February 8, 2007
Longer day, more learning for students?
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON Simply adding time in school won't improve students'
performance, a panel of experts agreed Wednesday.
But they said if increased hours are coupled with more effective
use of learning time, there can be a significant academic
Low-income, underprivileged students are most in need of such
enrichment, they said.
"The kids that really need more quality learning time are those
kids who aren't getting it in school or out of school," said
Elena Silva, an analyst at the Education Sector, a nonpartisan,
nonprofit education think tank in Washington, D.C.
Lengthening these students' school day alone might not make a
difference because they are often in the worst-performing
"When we add time to these schools, we may just be adding more
bad time," she said.
Silva is author of a new Education Sector report, "On the Clock:
Rethinking the Way Schools Use Time," which was discussed by the
DETAILS FROM REPORT
The report addresses the growing interest in adding hours or
days to the school year as a means of improving the performance
of American students. It is available at
Silva said more school time is not a panacea.
"We don't have research that can tell us definitively what the
outcome of extended school time would be," she said.
But according to the report, studies show that when students
spend more time engaged in learning, their achievement rises.
Just increasing allocated time, which includes such non-academic
activities as lunch and school assemblies, makes little
difference, according to the report.
Affluent students typically have more opportunity than poorer
students to get involved in enriching activities after school
and during the summer, the panelists said.
PROS AND CONS OF LONGER DAYS
Chris Gabrieli, chairman of Massachusetts 2020, a nonprofit
educational group, advocated longer days.
Americans typically spend 6 1/2 hours in school, 180 days a
year. Europeans attend school as many as 210 days, while the
Japanese hit the books for 240 days.
Gabrieli's group lobbied Massachusetts officials to create a
$6.5 million pilot program that extends the school day by two
hours in 10 elementary and middle schools where many of the
students come from low income families.
He said the results are promising, but more experiments are
Rick Larios, a vice president at the Edison Institute, a
for-profit school management company, said the firm has backed
away from an extended school year after discovering that many
students failed to show up.
The company began the school year two weeks early and extended
it an additional two weeks.
The experts pointed out that adding school time is fraught with
difficulty and requires support from the community to succeed.
Parents often object to an extended school year, as do teachers,
"Each community has to determine what makes the most sense, said
An-Me Chung, who writes educational grants for the C.S. Mott
Foundation. "If you don't get the buy-in from that community,
nothing is going to be sustainable."
They also said teacher preparation is key.
Larios said if school time is added in a way that burdens
teachers, it will be counterproductive.
In the Massachusetts pilot project, teachers are spending more
hours in school. But Gabrieli said they also are benefiting from
additional time built into the day for lesson planning and