In Boston, the school day just got a little longer.
Boston school officials and union leaders have reached an agreement to increase daily learning time by 40 minutes for nearly 23,000 kindergarten through eighth-grade students in Boston, Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced last week.
Districts across the state, including Cambridge, Fall River, Greenfield, Malden, Revere and Worcester have already successfully incorporated extended day schedules into teacher contracts.
When implemented correctly, increased learning time can help raise students’ academic performance and give teachers additional time to prepare for classes.
What matters is how the time is used, not just the additional minutes in the school day. To get positive results, schools must combine increased time with other effective practices a recent report from MassBudget details.
“Boston Public Schools have been saying for many years that we need a longer school day,” Michael O’Neill, chairman of the Boston School Committee told the Boston Globe. “But a longer day isn’t effective unless you also transform the quality of the education.”
In 2006, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to develop a specific grant program for extended school days. The state invests roughly $15 million each year in extended learning time grants.
Schools can use increased learning time to promote broader opportunities, especially in districts that serve low-income youth.
Low-income students generally benefit from fewer out-of-school resources than their higher income peers. Twenty percent of the highest-earning families spend almost seven times as much on enrichment activities than the lowest-income 20 percent.
A five-year study of grant recipients found no overall significant positive impact on student MCAS achievement. However, individual schools exhibited positive results.
Boston’s Clarence Edwards Middle School effectively used a longer school day for increased collaboration between teachers, increased instruction time and more effective use of student data to target academic support, improved school leadership, professional development and partnerships with community organizations.
Increased learning time has allowed other schools, like Boston’s Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School, to partner with outside groups that provide support for academic instruction, field trips and family engagement. Both schools have seen an increase in student scores on state assessments.
A longer school day does come with risks. There is the potential for teacher burnout or inadequate training for partner providers. But, an increased work day does not mean teachers simply teach more.
At Orchard, teachers received increased time for data analysis, discipline, school culture and instructional practices, a the MassBudget report finds.
“With this agreement we are transforming the definition of the ‘school day’ in the Boston Public Schools,” said BPS Interim Superintendent John McDonough in a statement. “We are building on the value of collaborative planning for teachers and educators in an affordable and sustainable way.”