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Longer Days, Higher Test Scores

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I can only imagine the whining that ensued when students in 10 Massachusetts schools were told that their school day would stretch from a 6-hour schedule to an 8- or 9-hour day. But the results are in, and according to this article in the Boston Globe, it's working.

The students in schools with longer days scored higher on the MCAS--Massachusett's state-wide standardized test--in math, English, and science across all grade levels than students in schools with a normal schedule, according to a report released on Friday. It makes sense to me that being in school for a longer amount of time would increase students' test scores, but what is more surprising is how schools are making use of the additional 2 or 3 hours.

From the article, it seems like most teachers aren't using the extra time to cram in more information--instead, they're adding in hands-on activities to reinforce the curriculum and explore topics more fully. Also, a lot of schools are giving kids a chance to take electives, like art and sports activities, which have been squeezed out of the schedule because of time constraints, say the principals.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what is boosting achievement for these schools, but I'd be willing to bet that at least part of it has to do with motivating students through creative, engaging activities, and giving kids a chance to relax and explore non-academic subjects that interest them.

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This is an intriguing notion in this age of "high-stakes testing" and seemingly artificial accountabilty. We seem to have forgotten about educating the whole child and the fact that each of us has gifts to bring to the table - some of which cannot be measured by these tests. While we are compelled to abide within the parameters of decision-makers from outside the educational realm, we are equally shackled by other decisions. Decisions like when we can start school, how long the school day and year can be and especially what we pay our professional educators - many of whom can no longer afford to own a home and raise a family.

Without an educated populace, democracy is destined to fail (Do we still have a democracy?). Without a younger generation of citizens whom are able to discern relevant information and apply it to solutions of problems not yet even imagined, our country (if not our species) will inevitably decline.

It is easy (and politically expediant)to attack our educational system (admittedly, it [like other Institutions}can certainly improve), but more difficult to support the types of changes that have been well researched and documented. The phrase "You get what you pay for" comes to mind.

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