Longer School Days That Work

From Chicago to Houston to Washington, D.C., districts around the country are beginning to experiment with longer school days as a way to raise academic achievement. A pioneer in this effort is Massachusetts, which launched a statewide extended school day program in 2005.

Ferryway School is one of Massachusetts’s success stories.

While kids from neighboring schools are still finishing up their bowls of cereal or running out the door to meet the bus, students at Ferryway in Malden, a working class city just north of Boston, are already at their desks, ready for a new day of learning.

Ferryway is a K-8 school in its fourth year of Expanded Learning Time (ELT), a grant program overseen by the Massachusetts Department of Education that extends the school day by at least 300 hours.  While other district schools are in session from 8:15 to 2:15, Ferrway’s day starts at 7:45 and ends at 3:30.

“Kids used to be rushed,” says eighth grade Language Arts teacher Elaine Ivy, who now has a 90 minute block every day. “Forty minutes for a class is too short, and it winds up being just 30 minutes after you get them settled into their desks for the lesson. Now we’ve slowed the process down, and class is more like a relaxed country drive where they can absorb what they’re learning versus being stuck in rush hour traffic where they’re in a hurry but not getting anywhere.”

Ferryway is one of 19 Massachusetts public schools participating in ELT to improve academic performance and reintroduce students to enrichment programs that have too often been stripped from the school day.

ELT is designed by staff and administrators, supported by the union (not only because teachers help design the extended day, but are paid for the extra time), and funded by the state, who administers grants to participating schools.

To receive a grant, the school must institute a longer day that includes a combination of core academic instruction, with longer periods devoted to subjects like math, science and language arts, enrichment opportunities, and time for teacher collaboration and planning.

At Ferryway, the administration and staff created a block schedule so that students would have 90 minutes a day for core subjects. Art, music, and computers are part of Ferrway’s “exploratory” class offerings, and every student has a different, one-hour exploratory each day. While they are in exploratory, teachers meet for planning.

“One of the best things about ELT is the built-in planning time,” says Margaret Briatico, who is the team leader of the school’s fifth grade teachers. “Each grade has a team of teachers who meet for an hour every day to discuss test data, necessary interventions for students, and curriculum issues. We’re no longer working in isolation. We now have professional learning communities.”

The ELT grant requires schools to forge partnerships, and Ferryway students are offered a digital media class provided by the Adobe Youth Voices program. The elective meets every day during the school’s reading workshop block, and kids work on projects that range from the personal, like a digital self-portrait collage, to the global, like a stop motion animated film on industrialization.

“In this class, kids who normally wouldn’t speak up can find their voice and express themselves,” says art teacher Breanne Mahoney.

Finding a voice to express oneself is especially important for the school’s many ELL students. Malden is a melting pot of immigrants where more than 50 languages are spoken. Cultures range from Irish, Haitian, Greek, and Italian to Dominican, Somalian, Brazilian, and Chinese. Ferryway also has a significant low-income population, with more than 70 percent of students on the free or reduced lunch program.

“A Real Sense of Purpose”

Ferryway opened its doors in 1999 with two principals – one for K-4, the other for 5-8. Two years later, both principals were gone and Thomas DeVito was promoted from vice principal to principal of the entire school. It wasn’t an easy transition. Ferryway was one the state’s lowest performing schools.

“Things were mess,” he said. “We had high numbers of special education students, low test scores, and low morale.”

DeVito’s goal was to get the staff to think of Ferryway not as two separate schools, but as one K-8 school where everyone was responsible for its successes and failures. He then got a Reading First Grant and changed the way literacy was taught in K-5 grades, and refocused the school on language arts and math to bring up test scores.

“As a result, there’s been a real sense of purpose here. Everyone has rolled up their sleeves, and we’re turning the whole school around,” DeVito says. “ELT accelerated the process, but it’s not a silver bullet. It gave us the flexibility with more time in the day, but you still need staff dedication, time spent poring over data, attention to practice, and giving students the interventions they need to really succeed.”

Succeed they have. The proof is in the numbers. In 2006, 49 percent of students were proficient in English Language Arts. In 2001, the number rose to 63 percent. In 2006, 30 percent of students were proficient in math, by 2011, 63 percent were. In 2006, 15 percent of students were considered failing in English Language Arts and 35 percents of students failed in math – by 2011 those numbers had shrunk significantly to only 9 percent failure in English Language Arts and 14 percent failure in math.

The school also exceeded the district averages in English Language Arts, math and science.

This fall, Ferryway was one of 127 schools commended statewide for narrowing student performance gaps and demonstrating strong gains on state assessments, and is now considered one of the top schools in the district.

“The fruits have really started to show,” says DeVito. “Just getting on that list is incredible. It shows everyone how far we’ve come.”

  • Theresa

    I can see how extending the school day can provide a more relaxed atmosphere for kids on the one hand – a teacher could spend a greater amount of time exploring a topic than would normally be alotted. However, for elementary school aged children, I’d like to see the research that supports the long-term character development. Research is constantly cited supporting the idea that spending time with their family keeps children grounded and provides emotional stability that supports long-term self-confidence and consequently has a direct impact on their contributions to their community over time. What long-term studies show how surrounding a child with 25+ other same-aged children for the majority of their day is more beneficial to their development of responsibility, family, citizenship and productivity vs. providing the child more time to spend with their family without the burden of more school?

  • I like the idea of digging for research, but I’m not sure that extending the school day jeopardizes family time as much as one may think. Consider that some of these kids either don’t have a true family to go home to (working parents, older sibling/babysitter only, etc) or a family that supports them well (abuse, neglect, etc). Perhaps the extended day is helping some kids learn and socially interact as they aren’t getting quality family time at home anyway.

  • Alana

    I too can see how a relaxed atmosphere, with more time would make the classroom setting a little more learner friendly. I am wondering the same thing Theresa mentioned though. What is the long term impact going to be on family, at all levels. Elementary children need their time at home, but middle school and high school need to remain connected to their families as well. Educators have said over and over, family involvement is a big part of why students are or are not successful in class. This would be taking more of that home time away. That home time is already limited by homework, and other activities that are just as important to our student’s development. In addition to the concerns for the students, how is this going to affect our teachers. Are they going to be compensated for their time? They have not been given their promised step increases for four years, and now this would add to their workday hours. Very few teachers don’t take work home as is. What we keep adding to the workload has gotten out of hand, especially since their is not enough compensation for what our teachers are already doing. The demands being placed on our teachers is ridiculous and yet the state continues to ask for more, but won’t pay them what was promised to them. This is not a good idea for NC, since they can’t pay for the services they are getting for our students as is. Before we start mandating even more to our teachers, NC needs to find a way to pay for the labor our teachers are giving to our students now. NC can’t afford longer days. To mandate it would be stealing even more time from our teachers. In the end overworked, disgruntled, stressed teachers are not in the best interest of our students.

  • This is a very good development. looking at its positive short term impact, I have no doubt that once it is welocomed by parents, teachers and children themselves, it will bring in some new tradition which would take away some elements of family time tradition for the sake of allowing children to maximize their school time. Every good thing, once accepted, brings in some changes. The most important thing is the impact in terms of improved academic school perfomance of the children.

    Good job guys. This is something worth trying to do.

    Symon

  • marie

    What they don’t tell you is that for example, by the time my child(who is on the Autism spectrum to begin with) gets home, it’s about 4:00 p.m. There is no time for play or activities. It’s supper till around 4:30, 30 min on average of home work per night per subject (4) which brings us to 6:30 and it’s a struggle every single night(including Halloween night thanks so much teachers and you know children are no longer allowed to celebrate holidays or bring snacks here in Malden). Then it’s shower and bed time. Kids are not kids anymore everyone is a test score.

  • Tammy

    Now we’ve slowed the process down, and class is more like a relaxed country drive where they can absorb what their learning versus being stuck in rush hour traffic where they’re in a hurry but not getting anywhere.”

    Either whoever wrote this article needs to attend an extended day school, or the extended day does not work, judging by the poor grammar. I am so sick and tired of seeing poor grammar from educators, reporters, story writers, etc. All those who should know better don’t. And no, these are not typos. They are grammatical errors. I find it offensive!!!!! My children say it all the time that the rules of grammar that they know came from me and not their teachers. SAD!!!!

  • barbara

    I wonder what the class sizes are in these schools. I feel difficulty with so many students at different levels of learning. Adding more time with the class I have would be a disaster.

  • C. T. CASS

    The school day does not need to be longer, but the school year/student contact days need to be increased. When you look at all industralised nations, the U.S. has, by far, the shortest school year, and all International Standarised Test results prove my point. The U.S. has a problem cracking the top 20. Just look to the north at Canada, with about 20 more school contact days, and it sits at #4, with the U.S. at #19. Canada has a centralised curriculum, many fewer school districts, fully funded Roman Catholic education and the list goes on. Their path is one to be emulated. They have a much higher skilled labour force and many more college/university educated citizens. They have just as many ELL students. Perhaps everyone should look to the north for help

  • Francey Smith

    How can you extend the school day by 300 hours? There are only 24 hours in a day.

  • Sue

    I taught elementary students for 36 years (I have only been retired for 3 years) and a longer day would have hampered their education. We were limited to the amount of physical “play” time we could give them. Very few could have learned more without overload. Maybe middle of high school ages could make it, but I would say a definite NO for teh elementary grades.

  • C. T. CASS

    I find it so interesting that people are silly enough to disagree with facts. I guess they prefer the OSTRICH approach to life.

  • I agree that we do need a longer school day and a longer school year. Students in poverty need additional services for if you look at the data on summer vacation one sees inner-city students who are not exposed to literacy during the summer vacation lose between three and four months of academic growth.

    Education is the ticket out of poverty and we need to do all that we can to give our children the best education possible. Unfortunately, in order to make it many need additional time during the year and during the summer time.

    John

  • Tom

    I agree with a longer school year, but I am also looking for the data related to the benefits of longer school days … and the options they looked at.

    What grade levels were researched?
    How did the longer school day impact with extracurricular activities? (sports, scouts, non-school religious classes, …)
    Are we talking about longer class periods and in what format (traditional vs block-periods & quarter-based vs A/B days)
    Are we talking about expanded breadth in the curriculum, or expanded depth, or just more time for improved exploration and understanding?
    Are we talking about more elective opportunities? (more classes in the day)
    What outcomes are connected with the longer day and are they the federally mandated outcomes that need to be changed or the improved socialization missing from curriculum connected to high-stakes testing?

    Lots of questions and obviously they cannot all be answered against each other, but the data needs to at least be able to identify what was researched.

  • Melissa

    I work at an extended day inner city magnet middle school in Connecticut and our students are succeeding tremendously; however, I don’t believe their success is due to a longer day. Students at our school have parents who won the lottery to get their children into the school, and they are very invested. Also, in our school, we have put common practices and language/vocabulary into every classroom so students learn the same technique to answer, say, an open-ended written question, in every class they go to — whether it’s Language Arts or Art. Finally, and probably most importantly, we have fairly small class sizes (around 20-23 kids), where students can get the individualized attention they need to succeed. If school districts want higher scores, they should spend their money on training better leaders and employing more teachers.

  • M. Callahan

    “Art, music, and computers are part of Ferrway’s “exploratory” class offerings, and every student has a different, one-hour exploratory each day. While they are in exploratory, teachers meet for planning.” This continues to discourage me. Fine Art subjects are relagated to the second hand category. It is an “hour” of babysitting while core subject teachers plan their day. We are fighting an uphill battle to convince test-obsessed administrations that right brained development plays a vital and critical role in our children’s education. One hour is hardly enough time to explore, experiement, create, and refine these skills and strategies. I’m not sure a longer day will add more opportunities to learn, but instead more opportunities to test.

  • Bill the Math Teacher

    I am fortunate enough to have grown up in the great state of North Dakota, where the standard for all of the schools I attended was a 7 period, 7:45-3:15 school day. I also grew up on a farm, which meant that after school, my bus ride home took as little as forty minutes and just before my parents began driving us in, two hours. I can personally attest to the benefit of those extended days, where in a typical 55 minute class period, students were able to be taught a lesson, have plenty of guided practice, and have time to work out a portion of the homework.

    For my second teaching job, I found a school in Massachusetts where the day ran from 7:55 to 2:05. The 80 minutes lost through the day made a major impact on the students. I found that there wasn’t time to deliver the same amount of content in a school year. There wasn’t enough time during the school day for certain AP courses to be taught, because of simple lack of time in the classroom. That 80 minutes per day that was lost resulted in a 240 hour loss over the 180 day school year.

    I, as both a student and teacher, would fully support returning to a longer school day.

  • Jim

    In Kansas we already have school from 7:50 in the morning to 3:15. I can’t imagine adding anymore time to our school day. We have been going this long since the mid 1990’s. I can’t get done what I need to get done as a teacher now. To add time would be detrimental to students and teachers. Between intervention meetings, collaboration, MTSS, PBIS, Faculty Meetings, and required book studies—-I barely have a life for my own family and kids.

  • Rose

    What about planning time for the teachers? I can’t get everything done in eight hours a day as it is. Do you think we just walk in and out of the classroom when the students do?

  • Annette

    I like the idea of having a longer school day because students would have more opportunity to engage in the content. Teachers would also have a better opportunity to present the content in a variety of ways and allowing more learning styles to be met. I think one thing that would cause a longer school day to become less valuable is if teachers continue to assign the massive amounts of homework that they currently assign. I would fully support a longer school day if a homework policy that supported less or no were put in place.

  • William D Larson

    My state is already lowering my pay. Just what I need, longer days for even less money per hour. I work longer days after school, as it is, trying to catch up with all the paperwork. Extending the day would only give me less time to complete my work not more.

  • Leanne

    Another consideration is that as the afternoon wears on, children’s attention spans and ability to retain information diminishes. I have seen this as a veteran 3rd grade teacher.

  • Joy

    I truly understand the wanting more time in the classroom for student learning. In high school I had a four block day with 90 minute classes and it really helped with my learning (I was/am a student in special education). That being said I am also a parent who teaches. I get to work an hour early so I can prep (as my students are in the severe to profound disability category of special education and I have to build all my materials from scratch [no text books for me] and I get paid not to have a lunch let alone the lack of true prep). At the end of the day I am still after school if I am lucky 30 minutes but reality is an hour to an hour and a half. That time is placing large motor equipment back, cleaning and sanitizing manipulatives and writing reports for seizures, scatter plots for behavior, completing IEPs/progress notes and catching up on work emails. By the time I get home with my 8 year old, it is rush, rush, rush to get dinner made, homework check, house cleaned (and on certain nights it rushing to gymnastics). My daughter barely has time to say hi to the friends in our neighborhood before she has to come in to eat, clean her room, brush teeth, take a bath, and head off to bed. If we are luck we get sit next to one another for 10 minutes to ‘snuggle’.

    With more hours to our work day I will end up with weekend custody of her because the school will have week days. I wonder if the district will dock my paycheck for child support?

    I am all for year around school. Even tack a few extra days into the year but my daughter deserves a mother as well.

  • Anne

    Our district is considering how to implement adding a student contact hour to each day. An issue I did not see in above comments is: What will teachers do about day care for their own children now that teacher won’t be able to pick them up after their elementary or child care ends – pay for more after accepting a pay cut? What about our seven teachers that have a second job to make ends meet because teacher pay is not enough to cover their bills? How about the nine teachers who coach after school? That’s gone with extended school days. My students are composing an essay of THEIR feelings and needs concerning this issue to have their voice heard. Theirs is, “Wait, I’m already advanced in all my core subjects, why should I give up my after school enrichment or my free time to get stuck with more of what I do not need? I say have students who score U or PP stay for extended learning opportunities, not me.” Additionally, my smallest class is 32 students (ELA/SpEd/U & PP scores); my high honors class has 36 students; so I’m not a fan of an extra hour of grading on top of what I already do. As a final comment, our district recommends either ZERO pay for the extra hour per day, calling it “volunteer” (the suit administrator saying that bullied us with, “If you don’t volunteer, find another job!” Lovely.) A different administrator said perhaps a $500 stipend per semester is possible (not adding to pensionable salary)…hummm, that works out to about 1.55/ish an hour…insulting to a teacher’s professional knowledge and expertise. Thanks for a forum to vent!

  • Aaron

    The idea of a longer school day is interesting, but from my experience longer class *periods* are not at all helpful.

    My district is currently in a transition from the 80-minute period fad back to a shorter 40-minute period, with each school’s teachers voting on which schedule to use. Almost without exception, teachers given the option will choose the shorter period. The main reason is simple: it makes for better classroom management.

    I have worked at both shorter and longer period schools, and I can say that student behavior is almost always better in a shorter class period. Even in a 40-minute class, most students are mentally ready to leave by the time you hit the half-hour mark. In the 80-minute classes, that’s also about the point where the students start getting progressively more antsy, and diminishing returns kick in, with any extra time contributing less and less to the students’ overall learning. With the toughest classes, you might completely lose the kids 15-20 minutes before the bell rings, at least as far as functional attention and participation are concerned.

    It’s extremely difficult to take students who have been conditioned since they were very young to have an attention span the length of an episode of Family Guy, and keep them attentive and working for nearly three times that.

    In addition to classroom management issues, there is another problem with longer periods in my own field of math teaching. The state/district expects us to cover the same amount of material whether the periods are long or short. This basically means doubling up the lessons if you’re at a long-period school, covering two textbook sections every day, since the 80-minute period is usually implemented in such a way that you see each class only every other day. Besides having the students’ attention starting to wander just as you’re beginning the second section you have to cover that day, there is also the problem of practice. For example, you might have to graduate from one-step equation solving to two-step equation solving in one class period, without the students having had any time to go home and practice one-step equations in their homework assignment. Mathematics is a progressive study, and most students really need a night of homework to practice and digest each section before moving on to the next. At least in my district, 80-minute periods don’t allow for that need. Basically, you either go too fast for the students in order to keep up with the district, or else you let half of the period become an unofficial study hall, and get further and further behind in the book.

    I’ve had yet another problem with 80-minute periods: When you see the students only once every other day, you will inevitably run into many students who forget too much of what they learned on Monday by the time Wednesday rolls around. Either they understand their homework Monday night, but it wasn’t quite enough for them to retain it all until Wednesday, or they start their homework on Tuesday night when they’ve already forgotten a good chunk of what they learned Monday. Whichever it is, a significant percentage of the students are going to be lost on Wednesday when you start building on Monday’s lesson.

    I personally experienced these last two points in a very obvious way when my intensive class (which was required to meet for an 80-minute block every day at the expense of an elective) started getting noticeably better at math than my regular ed classes (who met for an 80-minute block every other day). The year the school tried this, by the end of first semester, half of my intensive kids could have done well in a regular class, while most of the students in my regular classes looked like they belonged in an intensive class!

    From my experience, almost without exception, the students in 80-minute math periods required more remediation than the students in the 40-minute classes. The 80-minute classes were harder to control, and the supposed learning gains claimed for the longer period never materialized.

  • Patricia Godfrey

    I DON’T MIND AN EXTENDED DAY BUT I DO MIND 100% OF ALL STUDENTS HAVING TO ATTEND EXTENDED SCHOOL. SINGLE OUT THE KIDS WHO GO HOME TO AN EMPTY HOUSE BUT ARE ACIEVING JUST FINE ACADEMICALLY AND CREATE EXTENDED SCHOOL PROGRAMS IN THE ARTS OR ATHLETICS OR SOMETHING THAT WILL BENEFIT THEM. SINGLE OUT THE CHILDREN THAT ARE UNDERACHIEVING ACADEMICALLY FOR THEIR AGE AND ABILITY AND GIVE THEM AN ACADEMIC PROGRAM IN THE SPECIFIC SUBJECT/S IN WHICH THEY ARE DEFICIENT. WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO FORCE ACADEMICALLY ACHIEVING STUDENTS THAT HAVE A LOVING SUPPORTIVE FAMILY WAITING FOR THEM AFTER SCHOOL AT HOME TO JUST SIT THROUGH MORE AND MORE HOURS OF SCHOOL??? ALL IT ENDS UP IN THAT CASE IS A PROGRAM GEARED TO REINFORCE GRADE LEVEL WORK FOR THE AVERAGE KID FOR MORE HOURS.

  • Jen

    As a teacher in an inner city school in Massachusetts, I question the “relaxed” feel of the longer blocks and the extended days. We have 2 1/2 hours for reading and writing and 1 1/2 hours for math each day. There is nothing relaxing about them. The pressure to produce proficient students with little to no help from home is tremendous. Many of our students are pulled from their classes like gym, computers, and art if they are struggling in math or reading at all so they do not benefit from any of those enrichment classes. Planning time is spent analyzing data while constantly coming up with new ways to test, record, and display new data…all the while limiting the time teachers can spend doing what will really help the students…planning for inventive ways to teach and inspire students who receive little to no inspiration from home. When I think of an extended day…all I can think of is more correcting to pile into a folder that no one at home ever empties…yet, at least they’d be with me longer and perhaps the Friday afternoon dread from many students where they explicitly tell me or act out because they don’t want the weekend to come would be lessened. The situation in the inner city schools is eye opening and very sad. God bless the children that are living through it.

  • Jenni the music teacher

    I would like to respond to M. Callahan’s comment regarding the arts classes. I 100% agree with his assessment: and I would like to add the insensitivity of the article’s author in his/her statement “Art, music, and computers are part of Ferrway’s “exploratory” class offerings, and every student has a different, one-hour exploratory each day. While they are in exploratory, teachers meet for planning.” That right there– the experts who are really feeding those kids souls– the arts teachers– are not even referred to as “teachers.” A more accurate sentence would have been: “Art, music, and computers are part of Ferrway’s exploratory class offerings, and every student has a one-hour exploratory each day. While the students are in their arts and technology classes, the academic teachers meet for planning, and when students are in their academic classes, the arts and technology teachers meet for planning.”

    Something like that. I am so tired of not being referred to as a teacher or given the same respect. And yes, I echo M. Callahan’s concern that educators do not recognize the positive impact that the arts have on learning, and God forbid, the simple well-being of the students.

  • Jenni the music teacher

    And one more thing. It is absolutely true that teachers do not have enough time as it is. I cannot believe how long my classroom teacher colleagues have to work. I already work more than 40 hours a week as a music teacher, where I don’t have nearly the amount of work that a classroom teacher does. I have students once a week, so my amount of planning is 1/5 of what a classroom teacher has, and my students have no homework. I cannot imagine doing their jobs… and then adding MORE time to that!? These people who already go home at 5:00 or after after being at work since 7:30am, TAKING WORK WITH THEM to do more at home, and then often coming in on SATURDAYS.

    This overloading of teachers has GOT to stop.

  • JMS

    People that think a longer school day jeopardizes family time for the majority of the kids in this country either have very enviable homes or don’t know much about what families and their kids do after school.

    Most kids do one of two things after school: homework or watch TV. That is it. They don’t spend time on mom’s knee getting instruction they didn’t get in school. They aren’t spending time with dad working on projects. BOTH MOM AND DAD ARE AT WORK. If they aren’t at work they are doing other things themselves.

    Seriously, I can think of one reason why the longer day shouldn’t be mandatory and it involves funding. Any other talk is just wrong and most likely ill informed.

  • as a para in special education we work just as hard the teachers and the office staff and we make so little in pay that so of us have to take on a extra job to make ends meet for our family. When we get a raise to go with the high cost of living? Please be assured the people that run the school districts are getting a raise every year and better benfits at a much lower price. Extentend school days please give me a break, it is time for the parents to step up and do they need to do be at home and help their kids learn and grow, we have families also and all school is now is free daycare.

  • I retired after 30 years in the elementary classroom. What a change from beginning to end. Perhaps we are trying to take on too much responsibility for the child and the family and that’s why there is discussion of an extended day. At the beginning I had total parent support. At the end of 30 years the parents questions were “what did you do to make my child not like school, why doesn’t she do her/his work at school, why can’t he stay in from recess when it’s cold, ” etc. etc. Parents seem to be having a hard time allowing their children to grow by allowing them their own experiences of success and non-success (not necessarily failure). This affects their ability to struggle for success and therefore they do not have the drive that was present in the past. A longer school day will not fix that. Teachers have to document EVERYTHING and how it relates to the curriculum. Make the day longer….I don’t think so. The social development happens in social situations, not necessarily at school, but without adults watching. Give the kids some time to develop in ways other that just academics.

  • Josh

    Thank you for the fantastic article highlighting the ELT program at the Ferryway School in Malden! I have been singing the school’s praises since our daughter started kindergarten there last year. I grew up in Newton, MA, the son of an educator, and went on to teach 5th through 8th grade in the New Orleans public schools. I couldn’t be happier with the Ferryway.

    Academically, the curriculum is rigorous, but well rounded and students are both challenged and nurtured. The extended day program allows real learning to occur; the type that sticks. Not the type that disappears after the test is given. The exploratory classes are not “babysitting time” but deep, meaningful and enriching explorations into art, music, PE, and health, which enhance and support learning in the core subjects. And the model has also shown that this type of learning does not come at the expense of test scores.

    It is a real challenge to educate such a diverse population like the one in Malden, and the ELT gives Ferryway the strength and flexibility to do it well
    .
    From our experience, it’s clear that the teachers are trained and collaborate on how to make great use of the class time. They don’t simply “extend” a typical 50 minute block to 90 minutes.

    The school structure helps foster a real sense of community amongst not only the teachers, but the students as well. Learning in collaboration is modeled by the staff and the students. All Kindergarteners, for example, had an 8th grade buddy that visited the classroom weekly to work on projects together. Not only did my daughter gain academically from this relationship, but socially as well. It created a sense of shared community and pride, for both the younger and older students, important factors in a school that are too often overlooked. (Plus, we wound up with a great babysitter!)

    Further, my wife and I are working parents, as are the majority of Ferryway parents. The extra time that the children spend at the school is not robbed from their family time. For most, it just reduces the amount of time that the students would otherwise have to be in day care or simply be on their own before parents get home from work.

    This school has been a real blessing and its staff can’t be commended enough. I thank NEAToday and Cindy Long for highlighting the program. Education is not a competition and ideas that work deserve to be shared. Thank you for sharing this one!

  • I’m glad Josh is so pleased with his daughter’s school. I do not, however, believe it is the longer day that makes that school so special. Among other things, the elementary school I attended also had a mentoring program in which well-behaved, not necessarily high-performing, 4th-6th graders worked with kinder through 3rd graders several days a week. It was wonderful! It did not require a lengthened day though, only an innovative staff. At that time, there were also teacher’s aides in the classrooms and no before and after school care. Josh’s comment that an ELT school reduces the amount of daycare a working family must provide hits on a trend I find very disturbing in education today. Schools are taking on too much of the responsibility of parenting our nation’s children. Parents should be raising their children, spending time with them, and providing a safe and nurturing environment outside of school that the children flourish in. Granted, many parents do not. However, schools should not gear their curriculum and schedule to only those students who do not have a good home life. If the government wants to take on babysitting the nation’s children, it should open after school daycare centers. It should call them daycare centers, staff them with babysitters who have not already taught a full day, and are not going home with a pile of grading and a list of research and lesson planning to do. It’s time to stop putting the responsibility of parenting, as well as educating, children onto our teachers who only get 9 months with each child and must split every minute of that time between 30+ children. I am a teacher, and I know that no matter how much I work with a child, I can never have as much influence on him or her as parents do. Parents need to be held accountable and to step up to the job they take on when they bring a new life into this world! America’s teachers have been put in an impossible position and it only seems to be getting worse.

  • Josh

    @Debbie

    Didn’t think my comments would be controversial. It appears that you think that just because my wife and I don’t get home from work before 3:30, that we don’t “raise our children” “spend time” with them, or “provide a safe and nurturing environment outside of school” in which they “can flourish.” You go on to suggest that I and my neighbors don’t provide a good home life for our children. That’s absurd and demeaning.

    Let me repeat: The ELT is not babysitting! It is a program that works.

    Every teacher I have been in contact with at the Ferryway supports the ELT program. It is a big factor in giving them the ability to organize and structure meaningful school days. There is time during the day to plan, a support network of colleagues and administrators, and increased pay. All of those factors make for a better working environment, not a worse one. And it shows. The spirit of the administration and staff is contagious and the students are empowered by it. No place is perfect, but the students love their school!

    I take those comments personally. But I also was moved to write again because, Debbie, I wanted you to know how your words came across to me. And Debbie, let me be clear, I agree with you! I bet we’re on the same side on more issues than we differ. I agree that parents need to be held accountable. And I really do believe your comments were meant to be constructive. But let’s keep our discussions targeted. Do you know how I and my neighbors raise our kids? When you make comments like those that suggest that you do, it hinders progress. You want to have a discussion about the role of parents in a kids life? Fine. Let’s do that somewhere else. The ELT has absolutely nothing to do with parenting, and everything to do with providing a good education for kids.

    Let’s not tear down a positive program that works because of ulterior or unrelated agendas.

  • Karen

    I am a mother and a teacher. I do not see the benefits of a longer school day. My 2nd grader is tired as it is by the time she gets home from school. She receives so much homework (about an hour a night). We have enough time to get home do homework, cook supper, and then it is time to put her to bed. I rarely have enough time to work on enrichment or remedial with her. On the weekends we spend time going over skills that she needs reinforced or enrichment. The school administrators need to make better use of the school day. Teachers want to teach but are always interrupted. I really believe that the longer school day should be for under performing students especially those that don’t have home support. This will cut down on costs and give the students more accountability. If they receive a D or F in a class or don’t pass the state test, they stay for the longer day that semester. I bet you would see an improvement in those students who on a day to day basis are reluctant learners.

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