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Extra Time: Is It the Solution for Raising Achievement?


With the goal of dramatically improving student achievement, many people are asking: What can schools do?

Offer extra time, some say.

Yesterday, the Center for American Progress released two reports on the topic. In one, Elana Rocha gives a sample of what more than 300 districts have done to expand learning time. In the other, Marguerite Roza and Karen Hawley Miles explain how districts can pay for such projects.

At a session discussing the reports, a key aide to Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said on Monday that there may be federal help on the way. This week, Sen. Kennedy plans to introduce a bill that would authorize grants to states to support districts' efforts to increase learning time, said Carmel Martin, the general counsel for the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

The program would authorize $150 million a year for the grants. District grants would add between $1,200 and $1,400 per pupil in districts (about what Massachusetts districts are given to expand learning time in a private-public program). States would need to match the federal dollars. The authorization would grow over the five-year life of the bill.

The object, Martin said, is to "get this seeded throughout the country and have people trying different models that we can study."

The program may have the added benefit of answering the critics' assertion that NCLB has narrowed the curriculum, particularly in high-poverty schools, she added.

The program could give students "more time on task to reach high standards ... without sacrificing art, music, and other enrichment activities," Martin said.


In psychology 101 there is a phenomena: When individuals are given a specific amount of time to complete a task, they accomplish the task.
Therefore, what sense will it be to give more time if it is highly likely that the schools will use the time toward MORE reading and math because that is what the federal government focuses on?

Fire! Ready. Aim.

This would have been great BEFORE NCLB I. It still needs to be done before we expect improvements in high poverty systems secondary schools under NCLB II.

But this time we need to plan ahead how to use the time. Tutoring would be part of the answer. More important, however, would be more classroom instruction. More important still, would be holistic hands-on activities, that bring kids out of the clasroom, schools, and neighborhood.

Come to think of it, that's the logic of both Obama's proposal, and the Ed Sector's report on time

How about doing the obvious first – how about more money for libraries? Studies show that children of poverty have very little access to books, given access most children read, and when they read their reading, writing, spelling, grammar and vocabulary get better. And of course we know that children of poverty score lowest on reading tests. Gerald Bracey has shown that when we control for poverty, American children look good on international reading tests: Poverty IS the problem.

Our recent research (with Syying Lee and Jeff McQuillan) shows that library quality is a significant predictor of reading test scores, even when we control for poverty. This is true in the US (NAEP scores) and is true of the PIRLS test, given fourth graders in 40 different countries.

Clearly, children of poverty need more access to books.

The research is overwhelming. Yet we are always ready to consider any other possibility other than libraries.

The feds just announced grants totaling $18.2 million for school libraries in high poverty areas. There are about 13 million children in poverty – that's less than $1.50 per child.

At the same time, we have wasted 6 billion on Reading First, with no positive results, and we are now ready to spend up to $1500 per child into extending the school day. The sum of $1500 per child, invested properly, enough interest to support and improve school libraries in high-poverty areas forever, and help end our literacy problem once and for all.

Stephen Krashen

GREAT comment! I am always astonished at how blind people are to issues of poverty and the importance of libraries and access to quality books for the young, the aged and those in between who live in places of poverty!

I don't know what I would have done without the public library on O'ahu. There was only ONE public library when I grew up, and the two elementary schools in pre-school to grade 8 I attended didn't have school libraries.

Fortunately, when I was in grades 1 through 6, each month, we kids would pile into cars of parents and off to the only public library we'd go. What a treat that was. My papa would also take me to the public library (no charge for entry and a world of wonder) if he had time between the two jobs he worked to support his family.

Till today, besides the beaches, Waimanalo, China Town, Manoa Valley, Tantalus, the Pali Lookout, Ala Moana Park, Punchbowl National Cemetery (where the soldiers are buried and where my father's remains are), the old Banyan tree at the Honolulu Zoo in Waikiki (where I swung from air roots and hid among), the statue of King Kamehameha 1st, I'olani palace (where the ali'i—royalty and Lili'uokalani, the last living queen of the Hawaiian nation was incarcerated, held under house arrest and died) lived, the ditch on Liholiho St. (where I caught tadpoles and caterpillars), THE OLD STONE Library where I spent many, many hours even during high school is still a favorite place.

I can still smell and feel this library; it is in my bones and in my spirit. This library paved the way for my learning.

When I think of all the experiences our children have missed and continue to miss because of NCLB and high stakes testing, my heart weeps.

There are so many nonsensical things going on because of NCLB—like practicing ad nauseam for high stakes testing, rallying for high stakes testing, filling in dumb bubbles for dumb high stakes tests, and then being sorted, labeled, categorized, and punished or rewarded like Pavlov's dog, because of those lame tests. Egads, how far from learning filling in bubbles is.

Today across these United States, our students are poor in meaningful learning experiences, but rich in filling in bubbles, which do not add value, except make the Halliburtons of education more money than they will ever need in several people's lifetimes.

I get so weary of fighting insanity, corporate greed, and those who make policy (the standardistos, politicos, and business folks), but who have not a clue.

Thanks for your reasoned, persistent posts about the importance of libraries and issues of poverty, Dr. Krashen!

Puhleeze! Learning is about engagement first, not time. You cannot throw $$ at a problem whose fix is motivation of the heart to learn. There has always been enough time to learn but too many excuses for finding a $$ or "I did a good deed for education" fixes. Come on, people, find a kid and encourage that one to learn something in a fun way. Poverty or affluence are NOT the factors you seem to think. When legislators start throwing money at a non-money problem, I tremble cause here comes more legislation to justify their existence and inevitably more taxes to line their pockets ... How do you think all these lifelong legislators retire in luxury? Focus! It is about the kids learning NOT about the adults getting credit! What are each of you doing to encourage individual kids in your community?


Good point. An incredibly small fraction of a school day goes into "engaged learning." First take off the top the totally irrelevant stuff (lunch, announcements, passing in the halls, bathroom breaks, waiting, etc). The get down to the "time on task." The portion of this that actually matches where a student is in their learning journey--this is the engaged learning time. I like that definition better than the assumption that everything's gotta be "fun." Actual learning does set off those aha endorphins. Making the day longer doesn't do much to increase the chance of hitting on it.

Education is about engagement.

The key is time on task.

Extra time must address activities, trips, and other holsitics activities that supplement the current time. The first priority still must be engagement.

Our real focus should be equity for poor children and schools. Our real educational goal must be a learning culture worthy of all. Like Robert Pondicio says, much of the achievement gap is actually the time on task gap.

Real accountability would focus on time on task. We could have students with cell phones programmed to buzz at certain times. The students would then write journal entries of what they see,engagement?, disruption? teachers on cell phones?

If we had accountability that made sense I'd be a real accountability hawk just like I am in my own classroom. If you get what you measure, NCLB will always produce gamesmanship. I loved to see what we'd get if we measured engagement and time on task.

By the way, what are you saying to a students when you respect their time and you are fully committed to learning from bell to bell. Fundamentally, you are telling them that you love them.

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Recent Comments

  • john thompson: Education is about engagement. The key is time on task. read more
  • Margo/Mom: Sandra: Good point. An incredibly small fraction of a school read more
  • Sandra Shelton: Puhleeze! Learning is about engagement first, not time. You cannot read more
  • Yvonne Siu-Runyan: GREAT comment! I am always astonished at how blind people read more
  • Stephen Krashen: How about doing the obvious first – how about more read more



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