As someone who has been thinking about the implications of expanded time in school for many years, I always find it instructive to consider the views of those who are relatively new to the subject and to think hard not only about the questions they have, but the reasons why they may have come up with those questions in the first place.
Such was my reaction to this recent blog post
by education consultants Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers in which they walk through some of the questions they have as they look around and see momentum building among policymakers toward providing a longer day and/or year—“a movement whose time is coming,” as they write. They begin by noting that the adoption of the Common Core State Standards will clearly have ramifications for classroom teaching:
Looking at the curriculum differently, moving toward more rigorous academic challenges, increasing the use of informational text, writing from sources, and increasing the use of academic vocabulary are just a few of the of the required shifts. … Teachers and leaders have already responded to these shifts with a call for more time in order to meet the requirements, which are to go deeper with rigor and higher expectations for student performance.
On this point, I’m quick to agree that the Common Core will likely mean more learning time is necessary to reach these higher standards. In my research paper “Case for More Learning Time
,” I point out that most teachers in Massachusetts—a state with standards approaching the rigor of the Common Core—do not think they have enough instructional time, while most teachers in Expanded Learning Time schools do.
It is Berkowicz’s and Myers’s list of questions that follows, however, that really got my attention—not because we haven’t heard them before, but because we hear them all the time. Most have to do with what it will really mean for schools and for the daily lives of students and their families if schools have more time. For example:
• Is it only for the students who aren't achieving?
• What would a longer school day mean for extracurricular activities? Could a longer school year cause new activities to be created...and funded?
• Does more time mean more of the same work for students or can we expand our options through the use of technology and virtual worlds?
• How will legislatures and governmental agencies deal with the higher teachers' salaries, renegotiating contracts, and infrastructure questions such as heat and air conditioning?
Unsurprisingly, these concerns are rooted in a perception defined by the status quo. Right now, it is the norm to have a school day and then a host of activities outside of school. Right now, we tend to think that more time is necessary only for struggling students. Right now, we might think that the way in which schools generally are staffed—all teachers there for the entire school day—is unchangeable.
What makes the expanded time movement so exciting, however, is that, fundamentally, it is not about adding to what we already have. Rather, we are seeking a transformation to new models of school organization, creative instructional methods, and novel means of furnishing all children with a well-rounded education. Surely, more time is necessary to enable these opportunities take shape, but the essential point is that the greater quantity of time will spur the innovation in quality we know our schools need to keep pace with the challenges of the global society.