Florida mandated longer school day and more time devoted to reading for low-performing schools

25 Jan

The Mid Continent Research for Education and Learning (McRel) has great information posted at its site about school day length. According to McRel in the article, Extended School Days and School Years:

Does more time in school matter?
Several scholars have argued that simply extending school time in and of itself will not produce the desired results. Larry Cuban, a Stanford University professor of education, has argued for example that what matters most is not the quantity but the quality of time students and teachers spend together in the classroom (2008).
In our 2000 meta-analysis of the impact of school, teacher, and student-level variables on achievement, McREL concluded that student achievement can be strongly affected if schools optimize their use of instructional time.
In 1998 WestEd researchers Aronson et al. examined the research on time and learning and arrived at three conclusions:
◦There is little or no relationship between student achievement and the total number of days or hours students are required to attend school.
◦There is some relationship between achievement and engaged time, that subset of instructional time when students are participating in learning activities.
◦The strongest relationship exists between academic learning time and achievement.
However, in recent years some notable extended time initiatives have produced gains in test scores, graduation rates, and college attendance, including the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), which increases the amount of time students spend in school by nearly 60%, and Massachusetts 2020. Conversely, a $100 million effort in Miami to extend school days by one hour and add 10 days to the calendar produced no significant benefits. http://www.mcrel.org/newsroom/hottopicExtendedTime.asp

The key seems to be longer time spent in instructional activities.

The Center for American Progress’ issues brief, Expanded Learning Time By the Numbers examined school day length. Among the findings are:

Expanded learning time basics
655: The number of expanded learning time schools in 36 states, more than a quarter of which are standard district public schools.
300: The recommended minimum number of additional hours that schools should add to their school calendar to provide students more learning time and opportunities for enrichment activities.
6 to 20 percent: The increase in a school’s budget, depending on the staffing model, to expand learning time for students by 30 percent.
90 percent: The proportion of ELT schools that considered their longer day or year to be essential in meeting their educational goals in a survey of nearly 250 ELT schools.
20 percent: The increase in annual classroom hours that experienced teachers say they need to effectively teach the four core academic subjects—English language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science.
Other countries are racing ahead in education
197: The average number of days that a middle school teacher in Finland, Japan, and Korea spends on instruction per year compared to the 180 days in the United States.
10,000: The number of hours researchers estimate that students need to achieve expertise. There are approximately 800 annual instructional hours a year in U.S. schools, which means it would take 12.5 years for students to participate in 10,000 hours of schooling, given no loss of learning during the summer.
Students at low-income schools are being left behind
3,000: The average number of words in a low-income kindergartener’s vocabulary compared to the 20,000 in a middle-class kindergartener’s vocabulary.
Sixth or seventh: The grade at which approximately half of ninth graders at high-poverty schools are reading when they enter high school.
32 million: The size of the gap in word exposure between children in professional families (45 million words) and welfare families (13 million) that has accumulated by age 4. Children in professional families will have heard almost as many words by age 1 (11.2 million) as children in welfare families have heard by age 4 (13 million).
1.67: The average minutes per day that third, fourth, and fifth graders in high-poverty schools received explicit vocabulary instruction, or about 100 seconds.
Four: The maximum number of minutes per day teachers in low-income schools spent engaging their first-grade students with informational texts rich in academic language and content-area vocabulary, often because these resources were unavailable. http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/news/2010/04/22/7716/expanded-learning-time-by-the-numbers/

Expanded learning time and a focus on the basics can yield results.

Dave E. Marcotte and Benjamin Hansen reported in Education Next about the effect of time in school. In Time for School? Marcotte and Hansen report:

Our work confirms that increasing instructional time could have large positive effects on learning gains. Encouraging schools and districts to view the school calendar as a tool in the effort to improve learning outcomes should be encouraged in both word and policy. http://educationnext.org/time-for-school/

Research confirms there are certain traits of successful schools.

Catherine Gewertz reported in the Education Week article, Fla. Pushes Longer Day, More Reading in Some Schools:

Two years ago, Florida took a step no other state has taken to improve students’ reading skills: It required its 100 lowest-performing elementary schools to add an extra hour to their school day and to use that time for reading instruction. Early results suggest the new initiative may be paying off.
After only a year with the extra hour, three-quarters of the schools saw improved reading scores on the state’s standardized test, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT. Seventy of the schools earned their way off the lowest-performing list altogether.
“That extra time for reading instruction was really important for us,” said Kathy Shuler, who oversees the school transformation office in Orlando’s Orange County district, where all seven schools in the extra-hour reading program’s first year, 2012-13, improved their reading scores and are no longer on the list.
The Florida program arose from a 2012 law mandating the additional hour each day for “intensive reading instruction.” The law’s author, Republican state Sen. David Simmons, had taken note of a pilot program for four schools in 2007-08. Three boosted their school grades from D’s or F’s to C’s in Florida’s accountability ratings, and one vaulted to an A. He wanted to see more schools do what they had done.
“Done right, the benefits of this program are extensive and in some cases dramatic,” Sen. Simmons said.
Despite being a state mandate, the program has won over some school leaders and teachers. In fact, 30 schools that were required to participate in 2012-13 opted to keep it up this school year even though they’d gotten off the watch list.
Sen. Simmons said he hopes to persuade the legislature to expand the program, which does not come with any additional state aid, to all of Florida’s low-performing schools…. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/01/22/18florida_ep.h33.html?tkn=UYNFBnWvn5QCgOj0j76PFewH7P7W8gII2h34&cmp=clp-edweek&intc=es

Here is a PowerPoint of the legislative study http://www.edweek.org/media/18florida-extra-hour-presentation.pdf

OPPAGA Contacts
Mark West
Staff Director, Methodology
(850) 717-0534
Becky Vickers
Chief Legislative Analyst
(850) 717-0515
David Summers
Education Staff Director
(850) 717-0555

Motoko Rich reported in the New York Times article, To Increase Learning Time, Some Schools Add Days to Academic Year:

A typical public school calendar is 180 days, but the Balsz district, where 90 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch, is in session for 200 days, adding about a month to the academic year.
According to the National Center on Time and Learning, a nonprofit research group in Boston, about 170 schools — more than 140 of them charter schools — across the country have extended their calendars in recent years to 190 days or longer. ..
Education advocates have been calling for more school time at least since the 1983 “Nation at Risk” report presented an apocalyptic vision of American education.
Teachers’ unions, parents who want to preserve summers for family vacations and those who worry that children already come under too much academic stress argue that extended school time is not the answer. Research on longer school days or years also shows mixed results.
But studies also show that during the summer break, students — particularly those from low-income families — tend to forget what they learned in the school year. Getting back to school early, supporters of a longer calendar say, is one of the best ways to narrow an achievement gap between rich and poor students.
Many charter schools, including those in the academically successful KIPP network, attribute their achievement in part to longer days and calendars. President Obama has repeatedly promoted expanded school time, even inspiring “Saturday Night Live” to poke fun, with Seth Meyers saying in his Weekend Update segment that only “Catherine, the fifth grader nobody likes,” would support such a proposal.
Within the last two years, both the Ford Foundation and the Wallace Foundation have made multimillion dollar commitments to help nonprofit groups work with school districts to restructure the school day and year.
Advocates of longer school years say that the 180-day school year is an outdated artifact….
Critics say that with so many schools already failing, giving them more time would do little to help students.
“It is true that we have an unfair society, and it is true that kids who are coming from the poorer backgrounds and whose parents don’t do a lot of reading are losing reading skills over the summer,” said Peter Gray, research professor of psychology at Boston College. “But let’s look at other solutions.” He added, “Whatever job we give to the school system, they ruin it….”
“Better is as important as the more,” said Jeannie Oakes, director of educational opportunity and scholarship programs at the Ford Foundation. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/06/education/some-schools-adopting-longer-years-to-improve-learning.html?emc=eta1

See, Should summer break be shorter for some children? https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/should-summer-break-be-shorter-for-some-children/

There should not be a one-size-fits-all approach to education. For children who need a longer school year, that extra time should be available.

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, Chapter 1, first line
Russian mystic & novelist (1828 – 1910)

So it is with schools. There are certain elements that successful schools share. The Wisconsin Department of Education has a good guide about successful schools. Chapter One, Characteristics of Successful Schools , lists key elements. http://cssch.dpi.wi.gov/cssch_cssfsc1

Like, unhappy families, failing schools are probably failing in their own way.


Dave E. Marcotte and Benjamin Hansen , Time for School?Education Next, Winter 2010 / Vol. 10, No. 1 http://educationnext.org/time-for-school/

Education Secretary Arne Duncan on School Day’s Length video … http://video.answers.com/education-secretary-arne-duncan-on-school-days-length-516897086

It seems everything old becomes new once again, although a relentless focus on the basics never went out of style.

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr. Wilda.com

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