24 February 2007

Longer Days Aren't Just for Spring

There are all too many stories out there of hurtful cuts to recess, PE, and elective programs in the name of finding some additional time in the school day. Schools are under the gun to get kids to standard in reading, math, and science, especially for those students who are already below grade level. Perhaps there is an alternative: extending the school day.

Some public schools in Massachusetts are experimenting with an 8-hour school day (as opposed to a more traditional 6.5 hour learning period). The state is subsidizing the increases, with most of the money going to increase teacher compensation by as much as $20K per year. These schools may be adding more time, but they are also adding back more electives and opportunities for kids.

So far, reports from both students and parents are favorable. More time and less pressure is creating the right environment for many k- 8 students to succeed. How do teachers feel about it? The article linked above doesn't contain any quotes or information from them. If these schools are creating more "down time" and links for kids, might they also be providing for more common planning time and opportunities for collaboration among their staff? I worry that in a time where many teachers already work several hours outside of the school day to prepare lessons and provide feedback to students, teaching 8 - 5 would extend teachers' labours even more. I also worry that too many people may be equating more time with better spent time. It's certainly possible to pull that off, but I can also imagine that one wouldn't necessarily lead to the other.

I will be interested to see if this idea catches on. It would require a significant amount of community support and state dollars to make it fly; but as we continue to assign greater value in educating the whole child (not just the parts that can read, do math, and think scientifically), perhaps taxpayers may be interested in pursuing this option.

5 comments:

Rebecca said...

When I was teaching 7th grade, I've often thought that I would GLADLY work longer in the afternoon FOR FREE if I could just let them go outside for about half an hour--an hour would be better--and run themselves ragged. I think we would have accomplished a lot more in the afternoon classes. My students didn't get PE every day, and they need time to get those wiggles out and run their mouth for a while.

The Science Goddess said...

I think it would be very helpful in that sense. We all need breaks during the day---including time for kids to just be kids.

Ms. W said...

PE requirements at my former high school are getting shortened. Students don't have to take PE all three years of junior high like I did when I went through.

I've been thinking lately how I want to take my students outside one day a week (during nice weather) and just have a discussion (related to science of course) while we walk around the school track and a somewhat brisk pace. It would be nice to get a change in scenery, they would be getting a little bit of exercise and we'd be learning at the same time.

Ideal situation I know. 1 day a week isn't good enough, and it would have to be a well-behaved class that would have side conversations going on... but if it's a good debate/discussion, then perhaps everyone would want to be involved.

I'm still the optimistic future teacher.

Ms. W said...

man I need to proof-read things before I post them:

AT A somewhat brisk pace

a well-behaved class that WOULDN'T have side conversations

*blush*

The Science Goddess said...

Take 'em outside for sure.

If you want, have kids pair up and give each pair an index card. When you get to the track, provide kids with a prompt to reflect on as they walk (e.g. a concept to discuss or review) and have one of them jot notes. Gather the class together after a lap, talk about what they've recorded.

Later, rinse, repeat. :)