23,000 Boston Students to Benefit from More Learning Time

We are excited to hear over our holiday break that leaders in Boston announced a tentative agreement with the Boston Teachers Union to lengthen the school day at 60 Boston Public Schools.  Mayor Martin Walsh, Superintendent John McDonough and Boston Teachers Union President Richard Stutman announced the plan to add forty minutes onto the school day beginning in 2015-2016. Elementary students currently have six hours of class time in Boston public schools, while middle school students have six hours and ten minutes of class time. As Scot Lehigh pointed out in his Boston Globe opinion piece, forty minutes may not seem like a lot, but we are hopeful, that this time is used well to rethink how time is used overall in each school. 

Our Co-Founder and President, Jennifer Davis, released a statement:

“I applaud Mayor Walsh, Superintendent McDonough, and BTU President Stutman for their leadership in acknowledging that we have to provide our teachers more time to work and learn together as peers and also more time to work with their students. Boston's diverse students will also benefit from the broader academic and enrichment opportunities that a redesigned and expanded school day enables.”

This new plan will be implemented in 60 select elementary and middle schools around the city, allowing nearly 23,000 students to have a longer school day. The new plan will be rolled out in 3 waves, starting with 20 schools next fall.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh described his view on lengthening the school day, saying, “We know that when our students have more time to learn, they have a better chance of succeeding.”

The new proposal still needs to be approved by the union’s full membership and the Boston School Committee but School Committee President Michael O’Neill sounded optimistic about its passage and said the proposal would benefit art, music, drama, foreign language and other underserved subject areas. Each school community will also now come together to develop plans for their new redesigned and expanded school day.

In a Boston Globe opinion piece posted on Monday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan also applauded Massachusetts for the Commonwealth’s innovative achievements in education achievements, writing:

“In many ways, Massachusetts is now helping to lead the country where it needs to go in education… progress is being made on closing the critically important achievement gaps that exist for economically disadvantaged students and students of color: the state has seen impressive achievement gains among African American and Hispanic students over the last eight years…[The Lawrence School District] progress exemplifies that collaborative, courageous leadership can work to transform an entire school district from chronic poor performance to high performance. And it has been done not through a top-down, one size fits all approach, but though empowering schools to innovate, expanding learning time, constructive partnership with the union and strong teacher leadership.”

There is a bit of hometown pride that comes when your home district announces an agreement to expand learning time. We know that this agreement was not reached without compromise or difficult decisions, but we are excited to see the opportunities it presents for students and teachers. The Commonwealth has long been a leader in putting forth strong models of expanded learning time schools, and we are hopeful that the schools in Boston will join them.