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.