It’s about time

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?

Jennifer Davis, president of the National Center on Time and Learning, which helps schools implement expanded learning time initiatives, said as much in a recent interview with Education Week.

“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.

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3 thoughts on “It’s about time

  1. The longer days equals additional compensation for teachers, right?

    Oh, I forgot. Teachers can’t bargain that anymore.

    Increase the workload. Keep pay the same. That will make teaching a more attractive profession.

    Brilliant!

  2. Hi! I just discovered this blog. It is great to see how you are putting the situation here in Monroe County in the context of the state and federal laws. I wanted to say, regarding the close of this post…I don’t just want the MCCSC administration and board to keep me informed about what they are doing and why. I want them to involve parents and teachers in the development of their plans. I want them to consult with professionals who understand that academics must be fostered in an environment that respects the health and developmental needs of children. Why are they so uninterested in these issues? We have an obligation to our children to keep their long-term health at the forefront of any discussion about so-called school improvements.
    Jenny Robinson

  3. No additional compensation for substitutes either.

    I think the additional hours in school will be underutilized because the kids will be too sleepy to properly learn. How many families can realistically get teens to go to bed by 9pm? Teens need 9-10 hours of sleep per night. Elementary and junior high students will need to be in bed by 8pm.
    I envision classrooms full of not-quite-awake students learning below their potential.

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