You are on page 1of 7

Running head: LONGER SCHOOL DAYS: THE EFFECT ON STUDENT LEARNING

Longer School Days: The Effect on Student Learning.


Amanda J. Mayo
University of New England

LONGER SCHOOL DAYS: THE EFFECT ON STUDENT LEARNING


The idea of longer school days is one that gets tossed around in education often. With
increases in rigor, student expectations and learning standards, many teachers are looking for
more time with students to meet those standards. With the question of extended time come a
lot of other questions: what would a longer school day cost schools? Does a longer school day
actually increase student learning? How can this extended time be used most effectively? How
would a longer school day affect those involved; not just the teachers and students, but parents,
community members, and policy makers? While there has been a lot of research done on the
impacts of extending school time, the results are mixed. Many believe extended learning time
will create higher achieving students and better schools; however there remain many questions
and uncertainties as to how to best make use of this time.
The rationale behind a longer school day is a sound one. As the Common Core standards
are adopted in most states throughout the country, the increased expectations of student
achievement requires more time be spent in every subject area. Schools and teachers are feeling
the time crunch and worrying about how to do everything, and do it well. When surveyed many
teachers estimated that meeting the standards in many subject areas and grades would take
considerably more time to teach than the time actually available during a standard school year
(Farbman, 2012).
Despite knowledge that it takes time to become proficient in new content and skills our
nations public school system has, by its rigid adherence to the conventional calendar of 180 sixand-a-half-hour days, essentially disregarded the fundamental connection between time and
learning (Farbman, 2012). The federal government has recommended an increase in learning
time as a strategy in school improvement efforts. Some states are taking that recommendation
and applying it to their educational goals such as the Massachusetts 2020 guidelines which call

LONGER SCHOOL DAYS: THE EFFECT ON STUDENT LEARNING


for an increase of 300 hours of learning time per year (Education Northwest, 2012). Regardless
of whether extended learning time is in states goals, many states, districts and schools are
looking at whether or not adding time is a worthwhile investment.
When looking at increasing learning time, there are multiple ways to approach it,
however one of the most favorable appears to be a longer school day. In the article Consensus
on Increasing Learning Time Builds, Gewertz (2009) cites schools found a longer school day
to be more cost-efficient than a longer year.Chmelynski (2006) also found a longer school day
to be more beneficial in terms of giving schools flexibility and giving teachers more time for
planning, professional development and collaboration.
While a longer school day may be more favorable than some other methods of extending
learning time, its not necessarily an affordable one. While numbers vary, its clear that adding
time to the school day can be an expensive endeavor. Chmelynski (2006) mentions a cost of
about $600,000 a year for schools adding about 300 hours of learning time while Gerwertz
(2009) found schools in Massachusetts spending about $1,300 per pupil to add 30% more time
to the school year. Gerwertz (2009) cited another study done by the Center for American
Progress in 2008 that found a range of $287-$720 per pupil increase in cost for that same 30%
increase in learning time. Karen Hawley Miles, executive director of Education Resource
Strategies, found a 16% increase in spending for 30% more learning time in most schools
(Gewertz, 2009). Regardless of the specific cost, it is clear that schools will have to be prepared
to increase their budgets along with their time. With recent budget cuts and funding difficulties,
this may be an insurmountable obstacle for many schools already struggling to meet the financial
needs of their schools.

LONGER SCHOOL DAYS: THE EFFECT ON STUDENT LEARNING


Looking past the cost of increased learning time there remains the fundamental question.
Does increased learning time correlate into higher student achievement? Farbman (2012) cited
that in a study of test data from Illinois schools the researchers discovered that total learning
time was one of the strongest predictors of student outcomes and that adding time was
associated with improved student outcomes, noting stronger effects for schools serving large
populations of at-risk students (Farbman, 2012). Farbman adds that having equal quantities of
time will not produce equally strong results (2012). Time alone does not equate to increased
learning. Its the use of that time that determines its success. In Consensus on Increasing
Learning Time Builds (2009), Gewertz cautions; One of the concerns sparked by the movement
to add time is that it risks simply being an extension of ineffective instruction. If the instruction
and learning opportunities occurring arent rich and student-focused, then there is no point
having that extra time.
Education Northwest (2012) cited evidence that there was a neutral to small positive
effect of extending school time on achievement., but were uncertain about how much additional
time had the most impact. The article also went on to explain that evidence suggests additional
time would have the greatest impact for at-risk and ELL students, but agreed with Gewertz and
Farbman that the quality of instruction is of greater significance than the time.
At-risk students are mentioned several times in resources as the ones who benefit the
most from extended learning time. Silva (2012) references the U.S. Department of Education as
saying increasing time is a quick win for turning around chronically low performing schools.
Data has shown that schools with increased time are able to focus on both core academic subjects
and allied arts such as art, physical education, and foreign languages. According to Silva (2012),
many schools utilizing extended learning time to improve teacher effectiveness and student

LONGER SCHOOL DAYS: THE EFFECT ON STUDENT LEARNING


engagement. They recognize that good teaching requires time to plan, just as good learning
requires more than seat time in a classroom. Again its seen that the time becomes the facilitator
to higher achievement and learning rather than the cause.
More time also means more social and emotional engagement with students. As academic
goals became more demanding over the past several years, many schools had to diminish
emotional and social development work that used to be a key part of classroom learning. With a
longer day, teachers are seeing that theres time again for both high-level academics and
emotional development (Jehlen, 2001). With more time in school teachers get more time with
students, time to know students better both as students and individuals. Time to nurture
relationships and help children develop a love of learning; rather than rushing through content
and preparing for assessments as is often the case (Jehlen, 2001. Silva, 2012).

What about those directly affected by a longer school day? While looking at student
achievement gives a picture of how a longer school day affects students and teachers, there are
other stakeholders who would be affected by such a change. There is little data to be found about
how those not directly involved in schools would be affected. According to Chmelynski (2006), a
longer school day appears more favorable to parents and staff then a longer school year.
Chemelynski also acknowledges that all of these stakeholders have to buy into such a change
and that includes parents, students, bus drivers, and football coaches, as well as teachers
(2006). Getting that kind of buy-in can be a difficult task as it means a complete turnaround of
family, bus, and sports schedules. While many may agree with the need and/or positive impact of
a longer school day, making such a dramatic structural change is sure to meet with a lot of
opposition.

LONGER SCHOOL DAYS: THE EFFECT ON STUDENT LEARNING


Research is showing that a longer school day can have a positive effect on student
learning. However, greater than time is quality. Over and over in resources it became clear to
researchers that well-rounded curriculums, teacher professional development, and engaging
learning experiences are much more important indicators of student achievement and school
success then time alone. However, time also becomes an essential element to doing all of these
things well. Its obvious that teachers and students need more time to meet all of the standards
and expectations thrust upon them, but more time wont bring about the intended changes unless
it is coupled with a commitment to more meaningful and engaging teaching strategies.

LONGER SCHOOL DAYS: THE EFFECT ON STUDENT LEARNING


References:
Chmelynski, C. (2006). Extend School Day and Year for NCLB?. Education Digest: Essential
Readings Condensed For Quick Review, 71(7), 41-44.
Debra, L. W. (2007). Kennedy pushes for longer school days. School Library Journal, 53(2), 16.
Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/211829574?accountid=12756
Education Northwest. (2012). What the research says (and doesn't say): Expanding learning time.
Education Northwest, Retrieved from http://educationnorthwest.org/news/2467
Farbman, D. (2012). The Case for Improving and Expanding Time in School: A Review of Key
Research and Practice. National Center On Time & Learning,
Gewertz, C. (2009). Consensus on Increasing Learning Time Builds. Education Digest: Essential
Readings Condensed For Quick Review, 74(7), 48-54.
Jehlen, A. (2001). Longer days, more learning. NEA Today, 19(5), 24-25. Retrieved from
http://search.proquest.com/docview/198836494?accountid=12756
Silva, E. (2012). Off the clock: What more time can (and cant) do for school turnarounds.
Retrieved from http://www.educationsector.org/sites/default/files/publications/OffTheClockRELEASED.pdf