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Are Longer School Days Coming?
posted by: Megan | November 01, 2010, 09:27 PM   

This idea has been in practice for some time in some public charter schools. One teacher explains her days before the longer day, "I had 50 minutes a day with each of my classes. That might sound like a decent amount of time, but after taking roll and checking homework, I was lucky to have even 40 minutes left to teach my students, the majority of whom were low income or just learning to speak English." With only short blocks of time to teach, educators are forced to speed through lessons and often feel like they are shortchanging students. When students go home for summer vacation, many are forgetting what they had been learning, setting them even further behind.

At one charter school, KIPP Heartwood Academy in San Jose, CA, the school day is almost 50% longer. Students arrive at 7:30am and the final bell is at 5:30pm. The schedule even calls for a mandatory 3-week summer school program. This added time of instruction is getting results. Although 85% of the students are considered low-income, the school ranks in the top 10% of California schools.

Chicago Public Schools are trying a program with additional instructional time as well. This year, a program known as "Additional Learning Opportunities" has been set in place for students in first through eighth grade. It is broken into a 20-minute recess and snack break before students head back into the classroom for 70 minutes of online learning; only the online learning will not be facilitated by teachers.

Due to a collective bargaining agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union, the length of the school day is set to end at 2:45 p.m. The total school day amounts to 5 hours and 45 minutes, thus barring current teachers from implementing the new program. "Anything over and above the contractually set schedule would need to be negotiated and would have a significant cost attached to it," CPS spokesman Frank Shuftan stated.

In systems where teachers are allowed to work extra hours concerns remain. "Extended hours, if not done right, could also lead to teacher burnout. Already, dedicated educators work at home to grade or write lessons, and if the school day is prolonged without taking this into account, teachers could find themselves even more overburdened," remarked Allison Smith, chief academic officer for KIPP Bay Area schools.

Along with teacher burn out, the cost of these programs is something to take into account. Additional Learning Opportunities in Chicago is set to cost $5.5 million for the academic year.

Clearly simply adding extra time onto a school day will not do much good for students or teachers. Without a quality teacher and a plan for extra hours, they will do little more than keep kids off the streets in the early evening hours.

Originally posted by Alix on AAE's website.

Do you think adding extra hours to the school day will help students?
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