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Boston School Board Gives Final OK to Lengthen Day at Elementary and Middle Schools

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Cross-posted from the District Dossier blog

By Corey Mitchell

Students in 60 Boston elementary and middle schools will spend 40 more minutes each day in class as part of a plan to boost academic performance and allow more time for teaching the arts and enrichment courses.

The school board passed the plan by a 5-to-1 vote this week, marking the final step in the approval process. Once fully implemented, the changes would cost the district about $12.5 million per year, with the gradual phase-in designed to blunt the impact on the district's annual budget.

As my colleague Kathryn Baron reported this week, Boston's move to longer days is just the latest among districts joining the steady trickle of school systems expanding learning time.

The first phase of the plan will roll out in 20 schools this fall, and take effect at 20 more in each of the following two school years.

City, school and union officials hope the change will boost student academic performance, especially in the city's lowest-performing schools.

"Boston's students deserve more learning opportunities," Mayor Martin Walsh said in a statement. "The extra 40 minutes will mean more time for academic learning, more time for enrichment opportunities, and more time for added supports for struggling students."

The school day changes will affect more than 23,000 elementary and middle school students; high schools will not be included.

The Boston teachers union membership ratified the deal two weeks ago. Under the agreement, teachers would be paid a roughly $4,500 annual stipend for their extra hours of work and would see the amount of time set aside for planning and training doubled, the Boston Globe reports.

Districts around the country have been experimenting with extended days for years. Until now, Boston's efforts went nowhere because of disputes with the teachers union over additional pay and how much say instructors would have in how the extra time is used.

The extra time will be used to provide additional instruction in math and English and expand opportunities for art, music, science, and other enrichment activities. Teachers will also have more time to plan lessons together and identify ways to help students struggling academically.

"Additional time, used well, will change the school day for both students and teachers, and will fundamentally change the way we do business in the Boston Public Schools," Boston schools Superintendent John McDonough said in a statement.

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