Greater Greater Washington

Education


Leadership needed to extend DC school day

Extending the school day consistently improves student performance, as several DC charter schools have proven. Both the Washington Teachers' Union and DC Council agree that DCPS should likewise increase teachers' time on task, but no one is showing needed leadership to make it happen.


Photo by The Familylee on Flickr.

DC has the most permissive charter school system in the country. A major purpose of this, often touted by education reformers, is to try out different educational innovations, learn what works, and then adopt the best ideas at non-charter public schools.

Unfortunately, neither DCPS nor the DC Council are taking the lead to study longer school days. In fact, DCPS and the Council don't even agree on whether legislation is required to extend the school day or not. DCPS says the DC Council must act, while the Council's attorney says DCPS could act if it wanted. And the two bodies haven't talked to each other to resolve this question.

The confusion continued this month when Councilmember Alexander unexpectedly submitted legislation extending the school day. Alexander refiled a 2-page bill that Councilmember Cheh had submitted last year, even though she has not discussed extended school days with DCPS, with the teachers' union or with Councilmember Cheh.

The innovation that is perhaps most common in successful charter schools, according to a new research study, is an extended school day. On a comprehensive ranking of public charter schools by educational outcomes released by the DC Charter School Board, all of the top performing charter middle schools have school days longer than the 6.5 hour DCPS school day.

Charter schoolOverall %WardGrade levelSchool day length
DC Prep-Edgewood Campus92.3%54-88-9 hours
KIPP DC: KEY Academy86.4%74-87 hrs, 30 min 9 hrs
KIPP DC: WILL Academy85.5%25-87 hrs, 30 min 9 hrs
KIPP DC: AIM Academy85.2%85-87 hrs, 30 min 9 hrs
Achievement Prep81.5%84-88 hrs, 30 min
Source: Individual charter schools

These schools consistently point to their extended school day as critical to their higher student outcomes. Achievement Prep explains the importance of extended school days:

Our school day is 2 hours longer than the traditional DC public school, while our school year is 15 days longer. This extended instructional time provides an opportunity for intensive focus around literacy and mathematics and additional opportunities for providing students with academic support.
DC Prep, the highest ranking charter middle school, lists "More time on task" first in the list of initiatives that distinguish their school. According to their web site, "DC Prep students spend approximately 25% more time in school than other DC public school students."

The DCPS school day is not only shorter than those of most successful charter middle schools. It is also shorter than those of every neighboring suburban school system, which consistently deliver higher test scores than DC public schools.

County school districtSchool day length
Fairfax6 hrs, 50 min
Montgomery6 hrs, 45 min
Arlington6 hrs, 43 min
Prince George's6 hrs, 40 min
DC6 hrs, 30 min
Source: Office of Councilmember Mary Cheh

DC parents are right to expect that, given this evidence, someone would study this phenomenon and apply lessons learned to DCPS. Sadly, that appears to not be happening.

DCPS spokesperson Fred Lewis agrees that an "extended school day and extended school year can make a huge difference for children, especially those who are underperforming." Nonetheless, he doesn't see DCPS moving forward with this idea soon for the following reasons:

Before we move forward aggressively we're going to have to examine the implications, the financial implications associated with an extended school day, school year, and figure out with our union partners how we'd have to modify the contract in order to make that work....

In considering an extension of the school day and school year, several factors come into play, such as the overall cost of the proposal (utilities, salaries etc.) and scheduling (transportation for special education students and athletics, for example), as well as student safety (leaving later from school). Legislation would be required as would negotiation with the teachers union.

While the considerations raised by DCPS certainly need to be examined, the reality is that DCPS has not seriously begun examining any of them. Washington Teachers Union president Nathan Saunders says he has not been contacted by DCPS to discuss extended school days. Neither has DC Councilmember Mary Cheh, who proposed legislation a year ago extending the school day by 30 minutes to 7 hours.

The logistical and financial implications of extending the school day could be significantly curtailed with a pilot at a few schools. Last month, that's what Chicago announced it is doing with an extended school day pilot at 13 schools. When asked if Chancellor Kaya Henderson is considering extending the school day on a trial basis with a couple schools just like Chicago, DCPS Spokesperson Lewis had no comment.

Furthermore, Lewis' claim that "legislation would be required" is contested by the DC Council. David Zvenyach, General Counsel to the DC Council, says that the DC Code establishes the minimum school day, but not the maximum school day. When informed of this, Lewis defended the DCPS position that the State Board of Education "establishes through regulation the length of school day" with reference to §38-202 of the DC Code. Zvenyach contends that this section of the Code says no such thing.

What is most troubling about this confusion is that DCPS and the DC Council are not talking to resolve this issue, even though the DC Council has twice proposed legislation to extend the school day. Last year, Councilmember Cheh proposed legislation in order to start a conversation on extending the school day.

That conversation still seems to have not taken place. Earlier this month, Councilmember Alexander resubmitted Cheh's legislation, changing only the duration of the extension from 30 minutes to 60 minutes. Saunders says Alexander has not discussed her legislation with him, and Cheh spokesperson Kiara Pesante says Alexander has not discussed it with Cheh.

WTU President Saunders says he recognizes the evidence and agrees that DCPS should learn from successful charter schools. However, he contends that the fundamental lesson learned is not that the school day should be longer, but that there should be more instructional time or, using the same terminology as DC Prep, "more time on task."

Saunders points to sources of waste in a teachers' day that take teachers off of their primary task of instruction, and claims that DCPS can significantly increase time on task for significantly less money by eliminating these distractions. Chief amongst these, according to Saunders, are time spent doing data entry and time spent on disciplinary matters with students that administrators return to their classrooms over teachers' objections.

These seem like legitimate points for discussion, but that discussion isn't happening. As a result, Saunders called Alexander's legislation "the worst piece of legislation submitted by the Council all year." He contends that Alexander only offered her legislation "because she is running for reelection."

It's time for someone to show leadership in increasing the time on task of DCPS teachers. It's difficult to see why, for example, the new standalone middle school promised to Ward 5 parents can't incorporate the lessons learned from charter schools' extended school days. Sadly, little action is likely any time soon as long as DC officials continue to stall.

Update: KIPP DC has informed me that their school day is actually 9 hours, not 7.5 as originally reported. This has been corrected.

Ken Archer is CTO of a software firm in Tysons Corner. He commutes to Tysons by bus from his home in Georgetown, where he lives with his wife and son. Ken completed a Masters degree in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America. 

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Ken, you are cherry-picking your data. There are a lot of other successful schools (charter and DCPS) that do not have longer days.

by goldfish on Dec 20, 2011 10:41 am • linkreport

Mr. Archer you are right about student levels of achievement. But you are right also for another reason, longer school days means that parents have to worry about childcare and where their children are less. Even though people don't want to really talk about, our kids learn to run the streets at a young age in between when they get out of school and when their parent/parents get home. If they are in school more they can't run the streets, they have to run the books. But to make this happen people have to get serious, meaning more money to teachers. My children are grown but my friends who have children would love to know their kids are in school longer. That is why programs like Higher Achievement work.

by Sheryl Qunicy on Dec 20, 2011 10:54 am • linkreport

I do think that the important part of the bill in question is not the 7.5 length of the school day, but the requirement to have an average of 7 hours devoted to curricular instruction.

That latter part (often called "Extended Learning Time") is the key variable in many successful education reform efforts. Saunders may be correct when he says that before extending the day to 7.5 hours, there are ways to increase the amount of time devoted to learning within the current schedule. However, there are not ways to increase curricular-instruction time to 7 hours per day, without extending the school day from its current 6.5 hours.

by Jacques on Dec 20, 2011 10:59 am • linkreport

Money. How much will extending the school day cost?

by WRD on Dec 20, 2011 11:04 am • linkreport

Surely you don't expect teachers to work longer hours for free. Even if we were to treat teachers like hourly workers-- which they aren't-- you're talking about an ~8% increase in the length of the school day. Where is the money coming from to give teachers an across-the-board 8% raise?

by Karl on Dec 20, 2011 11:17 am • linkreport

This post got a lot longer from when it was first posted.

by selxic on Dec 20, 2011 11:22 am • linkreport

@goldfish,
Do you have any data? I am curious if the socio-economic status of attendees or neighborhoods surrounding these succesful schools with short hours makes a significant difference.

I am all for longer school days and school years. School all year, with the exception of July and December, would be fantastic.

by cmc on Dec 20, 2011 11:28 am • linkreport

Surely you don't expect teachers to work longer hours for free.

On the one hand, the teachers contract does currently allow the school day to go up to 7.5 hours. On the other hand, I would nonetheless agree that teacher pay should go up if the school day is lengthened.

However, this financial implication is precisely why doing this in a pilot, like Chicago is doing, makes sense. It seems like the financial and logistical implications of doing this system-wide are paralyzing the Council and DCPS from aggressively pursuing this.

by Ken Archer on Dec 20, 2011 11:28 am • linkreport

Elected officials not showing leadership?! Shocking.

by Rebecca on Dec 20, 2011 11:29 am • linkreport

There are a lot of other successful schools (charter and DCPS) that do not have longer days.

Maybe if your looking at schools west of the Rock Creek Park. I'm not sure what constitutes "a lot" but I can't find, in areas of the city with otherwise poor educational outcomes, "a lot" of successful middle and high schools with 6.5 hour school days.

by Ken Archer on Dec 20, 2011 11:29 am • linkreport

You acknowledge that it will be expensive, but your only response is to roll it out to only some schools, instead of all of them. How is that a relevant response? If your other claims are correct and there is clear evidence that the school day should be longer, why wouldn't you do it in all schools? And if, as you agree, this will have very real financial implications, how do you propose dealing with those?

While a pilot study could be useful, I don't think it's a concrete strategy for making the financials work.

by Gray on Dec 20, 2011 11:40 am • linkreport

...but I can't find, in areas of the city with otherwise poor educational outcomes, "a lot" of successful middle and high schools with 6.5 hour school days.

So then you seem to be proposing that kids in the 'hood be required to stay longer than those that are from the nicer neighborhoods?

by goldfish on Dec 20, 2011 11:41 am • linkreport

The current contract calls for a work day of 7.5 hours:

23.2.1 The work day for ET-15 and ET-15/12 Teachers shall be seven-and-one-half
(7.5) consecutive hours beginning no earlier than 7:30 AM and ending no later
than 4:30 PM, inclusive of a duty-free lunch period...

The length of the teacher work day is not the same as the length of the school day-- for instance, the teachers have to show up 35 minutes prior to the start of school.

You shouldn't conflate the two concepts.

by Karl on Dec 20, 2011 11:42 am • linkreport

The current contract calls for a work day of 7.5 hours...The length of the teacher work day is not the same as the length of the school day

Thanks for the clarification Karl. Also, Saunders says that the contract also requires negotiation with the Union regarding any "change in working conditions". Either way, I think that teachers should be involved every step of the way.

by Ken Archer on Dec 20, 2011 11:45 am • linkreport

You acknowledge that it will be expensive, but your only response is to roll it out to only some schools, instead of all of them. How is that a relevant response? If your other claims are correct and there is clear evidence that the school day should be longer, why wouldn't you do it in all schools.

A pilot in 13 schools (just to pick Chicago's number), instead of all 139, would presumably have about 10% of the extra cost. Also, I'm not convinced that extra hours alone is a magic bullet, and that extra hours are needed everywhere. A pilot could reveal what works and what doesn't.

by Ken Archer on Dec 20, 2011 11:50 am • linkreport

So then you seem to be proposing that kids in the 'hood be required to stay longer than those that are from the nicer neighborhoods?

All experts in education agree that there are few one-size-fits-all solutions, that what works in one context doesn't necessarily work in another. I think that concerned parents in all neighborhoods would agree with that principle.

The flip side of your comment is that, if extending the school day in poorer neighborhoods turns out to be effective, that means DCPS will steer more funds to those neighborhoods relative to wealthier neighborhoods. As a parent in one of those wealthier neighborhoods, I would support that if it was tied to initiatives that had been shown to work.

by Ken Archer on Dec 20, 2011 11:54 am • linkreport

A pilot in 13 schools (just to pick Chicago's number), instead of all 139, would presumably have about 10% of the extra cost.

So how do you propose paying for the extra costs?

by Gray on Dec 20, 2011 12:07 pm • linkreport

All experts in education agree that there are few one-size-fits-all solutions, that what works in one context doesn't necessarily work in another.

...that means DCPS will steer more funds to those neighborhoods relative to wealthier neighborhoods...

OK now we are getting somewhere: the real issue is money. Duh. If you visit a low-performing school and compare it to a high-performing school, you will quickly see that the good school has a lot more resources--teachers, staff support, library, physical plant, extracurricular activities. I have seen a number of horrifying dungeons in this city that leave little doubt why the students there are not performing well.

The next point I have is that you have your incentives backward. The kids should want to stay later at the school because it is so much more fulfilling than hanging out; passing a law to make them to be there (especially if there is nothing to keep them) will surely cause the kids want to leave, and ultimately will be counterproductive.

by goldfish on Dec 20, 2011 12:07 pm • linkreport

I'd be interested to know how many of the above commentators, other than Mr. Artcher, have children in a regular DCPS or DC charter school.

(+1)

by Sarah on Dec 20, 2011 12:08 pm • linkreport

@Sarah: me

by goldfish on Dec 20, 2011 12:11 pm • linkreport

OK now we are getting somewhere: the real issue is money. Duh. If you visit a low-performing school and compare it to a high-performing school, you will quickly see that the good school has a lot more resources--teachers, staff support, library, physical plant, extracurricular activities.

DCPS would likely say that this is due to low-performing schools being under-enrolled, as parents in those districts increasingly send their kids to charters or out-of-boundary schools, such that they can't support these extra resources. If that's not the case, and the budget is discriminatory, the Council sets the budget. I would expect Councilmembers with schools receiving fewer resources than schools with similar enrollment elsewhere to raise a stink. I will too if I can find specific examples of this.

The kids should want to stay later at the school because it is so much more fulfilling than hanging out; passing a law to make them to be there (especially if there is nothing to keep them) will surely cause the kids want to leave, and ultimately will be counterproductive.

Charter skeptics sometimes claim that charter schools are getting the kids whose parents want to explore school options and choose longer school days, and so the selection bias is resulting in higher scores for those charters. And if you were to mandate longer school days for everyone it wouldn't work. That's a possibility, and all the more reason to do this on a limited pilot and not system-wide.

by Ken Archer on Dec 20, 2011 12:16 pm • linkreport

DCPS would likely say that this is due to low-performing schools being under-enrolled, as parents in those districts increasingly send their kids to charters or out-of-boundary schools, such that they can't support these extra resources.

Sorry, no. Having personally visited failing schools and clearly seeing why they were failing, I sent my kids elsewhere. How many bad stories do you need? Here's one: I got a call one day at around 11AM at work to come pick up my kids because DCPS was cancelling school because a janitor had put drano down a basement drain and "made a bad smell". Really -- and they cancelled school for 500 kids. We do not need bloggers to parrot DCPS's party line.

by goldfish on Dec 20, 2011 12:25 pm • linkreport

Sorry, no. Having personally visited failing schools and clearly seeing why they were failing, I sent my kids elsewhere.

One potential source of unfair resource allocation is the modernization schedule. DCPS has a modernization schedule, with modernization happening in 3 phases (1: Academic components such as classrooms; 2: Support components such as cafeterias, gymnasiums; 3: System components such as wiring). There are 11 schools entering Phase 1 of the process during the 2011-2012 school year.

DCPS has some kind of rules that they use based on current enrollment to decide which schools get priority, but it seems to me that that could be unfair to schools where more parents are choosing charter or OOB options.

by Ken Archer on Dec 20, 2011 12:34 pm • linkreport

One potential source of unfair resource allocation is the modernization schedule.

Again, no. Schools fail because they are mismanaged. Some schools are reborn because DCPS decided to give it the attention that was needed: the principle is replaced, new teachers hired, new stuff is bought. OTOH others are doing well, despite the older facilities, because they are well-run.

You should get out more.

by goldfish on Dec 20, 2011 12:42 pm • linkreport

Costs

Typicaly there are a few ways to pay for the extra costs, one would be a flat raise equal to the extra time worked, about 5-10%. A lower cost option is a flat increase in money, between 1500 and 3000 per teacher. There would also be additional costs due to utils and supporting services.

Data does show that extending the school day does work, but only if the time is used effectivly and it is at least 1.5 hours or more.

However on a large scale I question its effectiveness. How long are teachers going to last if they work 50 hours a week?

by Matt R on Dec 20, 2011 12:43 pm • linkreport

@goldfish
"The kids should want to stay later at the school because it is so much more fulfilling than hanging out; passing a law to make them to be there (especially if there is nothing to keep them) will surely cause the kids want to leave, and ultimately will be counterproductive."

Do you have any ideas on how to accomplish this?

by Thaps on Dec 20, 2011 12:44 pm • linkreport

@Thaps: this is a school culture and school spirit question that is not easily answered but is obvious as soon as you see it. What is necessary is a motivated and excited body of teachers and something unique to the school to attract the students. Some use sports to partly do this; others with band music or student-produced plays. Etc.

by goldfish on Dec 20, 2011 12:51 pm • linkreport

The kids should want to stay later at the school because it is so much more fulfilling than hanging out;

While I appreciate your idealism, this reminds me of an exchance the the atrocious Jennifer Aniston/Vince Vaughn vehicle "The Breakup." Aniston tells Vaughn, 'I want you to WANT to wash the dishes." He gives her a puzzled look, and (quite reasonably) responds, "Why would I want to wash the dishes?"

Point being, no matter how compelling school is, many (most) kids are not going to voluntarily stay later, especially for optional instruction. (Clubs, athletics, etc. may be a different story, but that's not what we're talking about.)

by dcd on Dec 20, 2011 12:51 pm • linkreport

@dcd: I am NOT advocating that students need to stay later for more instruction. To the contrary, I think that the day is long enough for all students to learn enough to be proficient at grade level. This is proved by the fact that kids in the "nicer" neighborhoods are doing it.

by goldfish on Dec 20, 2011 12:57 pm • linkreport

few of the people involved in education policy in DC seem to know very much about education policy or how to adequately focus on rebuilding troubled urban school systems. Expecting quality leadership on issues such as this from DC Council, the Executive Branch, or the School System is a fools game.

FWIW, I wrote about this particular issue and DC long before I began blogging in 2005.

And I've written plenty about education policy in the city.

by Richard Layman on Dec 20, 2011 1:01 pm • linkreport

@goldfish
"this is a school culture and school spirit question that is not easily answered but is obvious as soon as you see it. What is necessary is a motivated and excited body of teachers and something unique to the school to attract the students. Some use sports to partly do this; others with band music or student-produced plays. Etc."

Are you talking about the kids staying at school during "school" hours (ie not cutting class) or are you talking about staying for voluntary things (ie sports)?

by Thaps on Dec 20, 2011 1:03 pm • linkreport

I think that the day is long enough for all students to learn enough to be proficient at grade level. This is proved by the fact that kids in the "nicer" neighborhoods are doing it.

So because the current amount of time works for some kids, it necessarily works for all kids?

Does not compute.

by MLD on Dec 20, 2011 1:05 pm • linkreport

@Thaps: the point of this article was to lengthen the day because some of successful DC charter schools do it. But because other good schools have shorter days, a longer day is not necessary for success in academics. Getting the kids to want to stay later would be only for extracurricular activities -- which are there to support school culture and ultimately, the core academics.

by goldfish on Dec 20, 2011 1:26 pm • linkreport

@ MLD
You are 100% correct, what works for one kid does not work for all.
The reason is that "richer" kids already have already spent much more time learning on their own or with their parents before they even start school. I do not have the data on had but its a large amount.
The goal of extending school is to provide extra time for those other students who did not spend extra time learning before they started school.

by Matt R on Dec 20, 2011 1:26 pm • linkreport

@goldfish- I think that the day is long enough for all students to learn enough to be proficient at grade level. This is proved by the fact that kids in the "nicer" neighborhoods are doing it.

This isn't true. The school day is not equally used for instruction in high/low income schools.

Here's an example: In elem schools where large majorities of kids get free breakfast, it is served in the classroom by the teacher, during what otherwise would be scheduled instruction time.

This is one example of the type of duties teachers in high needs schools are expected to perform that do not relate to their profession and take time away from instruction. I know teachers who would gladly have a longer school day to make up for this kind of lost instruction time that happens everyday.

These teachers are expected to perform these non-teaching duties, use of their teaching time doing it, and then are expected to achieve the same results with less teaching time.

by Tina on Dec 20, 2011 1:50 pm • linkreport

1) Does the free breakfast program really eat into instructional time? If that's true, it needs to be corrected immediately.

2) Many of the schools that DCPS has renovated have turned out wonderfully. I hope to see this program continue. JO Wilson ES just got new windows, and it no longer looks like a prison; I have no doubt that small changes like that will improve student morale.

3) 6.5 hours is too short, but 8-9 hours is borderline cruel.

by andrew on Dec 20, 2011 2:02 pm • linkreport

@Tina -- obviously some kids will need more instruction time, particularly if a significant part of the school day is spent on non-academic duties. However, in reaction to this, to require by law that all kids to stay in school longer is to waste kids' time that are up to par. It is a one-size-fit-all bad policy that obscures why some school work and others do not, particularly so for the schools that succeed work in poorer neighborhoods.

by goldfish on Dec 20, 2011 2:04 pm • linkreport

I believe, as some others said above, that another, more efficient way to accomplish this is to slash the subjects kids are required to learn.

Teachers should focus on the core fundamental building blocks of learning -- reading, writing (in English, and/or possibly one other foreign language, but really, can anyone argue that English is not a necessary language for thriving in today's world?), and math up through geometry.

There is no reason that every student can't master these basic and fundamental skills in a 5 hour (or shorter) day, by age 13, if teachers are allowed to focus on them.

Everything else, EVERYTHING else, should be considered extra-curricular -- at least until each student demonstrates a mastery of fundamentals.

I also agree that teachers should not be taking on the jobs, like feeding breakfast, that belong to families. If children's needs aren't being provided for by their families, there should be some other vehicle for addressing that situation, not schools. School time should be sacrosanct -- learning basic, fundamental skills.

Students can and do easily pursue other interests on their own or even seek out help for things they are interested in if they have these tools in their tool belt.

by eliz on Dec 20, 2011 2:20 pm • linkreport

@andrew-1) Does the free breakfast program really eat into instructional time?

Yes. I have a specific example that I'm not willing to share in this context.

If that's true, it needs to be corrected immediately.

This goes to goldfishs point about how the school is run. Clearly the principal should budget to hire someone to feed the kids prior to class time, or DO IT HIMSELF. But I don't know the details. Can a principal let kids into the school bldg before the official start time? Maybe theres a rule preventing that; maybe its just a lazy arrogant principal who thinks its okay to take instruction time from teachers & students for breakfast but he's too important for the task of feeding kids and preserving instruction time.

@goldfish-I agree that managment of the school has a major role in its success, and the current school day does work for some schools.

its[schoolday length] a one-size-fit-all bad policy that obscures why some school work and others do not, particularly so for the schools that succeed work in poorer neighborhoods

So whats the solution? I think theres no doubt a lot of schools/students would benefit from more instruction time. Longer school days only for schools who are <80% proficcient?

by Tina on Dec 20, 2011 2:28 pm • linkreport

@Goldfish, the point of this article was to lengthen the day because some of successful DC charter schools do it.

Well sorta. IMO, the point was to look at what high-performing schools in the area are doing (in this case longer days) and consider running a pilot program in some DCPS schools. It also talked about the lack of communication between DCPS and the Council which has stalled much of any movement in "studying" longer days as an option.

Also, I don't see how it's a "waste of students" (high performing students) time to stay in school longer if DCPS approves such policy. It's a school policy. The fact that some are already doing well is basically a nonfactor. If schools with longer days are producing high-performing results, then it shows that their time isn't being wasted.

by HogWash on Dec 20, 2011 2:29 pm • linkreport

ditto hogwash

by Tina on Dec 20, 2011 2:34 pm • linkreport

there are so many DCPS elem kids enrolled in free or reduced After School already anyway, they are already at school for 8.5hrs. A longer school day policy won't change the time these kids spend it school-it will change the time they get formal instruction time while at school.

by Tina on Dec 20, 2011 2:39 pm • linkreport

@HogWash

It may not be a waste of student time to lengthen school days for high performing students, but it doesn't seem like a good use of limited resources. Not to mention, more instructional time runs the risk of burning out the teachers and the students. If something is working, there's no need to break it.

Plus, the KIPP model has proven successful with a self-selected relatively homogenous group of kids. There's no reason to expect that it's a good model for every kid.

by SE on Dec 20, 2011 2:41 pm • linkreport

Well sorta. IMO, the point was to look at what high-performing schools in the area are doing...

Correction, what some of the high performing schools are doing. Other successful schools have not lengthened the day; Ken Archer did not consider what they are doing that makes them work. That is the problem: those schools are effectively managing their time and resources and/or whipping the parents into shape, so that their kids did well. This is harder to understand and summarize than "lets make the day longer." For the schools that Ken has cited (of which I am not on familiar terms), I dare suggest that they do a lot more than just keep the kids there longer.

I don't see how it's a "waste of students" (high performing students) time to stay in school longer if DCPS approves such policy Because for a well-rounded upbringing, kids need to do other things than sit in class. And they should be able to do such things if they have kept up with their work.

by goldfish on Dec 20, 2011 2:54 pm • linkreport

Because for a well-rounded upbringing, kids need to do other things than sit in class. And they should be able to do such things if they have kept up with their work.

I really agree with this. And it sounds like the foundation of a great incentive program...

However having enriching things to do is so dependent on the neighborhood and home life of the student.

by Tina on Dec 20, 2011 3:02 pm • linkreport

"Other successful schools have not lengthened the day; Ken Archer did not consider what they are doing that makes them work."

Here in fairfax they give huge amounts of homework, and then let the parents play unpaid homework cop. Id rather have a longer school day and no homework. Let family time be shorter, but let it BE family time.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 20, 2011 3:23 pm • linkreport

@SE, I think we can agree that the current structure "isn't" working. Longer school days seems like a reasonable option to consider. In DC Council's case, we're talking about a 30-minute increase. Or Alexander's 60-minute increase.

@Goldfish, I won't say that Ken didn't "consider" what other schools are doing. I could be wrong but to me, it seems as if he looked at what he considers a "good" option not the "only" option. Obviously, there are things that we can learn from schools w/and w/o longer schools days. None of which will be THE answer..but AN answer we should try.

If kids at high-performing schools (with longer school days) are doing well, I imagine that they aren't simply sitting in a chair all day. Keep in mind that the longer days don't necessarily have to apply for all grade levels where attention spans vary greatly.

by HogWash on Dec 20, 2011 3:42 pm • linkreport

@awalkerinthecity:

Seriously? I really don't know what could constitute more as family time as a mother/father sitting down at the table and helping little "jonnie/jane" learn how to do fractions.

What...is the homework getting in the way of the more preferred family time of plopping down in front of the tube and vegging out on the latest episode of "so you think you can dance"?

Unpaid homework cop...its exactly what the schooled youth need. If more parents were playing that role, the the worlds only remaining superpower (albeit not for much longer)ranking far behind second world or communist nations in educational achievement.

by freely on Dec 20, 2011 4:42 pm • linkreport

It seems pretty clear that a pilot program would be a good idea, especially if it was part of a rigorous analysis of effects. Oops... (I promise that's my only anti-teacher comment)

But the lack of cost (throwing around a 10% increase aside) is a serious drawback. Increasing school hours should be measured against other reforms costing similar amounts of money. Equally important, the mere fact that this will cost money does not, in itself, make the proposal a bad idea.

Imagine it really costs 10% more, say $1m for argument's sake, more to implement this program. Why not increase teacher salaries by that same amount? Or use an extra million to reduce the student-teacher ratio? Or go out and hire some really awesomely trained and qualified teachers?

by WRD on Dec 20, 2011 4:54 pm • linkreport

"Seriously? I really don't know what could constitute more as family time as a mother/father sitting down at the table and helping little "jonnie/jane" learn how to do fractions."

"Jonnie, did you copy the definitions yet? Johnie, did you copy the definitions yet? "

Theres a difference between parental teaching and playing homework cop.

"we cant go to the Indian museum like we planned. Jane has a paper to write, about Indians"

we were a family who loved to go to museums, to parks to do things. When our DD didnt have anything to do she loved to read. Most of the time we didnt own a TV. Homework got in the way of our educational activities, and the nagging hurt our relationship.

and we got very tired of all the shit about falling behind countries where the kids have no childhood, go to cram schools, commit suicide etc.

Oh, and then there were the days the teacher showed a video, and sent home lots of homework. We could show videos (we'd even have gotten a TV for one) Let us do that and let the teachers deal with the tedium the assign.

http://stophomework.com/

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 20, 2011 4:57 pm • linkreport

Honestly, I wouldn't mind an extra 30-60 minutes added onto the DCPS day. I would hope that for the younger grades this would give more time for PE or recess, or in some schools allow for breakfast before 8:45, and maybe as needed more instructional time for kids who are not on grade level.

Still, an extra hour is not going to replicate the KIPP model which is also extra Saturdays and three weeks in the summer in addition. KIPP also has parents that agree to these terms and additional terms to support their kids in the manner that KIPP prescribes. The parent buy-in and overall school atmosphere seem more important than the number of hours of instruction.

by SE on Dec 20, 2011 5:10 pm • linkreport

@freely -- that of course assumes that all parents can teach their kids how to do fractions, which we know isn't true. It also falls into that "anyone can teach trap." Not everyone can explain math concepts to kids, even they can do math.

I think kids need some amount of developmentally appropriate homework. Learning to do it is an important skill. However, it should be homework for kids not parents. It also shouldn't be "more is better" busywork. It should be hours of homework in elementary school for instance.

I think adding time to the school day is something to explore. I also wonder if there are ways that might improve teacher morale and not increase costs as much. For instance, if some of the noninstructional stuff (breakfast duty, lunch duty, playground monitor) were covered by nonteachers so teachers really got lunch breaks and planning time they might be flexible on money. (Not that they shouldn't be paid more, but that they might settle for somewhat less cash in exchange for somewhat better working conditions.)

by Kate W on Dec 20, 2011 6:13 pm • linkreport

Unfortunately 30 minutes is not enough, I done quite a bit of research into this area and studies show that schools would need to move to at least an 8 hour day to see significant improvements in performance. Also this time has to be used very efficiently, you can not simply add 10 minutes to each high school class for example.

Additional data has shown that using the some of the time for electives is very effective. These include music, arts, tech classes, and more.

Overall my general comment is that if DCPS did add more time to the school day would the use it effectively? Given their current state I would say no.

by Matt R on Dec 20, 2011 6:59 pm • linkreport

This idea seems to be a knee jerk reaction to a problem that needs to be solved in multiple ways. Aren't there additional programs to help students if they need help beyond the school day already funded through the schools? This should be what is offered or enhanced, not a longer school day for all. And while I'm all for making sure homework gets done as a parent, I agree that more often than not, I'm the one helping my child learn to read, do math, etc. when at school they are watching a show, being read to instead of practicing reading, etc. No wonder other children without involved parents are falling behind. It is not worth children's time to be exposed to a poor curriculum for an even longer period. It won't make them any more excited about learning academics.

by cassie on Dec 20, 2011 8:04 pm • linkreport

My son participates in aftercare and they do DC CAS prep work during part of the time. He is not attending one of the heavily "desired" schools, mind you.

I am am concerned about extending the school day because it will translate into more DC CAS prep time which will make the school day that more uninspiring. Kids don't need another 1/2 hour of drill and kill activities which is exactly what it is going to be since EVERYTHING is tied to the DC CAS including whether or not a teacher is fired or receives thousands of dollars in bonuses.

by DCPS parent on Dec 20, 2011 9:48 pm • linkreport

I'm a charter school mom and my kids' school runs from 8:30-3:30. I think this is good. I would, however, love to see it go year-round.

by adinaINdc on Dec 20, 2011 11:25 pm • linkreport

[Sentence removed for violating the comment policy]. Has any charter school (or any other school) here done a controlled experiment? How do they fill the time--with instruction? with coloring books? What curriculum did they use? Most of the edu-bromides are simplistic like this. Uniforms, foreign language, great books, phonics, etc. Most of this stuff falls apart in decent research or works best under particular circumstances (phonics work better for learning disabled kids, lower performing kids benefit more from small class sizes than average or high performers). Despite many well validated curricula and classroom management methods, people instead go for gimmicks or for things that are difficult to do well--drill easily becomes boring, progressive education easily devolves into chaos without a knowledgable teacher. As occasionally gets noted, charters as a group regularly fail to outperform regular public schools. The Post in one of its attempts to lionize and inner city charter described a school run by well meaning people who were learning by the seat of their pants--there's lots that works, [phrase removed for violating the comment policy].

by Rich on Dec 20, 2011 11:49 pm • linkreport

Mr Lewis is frankly all wet on his statement of “the financial implications” Here is the real deal. Yes teachers will have to work another hour a day. DCPS should have our children 7:30 hrs every day. School year beginning Tuesday after Labor Day, and ending in mid June. Like the old days, it worked. This will reduce the costs for parents with child care issues and allow most parents to be present for their kids after and before school while they are working every day. As for teacher salaries, listen this is the deal here is the school year layout now, you either want the job or you don’t. The unions should bless this and teachers should just pony right up, this helps everyone in the system. No increases in salaries are needed, not one dime period! Transportation costs will not increase one cent. Just picked and drop off time will. No money needed. DCPS janitors, no changes. You only mop the floor once a day now it will be an hour later in the day. No increase in funding needed. DCPS staff the day is an hour longer either you want the job or you don’t, no increase needed. We may need some slight staffing increases in areas where teachers are filling the role, which is totally inappropriate. Teachers need to be in class 5 minutes before the first bell and 15 minutes after the last bell. Utilities will have a slight increase, so slight that I am confident the DC Taxpayers are willing to fund this knowing that the kids we are educating are going to be smarter not to get in trouble and cost 20x as much in public safety, courts and prison expenses, which over time will actually save DC money.
Teachers should be just teaching. No serving breakfast, that’s for volunteers and aids. Teachers teach period. We need to elevate Teachers to teaching that is the focus. Coaches will do their job an hour later. Extra activities only if a student is getting a C or better grade in everything. Lunch doesn’t count in your day it doesn’t count in mine!
Enough is enough. People need jobs and are willing to work for those jobs. I am a huge supporter of the unions and teachers. But it’s time we make these changes for the future and give it our all. Federal workers are not getting increases, private sector we aren’t seeing increases in compensation. We all need to pitch in and take one for the team and do a solid for the kids. It’s time! NOW!

by Barrie Daneker Ward 5 on Dec 21, 2011 9:23 am • linkreport

It still was never noted that this post originally ended near the first chart.

by selxic on Dec 21, 2011 9:44 am • linkreport

@Barrie, Federal workers are not getting increases, private sector we aren’t seeing increases in compensation. We all need to pitch in and take one for the team and do a solid for the kids. It’s time! NOW!

It's not very sensible to compare teachers and their jobs, to gov't/private sector workers and their own. Teachers already don't make a lot of money and in some states are barely middle class. But you don't think they should receive more compensation if a policy is put in place mandating they work extra hours? Where does that happen in any workforce, gov't or private? In what company are employees "forced" to work more hours and not be compensated?

I agree, we all need to chip in but shortchanging teachers is not the answer.

by HogWash on Dec 21, 2011 10:18 am • linkreport

@Kate W- there are ways that might improve teacher morale and not increase costs as much. For instance, if some of the noninstructional stuff (breakfast duty, lunch duty, playground monitor) were covered by nonteachers so teachers really got lunch breaks and planning time they might be flexible on money.

This is true now! If indeed teachers were free to teach or plan instead of doing these non-teaching jobs there may not be a need to increase day length b/c the same increase in instruction time could be gained from better use of the current day. But hiring people (aids, etc.) costs money. There's no way around that.

by Tina on Dec 21, 2011 10:30 am • linkreport

@Tina -- In all of the elementary schools I have visited, every class had at least one and sometimes two teacher aides. They are essential for the little ones, preschool, pre-K, and K. I do not know if this is universal throughout DCPS, but I certainly hope so.

by goldfish on Dec 21, 2011 10:41 am • linkreport

@goldfish. Its definitely not universal for grades above K to have aids.

I know a teacher who has special ed students in her class and no special ed aid/teacher. That is; she is expected to come up with a completely seperate curriculum for those students and implement it and at the same time take care of the regular/non-special ed students. This is the same teacher who is expected (and does) use instruction time every morning to distribute, monitor and clean up breakfast in the classroom. (What if her IMPACT observer comes during that time? How will she be graded? She is also judged by the progress of the special ed kids in evaluation. That goes into her IMPACT score too.)

Aids are not the norm.

by Tina on Dec 21, 2011 10:58 am • linkreport

@Tina: yes, mismanagement; furthermore, likely teacher burnout. No support from principle? IMPACT=DCPS (thoughtful pause). If this teacher is any good s/he can get a more rewarding and possibly better paying job elsewhere.

by goldfish on Dec 21, 2011 11:12 am • linkreport

If this teacher is any good s/he can get a more rewarding and possibly better paying job elsewhere.

She is a GREAT teacher. Of course she knows she could go somewhere else. She's dedicated to these kids and passionate about teaching. She's not interested in teaching in an "easy" school--yet. But the constant BS from admin is definetly taking its toll and burn-out, not from the students, but from the admin BS, is on the horizon.

She doesn't complain about the special ed students or meeting their needs. She never complains about the students. She loves the students and many times I've heard her say she loves her job. But again, admin poisons it.

by Tina on Dec 21, 2011 11:25 am • linkreport

@Tina: a failing school. Get in the class and it is obvious where the problems are. Apparently in this situation IMPACT is a distraction away from administrative mismanagement. OTOH I have direct experience with ineffective and worse, dangerous teachers that should be fired. I do not have dog in the IMPACT fight, but I am starting to wonder if it is doing what it is supposed to do, that is, identify and reward the good teachers, and ferret out bad teachers. It strikes me that management can get better data from the class test scores (big improvement = good teacher, etc).

by goldfish on Dec 21, 2011 11:39 am • linkreport

@goldfish-She is at a failing school: <45% proficient; >70% free/reduced lunch. (and time taken away from instruction for breakfast).

This teachers thinks that by now IMPACT has removed the worst teachers. Thats good. But now IMPACT needs reforming.

For instance someone up thread commented on the gold standard of analysis for IMPACT. However no gold standard analyses results can be obtained from bad data.

2-3 observations/yr are not enough. there's too much variability in day of week, time of day, etc. Number of observations should be increased by some factor between 4 and 10, and the observations should be coded for different days/times of day.

Good teachers will welcome this b/c it will give more data for trends, different observers, and increase the probability an observer is there on one of their best days.

by Tina on Dec 21, 2011 12:01 pm • linkreport

@Tina: if school management is doing their job IMPACT is unnecessary. They should be frequently in the class regardless. They should also be keeping tabs with effectiveness of their pedagogy via weekly short tests (nothing so elaborate as DC CAS) that will also tell them which teacher is doing well or not.

by goldfish on Dec 21, 2011 12:07 pm • linkreport

we need IMPACT for admin...the observers are not school admin. They are master teachers, so they can't be in and out of classroom like a good prinical could who's on campus all day.

by Tina on Dec 21, 2011 12:10 pm • linkreport

@Tina: so for IMPACT DCPS send around a "foreign" so-called master teacher to visit each class, 2-3 times/year? And base teacher pay on this? Astonishing.

by goldfish on Dec 21, 2011 12:17 pm • linkreport

5 observations: 3 by principal 2 by non-school based "master" teachers.

by Tina on Dec 21, 2011 12:21 pm • linkreport

@goldfish

What I find astonishing is that IMPACT is consistently described as being 100% based on whatever the criticizer hates the most:

So if the current focus of hate is testing, IMPACT is "basic teacher pay on test scores?!"
If the current focus of hate is observation, IMPACT is "they send someone who knows nothing about this particular class in and base teacher pay on that?!"

and to respond to this:
They should also be keeping tabs with effectiveness of their pedagogy via weekly short tests (nothing so elaborate as DC CAS) that will also tell them which teacher is doing well or not.

You don't think everyone (teachers, parents, admin) would scream bloody murder if basically the curriculum people scheduled exactly when you must teach each component of a curriculum?

by MLD on Dec 21, 2011 12:57 pm • linkreport

if basically the curriculum people scheduled exactly when you must teach each component of a curriculum

@MLD: not following you. My point is that each school administration should know who their good teachers are. How should they know? By how the kids do on the (frequent and short) tests, which have always been a part of school routine. The tests are for everyone: so the kids know if they are mastering the material, so the parent(s) know if their kid is maintaining effort, so the teacher knows if the kids a learning the material, so the administration knows if the teacher is effective, so the school system knows if the school is working and why it is (or is not) working. If there is disagreement between the short weekly tests and DC CAS, then there is clearly a school-wide problem. I am not advocated "teaching to the test"; I am suggesting that schools use the traditional tools that have always been available to them.

by goldfish on Dec 21, 2011 2:36 pm • linkreport

It seems like many people are focusing on the amount of hours students spend in the classroom rather than focusing on how information will be taught during the extended day. Extending the school day in a overcrowded or under resourced classroom will not improve or help students grasp concepts. It's been proven that afterschool programs that focus not only academics but enrichment activities help to improve student's grades and helps them develop in a wholistic sense. I believe this it's because afterschool programs often have the flexibility & resources to provide engaging learning experiences for students. If the extended day includes opportunity for this kind of programming from community orgs or NPOs it may be beneficial, but extending the day just to reach a certain amount of hours is unproductive.

by Jackie on Dec 21, 2011 7:25 pm • linkreport

It still was never noted that this post originally ended near the first chart.

This is correct. For the first 10 minutes after publication, this post ended near the first chart. This likely led to the first comment that I had cherry-picked data. Very sorry about this.

by Ken Archer on Dec 21, 2011 9:33 pm • linkreport

The study you link to from Houston says no such thing about the longer school day.

by Simon on Dec 23, 2011 10:54 pm • linkreport

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