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Report: Longer School Day Can Help Common-Core Implementation

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By guest blogger Alyssa Morones

Washington

A new report makes the case that a school day that is both longer and "redesigned" is a powerful recipe for helping districts across the nation as they seek to implement the common-core standards. The point was underscored at a Jan. 31 event to discuss the report and its implications.

"The time is now insufficient [in the school day] to do the job that we're asking kids to do," said Paul Reville, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (and a former Massachusetts secretary of education), during the event.

The report focuses in part on the need for professional development opportunities, especially as teachers grapple with implementing the new math and English/language arts standards in their classrooms, and encouraged the idea of embedding time for this within a longer school day.

"Teachers need more time and support to build the skills and new techniques around teaching the common core," said Jennifer Davis, the president of the National Center on Time and Learning, in an interview prior to the event. "The research is becoming clear that part of that time should be embedded within the school schedule."

The new report was jointly produced by Ms. Davis' group and the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based think tank.

The panelists stressed that adding time to the school year shouldn't just mean longer classes, but a more innovative learning model as well.

"Extending learning time is not just about adding time, it's about redesigning how that time is structured," said Sharon Contreras, the superintendent of the Syracuse City school district in New York.

For example, in Syracuse, the district partners with cultural institutions to enhance instruction, she said. Though previous reports and professional-development tools have touted the benefits of outside partnerships for after-school programs, this report looked at their possible benefits during the regular school day.  

The institutions and universities partnering with the district are able to help teach enrichment lessons to students, Contreras said. While the students are in these lessons, classroom teachers have time within the school day for professional development and collaboration, she added.

The panelists stressed the need to build a sustainable model (including sustainable funding) for extended learning time and professional development, even after the initial common-core implementation process is over.

"At the end of the day, the extended learning time model is not just a transition model to get common core implemented," said Michael Cohen, the president of Achieve, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that helped with the development of the standards.

The report included a variety of recommendations for expanding the school day and year. These include:

  • States and districts should pass legislation and enact policies that empower schools to lengthen and redesign the school day and year as they transition to the common core;
  • States, districts, and schools should use existing federal and state resources to fund high-quality expanded learning time school models;
  • Schools should be intentional with schedule redesign plans to ensure they aren't just doing "more of the same"; and
  • National teacher and education-reform organizations should collect and share best practices and innovative models of collective-bargaining agreements that enable expanded time in school.

After-School Providers Can Help With Common Core

Meanwhile, another recent report, issued by the After-School Alliance and the MetLife Foundation, makes the case for how after-school programs can be an ally in implementation of the new standards.

"After-school programs—many of which already focus on engaging students in hands-on learning experiences and long-term projects that require students to ask questions, dive deeper into content, experiment with concepts and think critically about problems—are an ideal partner to support teachers and schools in their work with the Common Core State Standards," the report says.

For example, the New Jersey School-Age Care Coalition's Support Student Success program provided support to help after-school programs better understand the common core and how it relates to their programs, the report says. The group also worked with local schools to identify ways to collaborate with after-school programs to further integrate a focus on the standards in after-school activities.

In addition, the Rhode Island Afterschool Plus Alliance held information sessions and presentations on the common core for local after-school programs to discuss ways their programs related to the common core and worked with the state education agency to build joint professional development opportunities for classroom teachers and after-school educators.

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