SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 11, 2013

Column: Should Salem schools have a longer day?

Patricia Zaido
The Salem News

---- — Should the Salem schools have a longer day? Come to a community meeting on Thursday, Jan. 24, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Collins Middle School and find out! Topics will include “Transforming Schools Through Expanded learning Time,” with Chris Gabrieli and Jennifer Davis, co-founders of the National Center on Time & Learning, and “Salem Public Schools Turnaround Update” with Mayor Kim Driscoll and Superintendent of Schools Stephen Russell.

At the meeting, NCTL’s Chris Gabrieli and Jennifer Davis will share with the Salem community the successes they have experienced in working with hundreds of schools across Massachusetts and the U.S. that have redesigned and expanded their school schedule to better meet the needs of students and communities. NCTL is dedicated to expanding learning time to improve student achievement and enable a well-rounded education. Through research, public policy and technical assistance, NCTL supports national, state and local initiatives that add significantly more school time for academic and enrichment opportunities to help all children meet the demand of the 21st century.

There are more than 1,000 schools, chiefly serving the neediest of students, across the nation in 36 states that have already extended their school schedules beyond the traditional 6.5-hour, 180-day school calendar. These schools offer many powerful examples of how more learning time well-used can transform education and opportunity for students and support teachers, families and communities at the same time. One example of a remarkable turnaround is Boston’s Orchard Gardens K-8 pilot school. For years, Orchard Gardens was plagued by low student achievement and high staff turnover. Then, in 2010, with an expanded school schedule, Orchard Gardens began to turn around, and now the school is demonstrating how increased learning time, combined with other key turnaround strategies, can dramatically improve the performance of schools.

Gabrieli is one of the nation’s leading thinkers in education. He has been at the forefront of the movement to rethink the school calendar. He co-authored a book titled “Time to Learn: How a New School Schedule is Making Smarter Kids, Happier Parents and Safer Neighborhoods.” Gabrieli is also a part-time lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Davis has held numerous positions at the federal, state and local levels focused on improving educational opportunities for children across the United States. Her previous positions have included serving as a deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education in the Clinton administration, executive director of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s 2-to-6 After-School Initiative and special assistant to the executive director of the National Governors Association when President Bush convened the nation’s governors to set national goals for education.

Driscoll and Russell will provide an update on the second year of the turnaround. The focus has been on teaching and learning, the use of data, a new volunteer initiative, greater cultural expectations, and more.

We all have a stake in the success of Salem’s public schools and the future of our children. Whether we are teachers, parents, grandparents, potential volunteers and/or concerned citizens, it’s important to learn about school improvements in our community and possibly help in this major effort to improve the schools.

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Patricia Zaido is executive director of the Salem Partnership and a member of the Community Advisory Board for the Salem Public Schools.

If you go Who: Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll; Superintendent of Schools Stephen Russell; Jennifer Davis, president, National Center on Time & Learning; and Chris Gabrieli, chairman, National Center on Time & Learning What: Community meeting, "Transforming Schools Through Expanded Learning Time" and "Salem Public Schools Turnaround Update" When: Thursday, Jan. 24, 6 to 8 p.m. Where: Collins Middle School, 29 Highland Ave., Salem