Five States To Experiment With Longer School Hours

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 3 2012 2:40 PM

The School Day's About To Get a Little Longer for Some Students

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Students in five states will participate in a pilot program that will add 300 hours of time to the 2013 school calendar.

Photo by Jaime Reina/AFP/Getty Images.

Selected schools in five states will test out yet another idea to bring the U.S.'s public school system up to speed globally by adding 300 hours to the school calender in 2013. Rough luck, kids of Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Tennessee.

The pilot program will affect only a small number of students—just under 20,000 of them spread out over about 40 schools. Districts will choose how those 300 hours will get crammed in to the year, probably by a combination of lengthening school days and adding extra days to the school calendar. Funding will come from a combination of federal, state, and district funds, with extra infusions of cash from the Ford Foundation and the National Center on Time & Learning, according to the Associated Press. The latter, as you might have guessed from their name, exists solely to advocate for a dramatic increase in school time for American children.

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The extra time will be used for "core academic instruction, extra tutoring for struggling students and cultural activities like art and music," according to the New York Times. Here's how the paper explains the rationale behind the "more time in schools" plan:

A growing group of education advocates is pushing for schools to keep students on campus longer, arguing that low-income children in particular need more time to catch up as schools face increasing pressure to improve student test scores. Advocates also say that poor students tend to have less structured time outside school, without the privilege of classes and extracurricular activities that middle-class and affluent children frequently enjoy.

But the idea is somewhat controversial. As the Times explains, research on the effectiveness of increased school time on student performance is mixed. And it's hard to fund, especially for cash-strapped districts already struggling to fund the current school calendar. In the Chicago Teachers Union protests last spring, for example, compensation for the longer school days pilot in the city was a major sticking point, and the subject of a lawsuit that was eventually settled, as the Chicago Sun Times reported.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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