SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

December 5, 2012

5 states try more classroom time

Five states to try more time in school


WASHINGTON — Open your notebooks and sharpen your pencils. School for thousands of public-school students is about to get quite a bit longer.

Five states are to announce today that they will add at least 300 hours of learning time to the calendar in some schools starting in 2013.   Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee will take part in the initiative, which is intended to boost student achievement and make U.S. schools more competitive on a global level.

  • The three-year test program will affect almost 20,000 students in 40 schools, with long-term hopes of expanding the program to include additional schools — especially those that serve low-income communities. Schools, working in concert with districts, parents and teachers, will decide whether to make the school day longer, add more days to the school year or both.

A mix of federal, state and district funds will cover the costs of expanded learning time, with the Ford Foundation and the National Center on Time & Learning also chipping in resources. In Massachusetts, the program builds on the state’s existing expanded-learning program. In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel Malloy is hailing it as a natural outgrowth of an education-reform law the state passed in May that included about $100 million in new funding, much of it to help the neediest schools.

Spending more time in the classroom, education officials said, will give students access to a more well-rounded curriculum that includes arts and music, individualized help for students who fall behind and opportunities to reinforce critical math and science skills.

  • “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 reforms 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 with 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.

But not everyone agrees that shorter school days are a problem. 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 such as South Korea, Finland and Japan actually spend less time in school than most U.S. students.

The broader push to extend classroom time also could 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.

A little more than 1,000 U.S. schools already operate on expanded schedules, an increase of 53 percent over 2009, according to a report being released today 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.

(It  is heartening to see these few states taking the time and making the effort to DO  something about our sorry state of educational system.  Obviously, some states are “forward thinking” whether they are Red or Blue.  These are our kids here, and the future of our country.  Perhaps one of the most important areas in which we should turn our attention. 

Our Ohio governor has been busy doing only those things which move him and it seems ‘all business oriented’ as opposed to those things which improve the lives of our citizens whether it be schools, libraries or any other services to the community –  –  (fire, police, parks, etc.,.),  all departments have been cut and some crushed out of business. The schools have suffered severely – cuts to all;  our superintendent is stepping down even though she is well liked   Cuts to everything which matters to most of us.  Voting was a struggle – shouldn’t have been.  With the Gerrymandering all fixed, Ohio wasn’t able to truly ‘reflect’ how much the people don’t like what’s been going on.  This Governor saw advantages in allowing “gambling” here – so he did it over protest (something which several prior governors refused to allow).  As expected gambling addictions have surfaced and become a problem. Neighborhoods dislike what had happened in their area.  It has not been the boon ‘they’ expected. 

I read that the gov wants to sell off our prisons and  toll-bridges.  Most are opposed.  But Johnny wants that short-term cash. . . forget what happens with all those details where the devil dwells.  Get over it !  Jan)


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