This editorial by Scott Barton, principal and founding member of The Preuss School UCSD and TSC signatory, first appeared in the UT San Diego on November 9, 2012.
In a recent local poll, the majority of likely voters backed some educational reforms including extending the school year and the school day. As an educator and administrator, I was pleased to hear of this support. Unquestionably, what our students need is more time in school. I do not mean increasing time simply for the sake of adding time. This is about redesigning and expanding learning time for all students.
At The Preuss School UCSD in La Jolla, I see firsthand the impact of more and better learning time. Preuss is a charter middle and high school for low-income, highly motivated students who strive to become the first in their families to graduate from college. We employ a variety of research-based best practices proven to help prepare low-income students to be first-time college attendees. A longer school day and school year is one of these key practices. Our students are in school longer each day and for 23 days more than the typical student in California. After completing middle and high school, our students have accumulated almost an entire extra academic year.
With that additional time, we have been able to develop an environment where students are continually empowered to develop a greater sense of self confidence. We foster a culture of high academic performance and encourage intellectual risk-taking. We also use the time to offer art, music and physical education – subjects that are increasingly cut from other schools yet have been shown to improve students’ educational experience and can lead to greater academic achievement.
The results speak for themselves. Preuss graduates are consistently accepted to four-year colleges and universities at a rate of nearly 95 percent, and almost 100 percent are going on to some form of higher education. The Preuss School has been named the nation’s top “miracle high school” by Newsweek magazine, and given the no. 1 spot in the magazine’s list of “transformative schools” for the second consecutive year. We were also named the top charter school in California in a report released earlier this year by the University of Southern California’s Center on Educational Governance. These achievements are due – in no small part – to the power of expanded learning time.
And we are not the only school to recognize the impact of more learning time. Right now, more than 1,000 schools across the country are expanding learning time for their students, and using this additional time to help students succeed academically, to provide for a well-rounded education that includes arts and sports, and to facilitate teacher collaboration and professional development. I am proud to have signed on as a signatory to the Time to Succeed Coalition, a national coalition advocating for expanded learning time in our nation’s high poverty communities. While we may not agree on everything, all the signatories believe in the tremendous impact expanded learning time can have.
You can learn more about the Time to Succeed Coalition at www.timetosucceed.com. I hope you will join with me in supporting expanded learning time. With the current 175-day school year, California already has one of the shortest school years in the country. But if we want students to get the transformative education they need to succeed in life, what we need is more time in school, not less.