This weekend, the New York Times Sunday Dialogue tackled the question of whether students need more time in school. Readers were invited to respond to this letter, and a lively debate ensued. We want to keep the dialogue going! We’ve posted more responses below and we’re inviting your responses as well. Submit them here and we’ll continue to run them all week.
I agree with Ms. Stewart’s articulate expression of the need for expanded learning time in our nation’s schools. As she explained, more time does not mean more of the same; rather it enables schools to re-imagine the school calendar and the overall educational experience, making room for more personalized instruction, a broader engaging curriculum, and new opportunities for teachers to collaborate. Across the country, over 1,000 schools have already embraced more and better learning time for their students.
Where I differ from Ms. Stewart is on the Common Core. More rigorous curricula in reading and math that require problem solving and other higher-order thinking skills essential for preparing today’s students for success in college and careers, while also effectively teaching science, foreign languages, and social studies will take more time. Fortunately, expanded calendars and schedules mean we don’t have to make trade-offs with other vital educational opportunities, like art, music, physical education, and exciting enrichment programs. They can all be part of an expanded, innovative school design.
Co-Founder; President, National Center on Time & Learning and TSC Signatory
I am a teacher at the Salemwood School in Malden, Massachusetts, which has 300 more hours in its school year than neighboring schools. We do this through longer days rather a longer year as Ms. Stewart advocates.
We educate a student population with extreme socio-economic diversity and over sixty seven different native languages spoken at home. A longer day gives our students what they need.
With the additional time, students have more opportunities to learn in each of the core subjects. Students are engaged in learning as they work collaboratively with hands-on projects, in special events and in small groups. English Language Learners have the time they need as they learn to read, write, speak and listen to English.
Expanded time also allows teachers time to collaborate with peers and plan effective and stimulating lessons as well as build stronger relationships with our students.
We at the Salemwood believe that Extended Learning Time highly benefits students and staff, however a full-year school year doesn’t necessarily have to be the answer. As teachers who see every day what it means to have more time in school, we believe that expanded time can be powerful when the time is used methodically for the good of the students and when teachers are active participants in the creation of a longer school day.
JENNIFER M. ELLIS
(K-4 Sheltered English Immersion Team)
Teacher, Salemwood School
Would year-round schooling, with intermittent short vacations, really be more in line with the schedules of working parents? I suggest we start by dealing with parents’ daily juggle. But there’s a more urgent reason to reinvent the school calendar, which comes down to one word: fairness. We rely on public schools to be America’s great equalizing force. But so much of deep, engaging learning happens outside of school, mostly among families who can pay for experiences like summer music camp or team sports. If we want all kids to grow up to lead productive lives, we should give all kids the learning time and opportunities they need for a fair chance to succeed.
LUCY N. FRIEDMAN
President, TASC and TSC Signatory