In a recent rant on education reform, a good friend asked me what I meant by a re-designed school day. Before I went into my spiel of how important it is to have a well-rounded education, a light bulb of tangible prose went off and I simply said “a re-designed school day is one that is interesting enough that students want to go to school.” When I read an article yesterday that opened with a senior at Northeast Preparatory High School in Rochester, New York say she now wants to go to school because it is now more fun, relaxed, and interesting, I shot it over to my questioning friend with the subject: PROOF RE-DESIGNING WORKS!
Seen as more of an opportunity gap than an achievement gap, the Rochester City school district recognizes that students from families with more financial resources simply have more opportunities. The question becomes how do we work together as a community to offer our students a well-rounded education that includes dance, drama, and music? The real challenge- how can we make school more appealing than the streets?
Rochester school district Superintendent Bolgen Vargas’s strategic change is expanding school days. He’s betting that lengthening the hours of instruction and the school year will reverse the district’s persistently low performance. The key to this approach? It relies on a wraparound approach to educating children. While district teachers provide most of the grade-level academic instruction, enrichment activities, social-emotional counseling, and tutoring are delivered through an elaborate circuitry of volunteers and outside organizations.
The leadership in Rochester demonstrates the diversity and the commitment needed to propel a movement that not only challenges the status quo but engages citizens to mobilize for the real change needed to provide our children with the very best education we can offer. The evidence of this commitment is in the pudding- students there want to be in school. Suddenly their day is redesigned to meet their needs AND spark their interests– making the streets way less appealing.