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Longer school day gets a look

Friday, December 14, 2012 - Updated: 6:30 PM

Eleven years into the current educational reform spasm -- begun by passage of No Child Left Behind -- a new strategy is being pushed to the top of the agenda.

Going to school longer will improve the education of students, we are told.

Nationally, five states, including New York, announced this month that they would add at least 300 hours of learning to the calendar at selected schools beginning in 2013.

The idea is to offer enrichment, such as art and music, to some students, and individual help to others in core subject areas.

It is part of a pilot program expected to last three years, which should be enough time to see whether the investment of both time and money has an educational payoff, as some research suggests.

On the face of it, the average school day would seem plenty long for fidgety kids, whose lives are complicated by many other factors, including both extracurricular and outside activities, messy family arrangements, and the indescribably confusing business of growing up.

Certainly, 300 hours, as established in the national program, are not insignificant. That works out to a substantial hour and 40 minutes extra per day in a 180-day school year.

You think that isn't so much? Imagine adding an hour and 40 minutes to each of your workdays.

Whether students should be off from school 185 days per year is another question altogether. Teachers know that summers are long enough to allow many children to backslide on several months of learning, which is a waste.

But if research shows that added hours -- plus intensive tutoring -- has some promise, then it's certainly worth a try.

It will, however, be up to administrators and teachers to see that the extra time is used to engage students according to their needs. Simply adding hours to a broken model would be no reform worthy of the name.

-- The Kingston Daily Freeman

     

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