News & Events
Do Longer School Days Help Raise a Student’s Grades?
Posted on Thursday, December 30, 2010
Jacksonville, Florida - When compared to other countries, American children spend the least time in school - 180. Students in Japan spend the most number of days in school - 243.
There's a move in the U.S. to add 20 school days to the school year and make the days last longer, giving kids more instructional time. The strategy is working for a national charter school and one local Bay area school is giving the longer school day a try.
The public charter school called KIPP stands for Knowledge is Power Program and serves 5th through 8th grade. The state's first KIPP School opened this August in Jacksonville with 5th graders. There are 99 schools nationwide, all known for having longer school days.
"The four years our children spend here 5th through 8th grade...the impact will equate to seven years of school in a traditional public school," says Tom Majdanics, executive director of KIPP Jacksonville schools.
Students attend nine and a half hour long school days ending at five in the afternoon, tack on an hour of study hall, plus Saturday school twice a month and an extra two weeks to the school year.
"When I learned I'd have longer hours, ah man," says 10-year-old Rita Coleman.
"Tell you the truth, don't like it, kind of tiring me out, get home all this homework," adds 10-year-old Taveion Christopher.
Two months into the school year and students say they're hooked. The longer days provide an hour of physical education each day and an hour of instruction on a musical instrument.
"Now I'm glad I took that risk. I'm at a better school. The more hours you have, the more time you have to learn," says Rita.
"I'm more dedicated to work. At my old school, it was boring. Got here, very exciting, makes you want to learn more," adds Taveion.
The students' goal is clear -- it's written on the walls in their classrooms. In large numbers appears the year 2018. The school's hallways are decorated with inspiring messages and college pennants.
"2018 is the year we all go to college," explains Taveion.
Rita adds, "The question is not if you are going to college, it's what college are you going to."
But do longer school days and longer school years work? Research shows the extra time produces just a small gain in student achievement. The same research says what matters is quality time in the classroom, not quantity. KIPP teachers say they make every second count.
"Education is their route out," says Sean Jackson, KIPP math teacher. "There is a 3-fold commitment -- the staff, the kids and parents -- working really, really hard together."
Jackson says a longer school day is just one factor in a student's success.
"When you have the extended school day, it is high quality instruction, also character education and teamwork and support. So, when you get all those things, that mix, it's a winner of a combination," explains Jackson.
Majdanics says high quality teachers are an important part of the formula. "We're searching for the magic bullet and more time may seem like the magic bullet and more time is important. But more time with below average teachers probably won't lead to high academic gains."
KIPP officials say 85 percent of their 8th graders go on to college after high school compared to 20 to 30 percent of 8th graders from low income neighborhoods across the country.
"85 percent is a number [that] blows the status quo out of the water," adds Majdanics.
Gibbs High School leaders in St. Petersburg hope extending their school day will produce similar results. Starting in mid-October, students started receiving 44 additional minutes of instruction each day.
"We have lots of struggling students at our school," says reading teacher Kelly Maier.
The Gibbs High School teacher says about two-thirds of the students are below grade level in reading and math. Gibbs' D grade forced the state to intervene. Gibbs has three years to add 300 hours of instruction per school year.
"We are bell to bell, every moment the students in our class have more opportunity for us to feed their brain," says Maier.
Last month, Gibbs switched from a seven period school day to a modified block schedule. Classes are now 95 minutes long. Despite some resistance, some students admit it's working.
"I've become more focused more active in class," says Nathaniel Sanders. The 17-year-old senior says the extra class time helps. "By being in the class longer, you have time to catch up on work, go ahead get the concept of your work and focus, instead of rushing through your work."
"Now we're learning more and our grades are better than they were last grading period," adds Chris Curry, 16, 10th grader.
A longer school day and longer school year -- a concept many educators believe will one day be the norm for all students.
KIPP plans to open two more schools in Jacksonville.
Gibbs school leaders say this year's FCAT will show whether or not the longer school days are working.
Isabel Mascarenas, 10 News
School Days May Lengthen in Florida
Posted on Thursday, December 30, 2010
TALLAHASSEE — A push for struggling schools to lengthen the school day may become a part of a larger education reform debate that lawmakers have hinted will be a major part of the spring 2011 legislative agenda. Key lawmakers in the Senate and House have already said that a revamped proposal on teacher merit pay that was vetoed by outgoing Gov. Charlie Crist last spring will be on the table and Democrats have signaled they are interested in talking about the issue.
But it’s possible that at least in the Senate, education committees will entertain a measure to extend the school day by one hour for the state’s lowest-performing schools. Newly elected state Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, who previously served in the House, has told fellow lawmakers, including Senate PreK-12 Chairman Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, that he intends to file a bill extending the school day, and Wise said he is interested.
“I will take it up and then let him and the Appropriations Committee worry where the funding’s coming from because I think it’s essential that we start out with that and do something along those lines,” Wise said following his committee’s first meeting in Tallahassee this week.
The PreK-12 Education Appropriations Committee, which Simmons chairs, would likely be the first stop for any measure related to a longer school day because of the potential fiscal impact. Simmons’ chairmanship of the committee would likely ensure passage of the bill as long as he can develop a funding mechanism for the bill. It would then likely go to Wise’s committee for consideration. “If you’re an 'F' school, then I would highly endorse doing that and maybe that’s kind of what we do,” Wise said. The Florida Department of Education released its grades of Florida public schools; the grades are half-based on students’ performances on the state’s standardized exam. Ten Northeast Florida schools earned an A grade, up from nine last year, and the number of F schools dropped from six to two. Simmons’ proposal, which has not yet been filed, would target the lower schools. “In a period of about five years, they’ll end up having an extra year of schooling,” he told the News Service this month. State Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, director of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, said he has not had any extensive discussions with Simmons about the bill and the association has not been discussing it either.
As a lawmaker and former Leon County superintendent though, he wants to see a proposal extending the school day advance. “Superintendents in general support any effort to increase the amount of time that students are in class and before teachers,” Montford said. In Volusia County, low-performing schools have been experimenting with a longer school day for more than 10 years. It started as a voluntary program, but now it is a part of teachers' contracts. The teachers receive additional pay for a school day that is an hour longer. “The day is just an hour longer, so that way the teachers have more time because one of the problems we run into is they just don’t have enough time to get things done,” said Volusia Teachers’ Organization President Andrew Spar. Mark Pudlow, a spokesman for the Florida Education Association, said that if the matter does advance, the union would support if it operated like the system in the Volusia County schools where teachers are paid for the extra time.
By KATHLEEN HAUGHNEY
The News Service of Florida