Adding additional time to the calendar isn’t just an opportunity to close the achievement gap and increase student achievement; it’s also a strategy to close opportunity gaps and increase enrichment opportunities for all students. With more time, students get access to experiences they might not otherwise have, from arts and music classes to outdoor activities and field trips. With a lengthened school day, Edwards students were on the football team, the dance squad, and learned boating skills. These are the kinds of experiences that make learning fun and engaging and ensure that students receive a well-rounded education.
We can add time to the school calendar by lengthening the day, the year, or some combination of the two. One strategy that yields strong results at both the Edwards Middle School and the Roger Clap Innovation School is the use of Acceleration Academies, one-week intensive interventions that take place during school vacation weeks that students can choose to attend to help improve their core skills in literacy and math. At the Edwards, Acceleration Academies have produced a substantial increase in MCAS scores among students who are not native English speakers.
Some parents may view the issue of more school time with trepidation. They may worry, for example, that more time in school will wear their kids out or take time away from nonacademic activities that are a key part of growing up. That’s why the way we use the additional time is so important. More time can’t just mean doing more of the same. Every minute must be used creatively and well.
Fortunately, Mayor Driscoll and Superintendent Russell have made a robust effort to engage the community in a discussion about expanding learning time. We owe it to our kids to do this right. One thing is certain: Doing nothing to improve our schools is not an option.
Justin Vernon is a Salem resident and the principal of the Roger Clap Innovation School in Boston. He and his wife have children approaching school-age. This is one in a series of columns from the Community Advisory Board for the Salem schools.