Longer student day should accompany Common Core

Longer student day should accompany Common Core

(District of Columbia) States and districts should consider adding time to the school schedule if they hope to successfully implement and gain from new, national Common Core standards, says a report released Tuesday.

High-quality expanded-time schools are already using the opportunities inherent in longer classes to build in individualized instruction, critical thinking and problem solving, researchers from both the Center for American Progress and the National Center on Time and Learning found.

But, they noted, policy makers, administrators and educators on a broader scale need to think more creatively about ways to boost instructional opportunities in this era of deep educational reform.

“Americans’ willingness to break out of the box of the 180-day, 6.5 hours-per-day school schedule can help with the transition to the Common Core State Standards, especially when targeting schools serving high concentrations of disadvantaged students,” wrote researchers in “Redesigning and Expanding School Time to Support Common Core Implementation."

"The instructional shifts ushered in by the Common Core, including an emphasis on close reading, student-centered information gathering, and more complex math skills and problem-solving techniques, will necessitate a retraining of the teaching corps -- and enormous undertaking," they said. "Gaining a realistic understanding of students' performance levels, meeting students where they currently are, and raising them to new heights are the tasks at hand and will require m ore intensive and time-consuming teaching and learning than schools commonly provide now."

Researchers noted that existing federal and state policies – such as the School Improvement Grant and President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top programs – support efforts to increase the amount of time students spend in school.

The Obama administration also created more flexibility for high-quality, expanded learning time schools in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act flexibility waivers initiative as part of both Title I and Supplemental Educational Services reform, as well as the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which had previously been restricted to only out-of-school time programming.

At the state level, laws in New York, Florida, Illinois and Arizona have dedicated funding to increase school time. In addition, laws focused on turning around low-performing schools in Connecticut, Colorado, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Washington and several other states grant districts and schools new authority to redesign their daily and yearly schedules around expanded school time, and to shift budgets to support the operational and staffing changes such an effort involves.

“These policies, the flexibility and autonomy to repurpose existing funding streams, and new sources of revenue have spurred a rapidly growing movement for expanded learning time schools at a moment when they can play a leading role in the successful implementation of the Common Core,” the report’s authors said.

Of course, researchers say, any plan to lengthen the school day or school year to give teachers more time for ongoing professional development and collaboration, and offer students more time to reach the higher expectations for English language arts and math must be well thought out and structured to provide the best outcomes.

Encouraging states, districts and schools to consider the benefits of expanded learning time, the report makes the following recommendations:

  • National, state, and local education policymakers, educators, and philanthropic leaders should recognize and include the important issue of learning time as they plan strategies for successful Common Core implementation.
  • States and districts should pass legislation and enact policies that are school-redesign friendly, empowering schools to lengthen and redesign the school day and year for transition to the Common Core.
  • States, districts, and schools should use existing federal and state resources to fund high-quality expanded learning time school models.
  • Districts and schools should increase the amount of time teachers have for collaboration and professional development during the school day and year and beyond as the Common Core transition takes place.
  • States and districts should target expanded learning time to schools serving high concentrations of disadvantaged students.
  • Schools should be intentional with schedule redesign plans to make certain that more time in school is used effectively to avoid simply doing “more of the same.”
  • National teacher and education reform organizations should collect and share best practices and innovative models of teachers union collective bargaining agreements that enable expanded time in school.

To read the report, visit: http://bit.ly/Mn8heJ or go to http://www.americanprogress.org/ and navigate to the report.

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