As mandates for students have increased over the past few years, so have the demands on classroom time. In many schools, projects, lessons, and subjects that were standard parts of the school day now are gone or are shadows of their former selves. Teachers are constantly seeking ways to fit more material into the time they have.
Two authors said they have the solution to the teacher time-crunch: Give them more time.
In the book, Time to Learn: How a New School Schedule is Making Smarter Kids, Happier Parents, and Safer Neighborhoods, Christopher Gabrieli and Warren Goldstein argue that the current school day and year are outdated, impractical, and inadequate for the needs of todays students. In an age when many children live in homes with one parent or two working parents, the 6-6.5-hour school day condemns many children to hours in front of the television or a video game after school. If a parent is at home, he or she usually is shuttling children to music, sports, or other enrichment activities that schools no longer provide.
To break this cycle, Gabrieli and Goldstein advocate what they call New Day Schools, which have a revamped schedule and a school day that is one or two hours longer than what most schools have. This allows students plenty of time to cover all the academic areas and participate in music, sports, tutoring, and other academic and enrichment activities. Parents no longer would have to pay for those activities or scramble for after-school care. The authors cite schools where expanded learning time has made a significant difference in student achievement. One of the authors, Gabrieli, also is co-chairman of the National Center on Time & Learning.
Gabrieli talked with Education World about why he thinks the U.S. is overdue for a school-schedule overhaul.
Education World: How can educators use this book?
Christopher Gabrieli: Time to Learn is meant to be a tool that can stimulate conversation among educators about innovative ways to meet the needs of students. It challenges educators, policymakers, and parents to think big about what our children need in the school day and how schools can redesign the day with more time to meet those needs.
EW: How do teachers benefit from an expanded day?
Gabrieli: With more time [during the school day], teachers have more time to plan and more time to collaborate as well as more time for targeted professional development. Teachers also have more time to cover material with their students and to differentiate instruction and do project-based learning to ensure that students at all levels are able to learn the material. When asked the difference between the old schedule and the expanded schedule, one student said that with more time, the teachers answer my questions."
EW: You cite studies and examples of schools with expanded learning time that are successful. What or who are two of the biggest obstacles to revamping the school schedule in the U.S.?
Gabrieli: One challenge to expanding the school schedule is changing the conversation to redefine what the school day is: 6 to 6.5 hours a day for 180 days a year. Our world is changing and in order to allow all students the opportunity to have both math and music, to have the core academic classes as well as those that may engage them in a different way, we have to give them the time they need -- and give the teachers the additional time they need -- to be successful.
Additionally, as we look nationwide, Senators Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont recently introduced the Time for Innovation Matters in Education (TIME) Act, which authorizes $350 million next year -- and up to $500 million in 2014 -- to scale up effective reforms, based on practices in Massachusetts, to expand learning time for students by 30 percent, and comprehensively redesign the school schedule.
EW: Another hour or two in the school day could just mean more drill and kill time which will only leave students more bored and frustrated, some might say. How can administrators who want to expand their school day avoid that?
Gabrieli: Expanding learning time does not mean simply adding two hours to the school day; it is about fundamental change. A New Day School does not simply ask itself what it would do if it had an additional two hours at the end of the school day. A New Day School asks itself what it would do if it had a fundamentally-redesigned school day with more time.
EW: What would you say to people who would argue that the current school schedule has been able to meet students needs for at least a century?
Gabrieli: To that question, I would say that we are not meeting students' needs in the 21st century. The world has changed dramatically in the past 50 years and the school schedule has not changed to keep up. In fact, public college and universities report that nearly one-third of first-year student require academic remediation. Additionally, college teachers routinely observe that a shocking number of their first-year students -- even those from affluent suburban high schools -- cannot reliably write a paragraph of grammatical prose and approach their elementary math class with dread. More and more jobs require technological job competence, but in math competence, American students rank 25th among students from advanced countries such as Ireland, Hungary, Poland, Australia as well as India, China, and Japan
EW: A lot of children today -- especially those from middle-and upper-middle-class families -- already are overscheduled, racing to sports, dance classes, etc., leaving them and their families stressed. Wouldnt a longer school day or year just contribute to that stress level?
This e-interview with Christopher Gabrieli is part of the Education World Wire Side Chat series. Click here to see other articles in the series.
Article by Ellen R. Delisio
Copyright © 2009 Education World