative…this is being funded by federal, state, and local money. When this is over, are they going to pay for the extra time or, once again, lump it into everything else we are expected to do without paying for it and then complaining about the cost that they don’t take care of anyway?