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Connecticut School Gets Attendance Bump From Longer Days

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Amid the debate over the effectiveness of extended school days, at least one Connecticut elementary school says the extra time has been such a success that it's now in its third year, according to an article in the Hartford Courant

Casimir Pulaski Elementary School in Meriden lengthened its school day by 100 minutes, for an eight-hour day.  Rather than prompting a mutiny, like the one Education Week reported on in July that forced another Connecticut school to abandon its longer day, the new schedule seems popular with students. School officials told the Courant that attendance actually picked up at Pulaski.

"The kids are incredibly excited to come to school, more than I've ever seen in my life," said Dave Wheeler, who started teaching at Pulaski 42 years ago.

Casimir Pulaski enrolls a little over 700 students in kindergarten through 5th grade. It's part of the Meriden school district in New Haven County and, because of its low test scores, it's one of 30 districts in the state's Alliance District program that are eligible for funding to implement strategies aimed at improving student success.

Wheeler said student scores have increased in math and reading in the three years since the longer school day started. 

Researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Center for American Progress cited another potential benefit.  In a joint report that we wrote about last January, they theorized that longer days could benefit Common Core State Standards implementation by giving teachers more time for professional development around the new standards.

More than 1,000 schools in 36 states and the District of Columbia have extended school days, defined as an average of at least seven hours a day, according to a 2012 report by the National Center on Time and Learning.  That's up by 53 percent from the center's previous count in 2009.

Most of the schools are located in urban areas, and a majority of their students are considered low-income, based on their eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch.

The extended-day movement is, however, running up against some labor concerns. As we blogged about here earlier this summer, the teachers' unions in Chicago and Washington want longer days to be negotiated as part of the collective bargaining process and not between schools and state departments of education.

 

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