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Charters and Extended Learning Time

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Many schools and districts continue to push to expand the length of the school year from the typical 180-day schedule to 190 or 200. Yet as the New York Times reports this week, while that idea holds particular appeal among charter schools, some traditional public schools have been forced to scale back longer school years for financial reasons.

According to the National Center on Time and Learning, a nonprofit research group in Boston, about 170 schools across the country have lengthened their school years over the past few years to 190 days or longer, and more than 140 of them are charter schools, the Times reports.

Obama administration officials have spoken favorably of lengthening the school year, pointing out that some of the world's top performing countries require students to spend a bigger chunk of the year taking classes than the United States does. Efforts to extend the school year sometimes meet with resistance from parents and others who worry about students being overburdened, or about having to adjust families' vacation schedules, and so on. Another issue: the research is relatively thin on the benefits of extended learning time, and what works best under what circumstances.

But the Times also points out that some school districts that have rolled out longer school years have subsequently curtailed those efforts because of budget cuts. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has urged cash-strapped state and local officials battered by revenue losses during the economic downturn and its aftermath to avoid making cuts that reduce students' classroom time. But state and schools have not always heeded that advice.

If you're a charter school operator, or an administrator in a traditional school district, are you adjusting the length of the school year, or have you considered it? And what were the factors that led you to make a change, or hold back?

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