When Dr. Jeff Smith became superintendent of the Balsz Elementary School District in Phoenix, Arizona in 2009, the school district was struggling. Two of the district’s five schools were classified as “underperforming” and faced potential corrective action. A state takeover of the entire school district was a real possibility.
At An Achievable Dream Middle and High School in Newport News, Virginia the expectation is that all students – 83 percent of whom qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch – will graduate from high school prepared for success in college and the workplace.
When Carlos and his friends first heard about plans to expand the school day at Orchard Gardens, they weren’t thrilled. “We thought we’d be really bored staying in school until five-thirty every day,” says Carlos, a seventh-grader who started as a kindergartner at Orchard Gardens. “But once we got used to it, we realized that school was actually more fun.”
By giving teachers more time to receive support and feedback on their teaching, expanded learning time can significantly strengthen instruction for students. At North Star Academy, there is a relentless focus on supporting teachers and helping teachers hone their approach to the classroom – and more time makes it possible.
Since the passage of No Child Left Behind, reading and math often have crowded out other crucial subjects, like science, civics, and history. Expanded learning time makes it possible for schools to restore these subjects to their rightful place in the curriculum. That certainly has been the case at both the Edith Starke Elementary School and Pierson Elementary School in Volusia County, FL, which have significantly increased time for science instruction.
Sondra Arnold didn’t feel like art had a place in Kuss Middle School’s increasingly rushed school day. As the sole visual arts teacher responsible for over 500 students, Arnold couldn’t find the time to plan the electives she had in mind – painting, drawing, sculpture outside of just ceramics, and even manga, Japanese comic book art – nor did her students have time to settle into the relaxed mindset they would need to tap into their artistic potential.
As part of Fort Logan Elementary School’s turnaround plan, students spend additional hours at school on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons, participating in art, music, dance, martial arts, leadership, and science classes. The time also allows for additional reading instruction, to ensure that even students who are falling behind are able to catch up and read at grade level.