Thoughtful Use of Expanded Time

orchard gardens

Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School
Boston, MA

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.”

Orchard Gardens was a school with significant challenges. Situated in one of Boston’s poorest neighborhoods, it had five different principals over seven years. During that time, the share of students scoring at or above proficient in reading or math stagnated below 20 percent.

One of the biggest reasons for my students’ success this past year was the extended period of time with them.

In 2010, Orchard Gardens’ new principal, Andrew Bott, worked with his leadership team, faculty, and community partners like Citizen Schools to expand learning time. With the new school schedule, students and teachers are noticing a difference. “One of the biggest reasons for my students’ success this past year was the extended period of time with them,” says Ben Rockoff, an administrator at the school who taught seventh-grade math during the 2010-2011 school year.

Of course, more time does not just mean more of the same. Teachers at Orchard Gardens have more time to review and assess student learning data, making it possible to identify areas where individual students are falling behind. “From that information, I might spend more time with that student on those concepts during class, or work with them one-on-one outside of class,” Rockoff says.

The expanded schedule has not just made room for more math and reading; it has also created more time for art and music, physical education, and foreign languages. Students at Orchard Gardens have access to everything from Mandarin classes to theater. Orchard Gardens also offers students homework support, apprenticeship opportunities, and college readiness courses.

These learning opportunities help make school more engaging for students like Carlos. And although Orchard Gardens is still a work in progress, the initial results are impressive. Students have more time for both academic and enrichment opportunities, teachers have more time for collaboration, and student performance on state reading and math exams jumped 10 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Orchard Gardens is making the case that with thoughtful use of expanded time, transformation is possible.