Houston increases time in school, copies successful charter schools

More time in school is one of five policies common to successful charter schools, according to an excellent article in the New York Times written by Sam Dillon.   Houston Schools Look to Charters for Guide explains that Houston public schools are working with Roland G. Fryer, a researcher at Harvard, to implement five key tenets of successful charters: “longer school days and years; more rigorous and selective hiring of principals and teachers; frequent quizzes whose results determine what needs to be retaught; what he calls “high-dosage tutoring”; and a “no excuses” culture.”

One person watching the experiment closely is Mike Feinberg, who co-founded the first KIPP school here in 1994, and now serves on the program’s national board and runs its 20 Houston-area charters. Mr. Feinberg sees Houston’s education marketplace as akin to when FedEx emerged to challenge the United States Postal Service. The result: Priority Mail.

KIPP, “Knowledge Is Power Program,” a national charter chain, gives students about 1,734 hours in school per year.  Last year Houston implemented the five key tenets of charters at nine district secondary schools–  giving students 1,434 hours in school.  This school year “they are expanding the program to 11 elementary schools. “

Santa Rosa County cuts school day by 30 minutes

Santa Rosa County, Florida, has cut the school day by 30 minutes for for students, according to Fox10tv.com.

“The teachers work the same hours. They just have more preparation time. And you give a good teacher more preparation time, and the lesson is that much better,” said Buddy Powell, Hobb’s Middle School principal.

This year the students are in school only 6 hours per day.   If the teachers work the same hours, where is the money being saved? This is a step backwards. How long will it take for students to gain that half hour back in their schedules?

Chicago plans a longer school day and year in 2012-13

On August 23  Chicago Public School officials  announced plans to extend the shortest school day in the nation by an additional 90 minutes and two weeks to provide the critical instructional time needed to boost student achievement. National research and experts all point to the correlation between a longer day and year and improved student performance in the classroom. CPS will implement a strategy to extend the day and year for the 2012-13 school year beginning this fall and will engage stakeholders to help build a plan to ensure a successful transition.

The Chicago Sun Times earlier reported  that Mayor Rahm Emanuel “said that if the school day grows by 18 percent— going from five hours and 45 minutes to six hours and 45 minutes or more — that doesn’t necessarily mean teachers’ pay will also be boosted 18 percent by the cash-strapped school board.” Read the rest of this entry »

Students need more time in school!

Shortchanged by the Bell  is a must-read op-ed in today’s New York Times.  Luis A. Ubiñas, the president of the Ford Foundation, and Chris Gabarieli, the chairman of the National Center on Time and Learning, said that our school calendar, with its six-and-a-half-hour day and 180–day year, was designed for yesterday’s farm economy, not today’s high-tech one.

They note that some districts have even shorter hours. They didn’t include mention of Fairfax County’s inadequate elementary school schedule–averaged over a 5-day week, the time amounts to a paltry 6 hours and 10 minutes per day. This is the problem. What is the plan for reform?

Citizens of Fairfax, be sure to ask all the school board candidates whether they want to maintain this inadequate schedule or to make plans to give students more time in school. It is time for Fairfax County to stop dismissing elementary school students two hours early every Monday.  Ending early dismissals should be a key issue in the school board elections in November.

Calvert County improves schedules for 11 schools

Congratulations to Calvert County Public Schools for providing more time and opportunity for student learning in the 2011-2012 school year. The schools in this Maryland school district where the school day schedule will change are: Appeal, Barstow, Calvert, Dowell, Mutual, Patuxent, Plum Point, and St. Leonard elementary schools, Plum Point and Southern middle schools, and Calvert High.

The school system will be piloting a program to create additional instructional time at almost every elementary school from Plum Point Road south.  Approximately ten minutes is being added to the instructional day at most elementary schools in the pilot program.  At these schools, students will be dismissed about 10 minutes later than in previous years.

“The instructional time we are aiming to create, while it may only be 10 minutes a day, adds up to a huge increase,” said Ed Cassidy, Director of Transportation.  “Ten minutes per day is nearly one hour per week.  Over the course of a school year, we can add about 30 hours of classroom instruction.  That is equivalent to about five additional school days.”   Cassidy noted that the principals and teachers he has spoken with about the pilot program are enthusiastic about the teaching and learning possibilities that will be available. Read the rest of this entry »

Should high school students have a choice of start times?

Should high school students be given a choice of early or later start times? That is the question being considered by the Jackson school board in Michigan.  Bob Wheaton of the Jackson Citizen Patriot  reported that the later start would be optional.

No decision has been made. “We are still in the process of adjusting some schedules and seeking staff that would be interested in this adjusted schedule,” said Ben Pack, assistant superintendent for human resources and secondary curriculum. “It would be up and running … at the earliest in second trimester, which would be the end of November.”

Wheaton noted that the later school hours would begin at 9:01 a.m. and end at 3:40 p.m. The current hours are 7:35 a.m. to 2:27 p.m.

Teachers in Oklahoma school district agree to lengthen the school day by 20 minutes

Members of the Edmond Association of Classroom Teachers  in Oklahoma ratified contract language Monday that will  lengthen the school day by 20 minutes while also increasing salaries.

In addition to adding nine additional makeup days to the calendar, the longer school day will provide teachers an additional 100 minutes of instructional time per week. Students will arrive 10 minutes earlier in the morning and be dismissed 10 minutes later. The new schedule will go into effect Wednesday, Sept. 7 when students return from the Labor Day holiday.
“That would give families several weeks from the start of school in which to plan for this change to the school day,” said Superintendent David Goin. “We want to make sure that they have enough time to make the adjustment.”

Mark Schlachtenhaufen of the Edmond Sun  reported that the teachers will still have 7.5 hours per day in their contract; however instead of having 30 minutes before and after the student day, the teacher will have 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon.

This means the following will be the schedule for teachers and students at the different levels:

• High school teachers on a 1-6 hour schedule will arrive at 7:20 a.m. and leave at 2:50 p.m.; students will begin class at 7:40 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m.

• High school teachers on a 2-7 hour schedule will arrive at 8:20 a.m. and leave at 3:45 p.m.; students will begin class at 8:40 a.m. and leave at 3:25 p.m.

• Middle school teachers will arrive at 7:30 a.m. and leave at 3 p.m.; students will begin class at 7:50 a.m. and leave at 2:40 p.m.

• Elementary early schools: Teachers will arrive at 8:05 a.m. and leave at 3:35 p.m.; students will begin class at 8:25 a.m. and leave at 3:15 p.m.

• Elementary late schools: Teachers will arrive at 8:30 a.m. and leave at 4 p.m.; students will begin class at 8:50 a.m. and leave at 3:40 p.m.