Report Shows Schools Can Make Effective Use of Longer Days
Feature Story by Tyler Lewis - 2/24/2006Only twenty percent of a child's waking hours are spent in school and yet the educational demands on today's children are greater than for previous generations, according to a new report on the impact of extended school days and years on education outcomes for the nation's children.
The theory behind extended learning is a simple one: more content and skills require more time to master them; and more time equals more learning.
Extended learning, policy experts posit, can be an effective tool in combating the nation's achievement gap. "Time for a Change: The Promise of Extended-Time Schools for Promoting Student Achievement," an initiative of Massachusetts 2020, found that the effective use of extra time in eight extended-time schools resulted in higher test scores, increased time on task, broader and deeper coverage of curriculum, and deepened adult-child relationships.
Massachusetts 2020 is a nonprofit foundation dedicated to expanding the educational opportunities for children and families in Massachusetts.
The foundation defined extended-time schools as schools located in a city with a population over 50,000, which required all students to attend school for at least 15 percent more time than in schools with conventional schedules and more than 50 percent of the student body qualified for free or reduced lunch.
Jennifer Davis, co-founder and president of Massachusetts 2020, commenting during a panel discussion on February 14, said that each school's use of the extra time is different and that "merely adding time to the day or the year is not enough."
Among the ways that schools incorporated the extra time was by extending class periods of core academic subjects, providing professional development for teachers, and through extracurricular activities. Significantly, all eight schools spent the bulk of the school week on core academic subjects, which include math, reading, writing, science, and social studies.
Massachusetts 2020 has used the report's findings to develop a strategy to extend learning time in the state. Its "School of Redesign: Expanding Learning Time to Support Student Success" grant program with the Massachusetts Department of Education offers grants to extend the school day or year.
The program requires schools to develop a comprehensive plan for adding 30 percent more time to the school day and/or year. Massachusetts 2020 provides technical assistance to each school that receives the grant.
Fourteen districts in Massachusetts have received a grant, with implementation of the extended day/year starting September 2006. All 14 have preliminary plans to lengthen the school day; three may lengthen the school year as well.