Critics of expanded learning time often say “more of the same won’t change anything” or (my personal favorite) “when you are being scalded by boiling water, the last thing you need is more boiling water.” I have to say, it’s hard to disagree with that logic. But when I read articles about schools, such as those in Prince George’s County that are adding learning time creatively to meet the needs of their student’s, I have to push back.
As of yesterday, middle school students across Prince George’s County will be in the classroom 40 minutes longer than last year. How this will look in each individual school will differ as each school principal is free to decide how that time is used. Staff will look at each student’s needs and begin getting student’s the help they might need in areas like reading, math or English language skills. Some schools will utilize technology with iPads as part of a program to integrate technology into the entire curriculum (both intervention and enrichment) —to improve math, science, and reading skills. Others have seen school building improvements such as more music and art rooms for enrichment which can be utilized when teachers and administrators have determined how each student’s extra time should be used.
Given that the school doors just opened yesterday, it’s too early to tell what the additional 40 minutes will look like exactly. But what is promising is that schools are looking at the additional 40 minutes through a student driven lens. The additional time will allow specific interventions – in the form of core subject remediation and/or enrichment opportunities – to take place that moves beyond simply adding 40 minutes to the beginning or end of the school day. Instead, students will be engaged in a day thoughtfully constructed with more and better learning time – sans the scolding hot water.