I Don't Have Time to Tell You Why Longer School Days Aren't Enough

The concept of time is the topic of 100 proverbs and cliches. In the world of education reform, it definitely doesn’t feel like time is on our side. Every year of delay in debating, approving and implementing important policy changes — including expanded parental choice — is a year many students will not get back. But what about just making sure they are spending more time in school? Colorado is one of five states taking part in a three-year pilot program to keep thousands of students in school longer:

Spending more time in the classroom, officials said, will give students access to a more well-rounded curriculum that includes arts and music, individualized help for students who fall behind and opportunities to reinforce critical math and science skills.

“That extra time with their teachers or within a structured setting means all the world,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “It means it allows them to continue the momentum they had the day before. It means they don’t slip back over the summer. It allows them to really deliver.”

Ed News Colorado identifies the nine schools in our state — all in the metro Denver-Boulder area — that will be part of the TIME Collaborative. A few of the schools, the two in Denver and Jeffco’s Pennington Elementary, all have high free-and-reduced lunch populations, but Boulder County’s Centaurus High provides a different sort of demographic makeup.

As the New York Times‘ Motoko Rich points out, the nation already has about 1,000 public schools with extended learning days. Many of them are charter schools serving low-income students like the famous KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) Schools.

So will the pilot program work in Colorado or any of the other four states? Maybe. Insofar as the extended time makes use of effective instructors and program materials, and is tied into a broader culture of high expectations, the answer (especially for low-income students) will be Yes. But in many cases, that means other substantive changes will need to happen, too.

Do I have time right now to tell you what those changes ought to be? Well, no, but if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you probably have a good idea….