, Salem, MA


February 8, 2013

Column: Longer school days offer chance for student success


The 90 expanded-time schools across the state are beating the odds. They are improving at faster rates than other schools with the same demographics. These are the kinds of gains Salem needs. But these schools did not achieve these gains simply by adding more time. Instead, they each found ways to leverage more time to implement proven educational strategies like hands-on learning, targeted support where students need help, and engaged learning like robotics, CSI science, and drama programs that develop communication skills and self confidence. Further, with more time, teachers can regularly analyze student data to make good decisions about interventions and provide more personalized instruction. Recognizing that children learn in different ways and at different paces, this individualized approach helps teachers target support to children who need it.

Expanded learning time also means more opportunities for teachers to collaborate on instructional practice and hone their skills in the classroom. Surveys show that teachers want more time both in the classroom and with their peers; they just don’t have enough time in the current school day.

Providing this richer, more rigorous curriculum and more systematic opportunities for teacher professional development does not come automatically with the introduction of more time. Indeed, because time is an enabler of other key educational practices, not a panacea all on its own, not all schools with significantly more time make noticeable gains. It takes hard work and deep commitment to make sure that time is used wisely and well. Teachers and administrators, parents and students, must work together to first understand how the school’s current time is being used and then to re-imagine and re-design a school day and year that takes full advantage of all the school’s resources, including more time. But when schools are able to infuse their visions of how to re-structure the school day and year with a culture of high expectations, the effective use of student data and a commitment to teachers’ collaboration and development, expanded learning time produces impressive improvements in teaching and learning.

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