5 states to in­crease class time in pub­lic schools

Stu­dents to spend 300 hours more a year in class­room.

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - Byjosh Lederman

WASHINGTON — School for thou­sands of pub­lic school stu­dents is about to get quite a bit longer.

Five states are sched­uled to an­nounce Mon­day that they will add at least 300 hours of learn­ing time to the cal­en­dar in some schools start­ing in 2013. Colorado, Con­necti­cut, Mas­sachusetts, New York and Ten­nessee will take part in the ini­tia­tive, which is in­tended to boost stu­dent achieve­ment and make U.S. schools more com­pet­i­tive glob­ally.

The three-year pi­lot pro­gram will af­fect al­most 20,000 stu­dents in 40 schools, with long-term hopes of ex­pand­ing the pro­gram to in­clude ad­di­tional schools — es­pe­cially those that serve low-in­come com­mu­ni­ties. Schools, work­ing in con- cert with dis­tricts, par­ents and teach­ers, will de­cide whether to make the school day longer, add more days to the school year or both.

A mix of fed­eral, state and district funds will cover the costs of ex­panded learn­ing time, with the Ford Foun­da­tion and the Na­tional Cen­ter on Time & Learn­ing also chip­ping in re­sources. In Mas­sachusetts, the pro­gram builds on the state’s ex­ist­ing ex­panded-learn­ing pro­gram. In Con­necti­cut, Gov. Dan­nel Malloy is hail­ing it as a nat­u­ral out­growth of an ed­u­ca­tion re­form law the state passed in May that in­cluded about $100 mil­lion in new fund­ing, much of it to help the need­i­est schools.

Spend­ing more time in the class­room, ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials said, will give stu­dents ac­cess to a more well-rounded cur­ricu­lum that in­cludes arts and mu­sic, in­di­vid­u­al­ized help for stu­dents who fall be­hind and op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­in­force crit­i­cal math and sci­ence skills.

“Whether educators have more time to en­rich in­struc­tion or stu­dents have more time to learn how to play an in­stru­ment and write com­puter code, adding mean­ing­ful in­school hours is a crit­i­cal in­vest­ment that bet­ter pre­pares chil­dren to be suc­cess­ful in the 21st cen­tury,” Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Arne Dun­can said.

The report from the cen­ter, which ad­vo­cates for ex­tend­ing in­struc­tion time, cites re­search sug­gest­ing stu­dents who spend more hours learn­ing per­form bet­ter. One such study, from Har­vard econ­o­mist Roland Fryer, ar­gues that of all the fac­tors af­fect­ing ed­u­ca­tional out­comes, two are the best pre­dic­tors of success: in­ten­sive tu­tor­ing and adding at least 300 hours to the stan­dard school cal­en­dar.

But not ev­ery­one agrees that shorter school days are to blame. A report last year from the Na­tional School Boards As­so­ci­a­tion’s Cen­ter for Pub­lic Ed­u­ca­tion pointed out that stu­dents in high-per­form­ing coun­tries like South Korea, Fin­land and Ja­pan ac­tu­ally spend less time in school than most in the U.S.

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