The longer-school-day system is not a new idea. Many schools in the United States, particularly chartered schools, have already adopted the scheme for years now. But it was not until the enactment of the federal ‘No Child Left Behind’ law which requires annual testing in reading and math for pupils that the extended school day system aroused public interests. As an upshot, schools that fail to meet certain benchmarks are faced with grim consequences and have to take necessary measures to address the ‘failure’ problem.
However, this educational reform received various drawbacks and negative receptions in many sectors of the society. Issues on its effectiveness, impact on learning, implementation and budgetary concerns, among others, remained largely close by especially with education professionals and critics, parents and those who are in the political arena.
Just what time reform model is appropriate or recommendable for adoption by these failing schools?
To determine which model can best answer the aforesaid issues, it is necessary to examine the school day extension programs espoused by other educational institutions and states, and draw a reflection on how this system can be best implemented in New York City schools.
The Current Scenario
In her article entitled “Failing Schools See a Solution in Longer Day”, Diana Jean Schemo reported that over “10,000 schools are likely to be declared failing under the federal law next year” (Schemo, 2007). This alarming figure has prompted the governments of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, New Mexico and even New York through Governor Eliot Spitzer, to name some, to allocate extensive funding to support the school day extension scheme. However, Schemo (2007) held that:
“the movement, which has expanded the day in some schools by as little as 30 minutes or as much as two hours, has many critics: among administrators, who worry about the cost; among teachers, whose unions say they work hard enough as it is, and have sought more pay and renegotiations of contracts; and among parents, who say their children spend enough time in school already”.
Funding has become a big issue in this so-called movement. In Massachusetts, where it said to be “leading in implementing the longer-day model” (Zuckerbrod and Trujillo, 2007) and where many success stories on the model were heard, an approximated extra cost of $1,300 per student is marked annually, urging Governor Deval L. Patrick to allocate “$6.5 million this year for longer days” (Schemo, 2007). Amid the budget matter, teachers and parents too have their clamors regarding extra time spent by students in schools. Thus, school districts developed alternative solutions to address their issues such as in Lowell, Mass., for example, students and teachers were given the opportunity “to choose the days they will stay late, and offers a range of activities along core academics…” (2007).
Another notable question that concerns may scholars is whether opting for longer days will help improve the performance of the students. There have been remarkable practices of the longer-days program that came out successful. To cite some — the Matthew Kuss Middle School and the Martin Luther King, Jr. School, both in Massachusetts. Kuss Middle School’s adoption of school day extension has allowed them to offer certain electives that are ‘fun for the kids’ like art and drama, forensics, karate and cooking (2007). King, Jr. School, on the other hand, has successfully integrated reading and writing lessons with other subjects like social studies in a method called “Literacy Collaborative” (2007).
Generally, the longer school day scheme has proved to be advantageous to those who have employed it, rationalizing that the more hours spent by children in school, the more successful these children may become.
Not taking into account the exhausted budgets, the models that have been effectively adopted by many school districts across the country took so much emphasis on increasing the number of hours actually spent by students in school by extending the school day. But the fact is, school time is not at all used up in instructional and learning time, thus raising the question on the relationship between time and learning. To effectively correlate the two, emphasis should be placed not just on quantity, as in the amount of time, but more focus should be given to the quality of time spent. This is vital in order to make certain that the extended time or longer school day program must center on providing the right time — the quality time. In their article on time and learning, Julie Aronson and co-writers asserted that “any addition to allocated education time will only improve achievement to the extent it is used for instruction time” (Aronson, et.al., 1998).
Undoubtedly, the longer school day program which shall be anchored in improving instructional time would benefit all students. However, this program may be more effective for some than to others. While the more affluent students have everything that they can have, those who belong to the minority and the poor, on the other hand, have lesser access to educational resources outside of school therefore the latter may be benefited more with the program.
The cost of the longer school day program is undeniably soaring. Its need may vary conversely like depending on the location of the school and other similar considerations. Some have opted the extended school day because it is, no doubt, lesser expensive than extended school year. Others get funding support from the state and local expenditures. This brings out the need for school districts to strategize its fund-sourcing scheme to finance the program.
Since schools have varying needs, certain factors have to be made and carefully studied before pursuing the longer or extended school day program. Educators and lawmakers need to profoundly understand how an educational institution’s ‘school time’ is spent so they may have a deep understanding on how to turn that ‘school time’ into quality instructional and learning time. As Aronson and co-writers said, “Only when time is used more effectively will adding more of it begin to result in improved learning outcomes for all students” (Aronson, et.al., 1998).
Aronson, J., et.al. (1998). Improving Student Achievement By Extending School: Is It Just a Matter of Time? Retrieved April 1, 2007, from wested.org: http://www.wested.org/wested/papers/timeandlearning/1_intro.html
Schemo, D. J. (2007, March 26). Failing Schools See a Solution in Longer Day. Retrieved April 1, 2007, from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/26/us/26schoolday.html?ex=1175572800&en=4aa0ddd1081f5613&ei=5018&partner=BRITANNICA
Zuckerbro, N., et.al. (2007, February 25). Massachusetts Leading National Effort for Longer School Days. Retrieved April 1, 2007, from boston.com: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2007/02/25/massachusetts_leading_national_effort_for_longer_school_days/