Students in the Monroe County Community School Corp. will spend considerably more time in school starting next year. Does that mean they’ll learn more? It’s a reasonable question. And the obvious answer is: It depends on the schools and how they make use of the additional time?
“We find that of the schools that transition from a traditional schedule to an expanded schedule, the most successful are those that carefully create a new school plan and schedule that better addresses the needs of students and teachers,” Davis said. “They step back and ask themselves ‘What do our children need to succeed and how do we create a schedule that best meets those needs?’”
In the MCCSC, the longer school day is tied to the implementation of Professional Learning Communities, which very much involves asking what students need to learn and what needs to happen for them to succeed. The PLC process can identify opportunities for effective use of remediation and enrichment, which can take time.
In the elementary schools, another factor is making room for the 90 minutes of daily reading instruction — 90 minutes of uninterrupted daily reading instruction in grades K-3 — required by a new state reading rule.
The MCCSC isn’t alone in wrestling with time. Education Week has had several recent articles on the topic, including coverage of a two-day forum in Washington, D.C., on “Reimagining the School Day.”
Isabel Owen of the Center for American Progress addressed the issue last month in an article on the Time for Innovation Matters in Education Act, or TIME Act. The bipartisan legislation would provide federal funding for schools that extend the school calendar by at least 300 hours a year.
Owen writes that time in school “has been identified as one of the key factors leading to academic success in high-performing schools … Just adding time to the calendar, however, won’t suffice,” she adds. “Rather than simply tacking additional hours onto the school day, week, or year, the TIME Act calls for schools to completely redesign their schedule to strategically incorporate extra time for academics, enrichment, and teacher preparation, planning, and collaboration.”
For students in Monroe County schools, a longer school day could turn out to be a good thing. But far too many students consider school to be drudgery – for them, more of the same won’t cut it. And for a lot of teenagers, the new 7:40 a.m. start time for high school and middle school could be brutal. As schools develop plans and schedules that better meet the needs of students, let’s hope they keep parents and the public informed about what they’ll be doing, and why.