Board members and administrators believe that more instructional time could boost student achievement in schools that have been identified as needing improvement, according to an informal survey in last week’s School Board Notes online. However, board members see obstacles to adding instructional time, and are divided on how they might like to add instructional time in their own districts.
Extra Time Helps Eighty percent of respondents to the survey said they thought extended instructional time could help student achievement in schools needing improvement, while 8.8 percent said no. Another 1.3 percent were undecided, and 10 percent responded “other” and added explanatory comments. A sampling of the comments:
It depends on how the time is used and why student achievement is low.
I think what can help schools in need are laws that let us reward high performing teachers and give the boot to teachers who are not effective.
It depends whether it is ‘substantial’ time. An extra 20 minutes is more likely to help student achievement than an extra five.
It depends on what you do with the extra time.
It might just be a matter of managing the time better or perhaps reducing/eliminating some unnecessary state mandates. I think you have to look at each school individually.
I agree as long as the extra time is used for extended content of math, science, language arts, and reading – and not physical education/health.
Obstacles When asked about obstacles to extending instructional time, the largest number of respondents cited union opposition.
Extending Instructional Time Locally? Survey respondents were asked if they would be interested in adding instructional time to their district’s program, through adding days to the school year, adding time to the school day, or adding Saturday classes to the program.
Only 43.7 percent indicated they’d be interested in adding days to the school year, while approximately 34 percent said no, and 22.5 percent were undecided.
A larger percentage, 62.9 percent, favored adding time to the school day.
Saturday classes were decisively unpopular: nearly 78 percent disapproved of adding them, while 13 percent voted “yes” and about 9 percent were undecided.
Comments Selected comments on extending instructional time in schools:
We have an extended school year program for our special education population.
I’d rather reduce some vacation days.
Given all the additional elements that need to be taught now – character development, anti-bullying, etc. as well as the rapid changes in technology and advances in the sciences – there just isn't enough time given the current school day to incorporate all that adequately.
Kids are stressed enough these days. More does not mean better.
There are no panaceas that will fix all problems. Extended instructional time will help some students, some times. Simply spending more time in a program that isn't working to begin with won’t help anyone except the people who get larger paychecks.
I’d like to see where the additional funding would come from.
As a former teacher, since we’re paid until the end of June, I never understood why we didn't work the whole month.
I would like to see teachers remain in their classrooms until 4 p.m. Our district dismisses at 3 p.m. Students who need extra help or have a question could easily, and on a regular basis, access their teachers.
We already have a 7.5 hour day.
The only Saturday classes at present are discipline-related.
If we are to compete globally, we have to add more instructional time to the day and year. The time for long summer breaks is over.
Schools shouldn't start their school days before 8:30 a.m. and should go no longer than six to seven hours per day.
We tried to include an additional 30 minutes of instructional time during this year's contract negotiations and it was aggressively shot down by the union rep. (At one point he wanted the board to explain how additional time could benefit students!)
With the 2 percent cap now in place, getting teachers to agree to more time without giving them a healthy raise will be difficult.
Students need time to be children. In addition to the lessons they get in a classroom setting, it is also important that they have time to play sports, participate in clubs and activities, and have general downtime to relax. Perhaps we need to examine what is taking place during the school day in the classroom to see how we can make the instructional time that teachers have more effective.
We need better training for teachers. A majority of teachers are very comfortable in their positions that they just get through the lesson plans without making sure what they are teaching is comprehended by the students. A philosophy of "getting through the lesson plan and moving on to the next" is very common these days.
We all know that it is long past the time to eliminate "summers off."
Have school four days a week and extend the school year to 200 days.
I would love to begin to have an additional 30-40 minutes of time added to the school day. However, contractually this is difficult without giving up other things to the union, or paying more to staff.
After extended contract negotiations, we were able to extend our school day this year. We are using that time not only for core areas but for character education. I was surprised to get some push-back from parents, mainly because of very tight after-school schedules. We notified the community well in advance so they could address any personal scheduling conflicts.
It would be great to use an extended school day to allow students to either take classes to support core areas like math or English, but also allow high-achieving kids the opportunity to take independent study in a semi-structured space.
Children are in a classroom for a long day as it is. More time will give them more lack of engagement. Better instruction will utilize the time allotted with a better education.
There is sufficient time in the school day/school year.
The real issue I see is the total misuse by teachers using sick days. If a teacher shows that they cannot accumulate sick days faster than they use them for other reasons, they should be removed as a teacher.
I would love to see more instructional time for students as long as the extra time is proven productive in terms of greater achievement growth. The decision would require a data-driven evaluation model. I would never consider Saturday classes as an option for extended instructional time because many of our students participate in community-based activities that use the weekends for events.