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Longer School Days?

Struggling schools look for ways to improve

By Tiffany Chaparro | March 26 , 2007

kids working at school
Some education experts think children need more time in school. (Photo: Mark Sterkel/Odessa American/AP Images)

March 26, 2007

The typical school year for most kids in the United States is about 180 days long. Students usually spend about six and a half hours a day in school. According to some education experts, that may not be enough time.

Maryland is one of several states thinking about adding one to two hours to the school day. Many urban schools—in states like New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut—are worried there just isn't enough time in the school day for children to learn.

"What we're concerned about is that the way we have things set up is clearly working for some students, but then there's this significant group of students that we're not serving," said Kevin M. Maxwell, a school superintendent in Maryland.

Maxwell is currently working on plans to help Maryland middle schools in Anne Arundel County. One recommendation education leaders are considering is to lengthen the school day.

Schools like those in Maryland are under added pressure to improve because of requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act. The law, passed in 2002, requires annual standardized testing in schools to measure students' progress. If test results at a school do not improve from one year to the next over a few years, the school can lose federal funding and—in some cases—may be forced to close.

"When you start realizing that we're really having a hard time raising kids to standards, you see you need more time [to teach them]," said Christopher Gabrieli. Gabrieli is part of Massachusetts 2020, a nonprofit education group that supports longer school hours.

Since making the school day longer is very expensive for school districts, many states only want to add hours at schools with a significant number of students who clearly lag behind.

The Reaction

Some parents are worried that an extended day might be too exhausting for students. There are also concerns that longer school hours will take away from family time.

A longer school day wouldn't just affect students. Teachers and other school staff members would have to stay longer during the school day. This means teachers' salaries would have to be increased, raising costs even more.

Still, some teachers are excited that they could have time to include more creative lessons, as well as art and music.

"We can't continue on and survive if we keep the school system the way it is," said Raleigh Buchanan, a superintendent from Haverhill, Massachusetts. "We have to redesign it."


Critical Thinking Question

Read today's news story, and then answer the following question.

Do you think the school day should be longer? Why or why not?

Join a discussion of this question on our bulletin board.


About the Author

Tiffany Chaparro is a contributing writer for Scholastic News Online.

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