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Boston Teachers to Vote on Lengthening the School Day

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Boston teachers vote this week on a proposal to add 40 minutes a day—the equivalent of an additional month—to 60 of the district's elementary and middle schools.

On December 26, following months of sometimes stalled negotations, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced a tentative agreement with Boston Public Schools, the BostonTeachers Union, and the city.

Under the proposal, nearly 1,900 teachers would receive $4,464 a year for the extra hours of work, including an additional 75 minutes a week for individual and collaborative planning time and professional development.

The new schedule will affect about 23,000 students in kindergarten through 8th grade who currently attend elementary school for six hours a day and middle school for six hours and ten minutes a day.  Each school would decide how to use the extended time, which is intended to provide help for students falling behind in class as well as enrichment activities in a variety of subjects including the arts, computer coding, athletics, and foreign language instruction.

"With this agreement, we are transforming the definition of the 'school day' in the Boston Public Schools," said Interim Superintendent John McDonough in an email to Education Week. "We are building on the value of collaborative planning for teachers and educators in an affordable and sustainable way."

Another 38 elementary and middle schools already have longer days as a condition of being designated as state turnaround schools, through pilot programs or because they're charter schools and have that flexibility, according to  Denise Snyder, the district communications director.

Although the union office staff and negotiating committee unanimously endorsed the tentative agreement, that may have been more of a matter of acquiescing to the inevitable, suggested Richard Stutman, the president of the Boston Teachers Union.

"I wouldn't say we want to do this. I think it's more accurate to say there are schools around the country being forced to do this and legislation around the country that is forcing this to happen. One way or another it is happening, and the prevailing sentiment among people who support it is we need to get out in front of it," Stutman explained in a phone call with Education Week.

"We're not saying it's a bad idea," he clarified, "but a lot of people don't have the time in their busy lives to do this, so they're not overjoyed."

In addition to the extra planning time, the tentative agreement also provides another $1,000 apiece to 400 teachers, selected by each school site council, to develop and facilitate the teacher collaboration sessions.

The entire union membership, including teachers at schools that would not be impacted by the initiative, need to approve the agreement. If it's ratified, the program would be rolled out in three waves of 20 schools a year starting next fall.

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