The School Day, Even Longer

clock photo
The clock ticks as our government seeks to make testy decisions as to whether or not to keep students in school longer. Photo by Sam Bailey-Loomis.

Several states will participate in a new federal program to lengthen the school day, according to a federal announcement last week. New York is one of the five states participating in this program along with: Colorado, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and yes, Connecticut.

The United States Department of Education is working with the National Center on Time and Learning to gain the support of states all around the nation. For some students, this will amount to up to 300 extra hours of the school year. If states or districts comply, schools will receive extra state and federal funding for the program.

A report released by the National Center on Time and Learning shows the number of schools offering longer school days or years has increased from 655 to 1,000 in the past three years. Also, while extended days were usually only found in charter schools, traditional district schools now account for 40 percent of all schools with longer days.

Students at Branford High School were asked about the possibility of such a change, and how they would feel if it were to happen in Branford. The results of the interviews varied. Right now, the school day ends at 2:25 p.m., longer than many schools in the region.

“I think it will increase the amount of learning we receive. It is a good step to increasing competition in our widening educated community,” explained Alec Boucher, a senior in strong agreement with the department of education.

However, Jenny Royka, a junior, was outraged by this change “I think it is unnecessary because we come to school for 6 or 7 hours already, and we have sports and homework… Colleges encourage us to be a part of teams and our community, so how would they [colleges] expect us to do that? Our budget already decreased and so many teachers laid off, I think it is really just crossing the line.”

Despite its intentions, this proposal affects more than just the students. Teachers, once this movement is enacted, would have to agree to sign a form stating that they will stay and work the new hours and would have to agree to negotiate and be lenient with the schools and the Board of Education.

Governor Dan Malloy and Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor were in Washington this month accepting the first of several annual $300,000 grants from the Ford Foundation and the National Center on Time and Learning. The general feeling behind this movement is to help low-income and struggling students who don’t have the benefit of tutors or other after school programs necessary to provide a sufficient education.

This new change will cost a substantial amount in order to afford teachers’ payrolls’ as well as other costs involved in keeping schools open longer. It will also require renegotiating contracts with teachers’ unions to allow some teachers to arrive at work earlier and allow others to stay later. Connecticut Education Association Executive Director Mark Waxenberg said he could support the initiative because it is “planned in collaboration with teachers”.

“The idea that we can tolerate different levels of achievement does not make any sense,” Governor Dan Malloy said according to an article from the CT Mirror, “It’s an extraordinary idea whose time has come”.

Although it may not apply to all schools, this is a spreading movement which will cost the State of Connecticut about $1,200 per student, which would cost Branford High School an outrageous amount and would likely result in job loss and severe cuts.

So far, East Hartford has followed through with this lengthening of the school day, and it is also in the interest of New Haven and Bridgeport. It is in the interest of most inner city schools, but it is enticing other school districts all over Connecticut.