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Extended school days under consideration in District public system
But an independent evaluation found that, with the exception of higher science scores for fifth-graders, there were no statistically significant differences between schools on expanded schedules and those with conventional days.
"ELT seems to have had no significant effect on a whole range of student outcomes, including [standardized test] scores, attendance, participation in out-of-school activities . . . or level of engagement in school," said Elena Silva, a senior policy analyst at Education Sector, a Washington think tank.
KIPP DC Executive Director Susan Schaeffler, who said she is "passionate" about the extended day, said that a 30-minute expansion is not long enough and that extra time is meaningful only if it is accompanied by good teaching.
"Extending the day a half an hour is a step in the right direction, but it will not get you the results you need," she said.
Expense is a huge issue. Schaeffler estimated that it costs an extra $950 per student - over and above what KIPP charters receive from the District in the annual per-pupil funding formula - to underwrite their extended day, plus summer and Saturday programs. The gap is filled by private fundraising, although Schaeffler says the city should adjust the funding formula to support schools with longer days.
It means that to bring a KIPP-size school day to D.C. public schools would cost an additional $42 million a year.
An extra 30 minutes would be less costly. Cheh said that the District's existing collective bargaining agreements with teachers, custodians and office staff could allow for a seven-hour school day because the contracts require them to be at school for at least 71/2 hours.
The city's pact with the Washington Teachers' Union specifies "7.5 consecutive hours beginning no earlier than 7:30 a.m. and ending no later than 4:30 p.m."
Teachers union President George Parker is cool to the idea, saying that it would cut into time that teachers need to plan and collaborate. Most importantly, he said, the city needs to focus on more effective use of the available instructional time, which is often consumed by disciplinary issues.
"You can get 25 percent more time by being serious about discipline," Parker said, contending that administrators in many schools have failed to support teachers in removing persistently disruptive students from class.
Not all teachers agree with Parker. "An extra 10 minutes in each of my three reading classes would actually help quite a bit," said Maria Samenga, who teaches fourth grade at Harriet Tubman Elementary in Ward 1 and was honored last week with one of the District's Excellence in Teaching awards.
Steve Dingledine, a fifth-grade teacher at Stoddert Elementary in Ward 3 and one of the city's "highly effective" educators as assessed by the IMPACT evaluation system, said he'd support an extended day if it were used for more physical education and teacher planning time. "The kids have got to get more play in to balance the rigorous instruction, and teachers need more time to organize content and delivery," he said.
Marcie Bane, a parent with two children at Shepherd Elementary in Ward 4, said she welcomed the longer day.
"I would view it as a very positive thing," she said. "With all the testing pressures, an extra 30 minutes at the end of the day would be very useful."