Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Failing Schools See a Solution in Longer Day

Failing Schools See a Solution in Longer Day

Found this article on Digg. I think it is worth a read. Below are somethings that jumped out at me.

"Pressed by the demands of the law, school officials who support longer days say that much of the regular day must concentrate on test preparation. With extra hours, they say, they can devote more time to test readiness, if needed, and teach subjects that have increasingly been dropped from the curriculum, like history, art, drama."

I think this sums up the problem nicely, "devote more time to test readiness." It all comes down to the standardized test. A teachers job is to facilitate student learning, and once a student learns something they own it. But this is not what teachers get to do. Instead, teachers get kids to cram for a test. Once that test is over, the knowledge is gone. No learning is taking place.

"A recent report by the Education Sector, a centrist nonprofit research group, found that unless the time students are engaged in active learning — mastering academic subjects — is increased, adding hours alone may not do much."

Simple, chair time in front of a teacher does not equal learning. We must allow the teacher freedom to get the students engaged in learning. If you do this is a normal school day, the learning won't end at the ringing of the last bell.

"Given that expense, New Mexico is acting surgically. The state is spending $2.3 million to extend the day for about 2,100 children in four districts who failed state achievement tests. The money, $1,000 a student, goes for an extra hour of school a day for those children, time they spend on tutorials tailored to their weaknesses in math or reading."

Individualized education works.

"Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the education committee, supports the idea of longer school days and is proposing $50 million a year, to rise to $150 million by 2012, under No Child Left Behind to train a corps of 40,000 teachers to help schools redesign academic content for those extra hours."

I think the big thing is the redesigning of academic content, not the additional hours.

"At Matthew J. Kuss Middle School here in Fall River, the time has bolstered instruction in reading, math and science as well as opening the way for electives in art and drama, forensics, karate and cooking — “the fun things for kids,” said Nancy Mullen, the principal — that had been pared away as the school’s standing fell."

So students something fun, they will learn about it. Without a teacher.

"At Kuss, students who were having trouble learning fractions built a scale model of a house from architectural drawings. Stephanie Baker, who teaches cooking, has posters around her room with math problems drawn from previous years’ state exams that she incorporates into her classes."

I am guessing the student had trouble learning fractions with a teacher presenting them just as numbers on an overhead. They weren't engaged. Build a scale model from a drawing, gets these kids engaged, learning is happening.

"Some parents in this working-class community, like John Chaves, father of a seventh-grader, Mindy, said they supported more time at school simply because so few are home earlier to welcome their children. “We’re never home at the time that they’re home, so at least we know where our kids are,” Mr. Chaves said."

I grew up in a great family and always look forward to going home. Latter in life, I realized not everyone was/is as lucky as me. Extra time in school could be a huge benefit to those kids who don't have a loving environment waiting for them at home.

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