Kids in Five States to Spend More Time in Class

A raised hand in a fifth-grade classroom in New York City last month

If you go to school in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York or Tennessee, your school day might soon be getting longer.

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Education was expected to make an official announcement – a plan to add at least 300 hours of classroom time to the school year, starting next year.

It’s an experimental program designed to make sure kids are getting a world-class education, according to school officials.

Not all schools in those states will be adding hours.

According to published reports, only around 35 or 40 school districts will be involved, at least at first.

But that still affects nearly 20,000 students, according to the Associated Press (AP).

In Massachusetts, the Herald News says two of that state’s school districts will participate — Fall River and Lawrence.

And in Connecticut, schools in East Hartford, Meriden and New London will participate, according to the Hartford Courant newspaper.

The goal is to make sure the added time is quality time, school officials say — not more hours of the same old thing.

“It’s not just adding time, said New London Schools Superintendent Nicholas Fisher, in an interview with the Courant.  “It’s engaging kids, capturing their interest and getting them to do things that give them practice in the skills they need to improve.”

The program could mean a longer school day for some kids, as well as a longer school year – maybe both.

Why do it?

To make sure kids in the United States are not falling behind kids in other countries, when it comes to getting a good education, officials say.

And to make sure there’s enough time for kids to take all they classes they want to take – not just the ones that are required.

According to published reports, that might mean more time for band, art and computer classes – and other things that might be considered “electives” right now.

“Whether educators have more time to enrich instruction or students have more time to learn how to play an instrument or write a computer code, adding meaningful in-school hours is a critical investment that better prepares children to be successful in the 21st century,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement to the AP.

Not everyone thinks a longer school day or a longer school year is a good idea.

And even people involved in the program say just adding on classroom hours is not enough.

“Simply adding time doesn’t improve student achievement,” said New London Superintendent Fischer, in an interview with Courant reporter Kathleen Megan.

“We’re doing this because we think it will be fun, it will increase learning and maybe give students some of the skills they need long term to be successful,” Meriden Schools Superintendent Mark Benigni told the Courant.

“It’s not just more of the same,” Benigni continued.  “It’s more hands on.”

If the program is successful, it could expand to more schools and more states as time goes on.

More details will come out in the coming months.

But according to one Meriden principal, it won’t be like, “Everyone is going to get tutored and you’re going to write and write and write.”

“We hope (test) scores will go up.  But we won’t judge it on that,” said Dan Coffey, the principal at Pulaski Elementary School, in an interview with the Courant.  “We want it to be fun.”