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David Warlick and others (see below too) have jumped on Arne Duncan (who probably should be jumped on about a few things) about his statement that students should spend more time in school. David disagrees vehemently, and the points he makes are good, but I think he leaves out some important considerations involving “At Risk” students and elementary students in general.

Extra time IS a bad idea, a really bad idea,  if it is just more time and intensity of what is being done now. (David’s main point)

As I’ve said over and over,  the lack of experience with sports, the arts (including dance, drama and music), scouting and other outdoor education, attending camp, and the like have major detrimental effects on the overall education of students of poverty.

So if the extra time Duncan refers to is spent on these areas (and a few others) then I believe he is on the right track and I would support him.

After-school activities like sports and arts programs started to be whittled away from budgets 30 years ago (and cut almost completely from elementary school). The upshot is that parents have had to spend more money and time enrolling their kids in these programs elsewhere … guess whose kids DON’T get enrolled and aren’t driven all over town to practices and  special clinics and tournaments? And think about all the wasted gas and time and extra air pollution caused by all those miles when kids could have just stayed after-school, and participated there.

Students in our primary grades are well schooled in phonics, word attack skills and other required reading skills. However when they reach upper elementary and are required to be independent readers they are so lacking in schema that reading is boring and they struggle to engage with it and fall behind again … worse they learn reading is not relevant to them.

My students go home right after school each day and because they live in an area of poverty and high crime they spend little or no time outside even playing games like tag and dodge ball … so sportsmanship and being a member of a team and an emphasis on physical fitness are not in their experience.

The kinds of “language intense” activities technology has allowed my students to participate in that are highly engaging (usually), is one huge step in the right direction. Since our schools tend to be severely segregated still by socio-economics, technology is one way to get kids exposed and collaborating with students from other experiences across the city, state, country and world.

At Risk students come to us woefully behind in language, math and learning skills the moment they hit kindergarten. We often hear the “2,000 hours” statistic … students require about 2,000 hours of quality language experience BEFORE kindergarten to be successful readers. Activities such as being read to, storytelling about family history, experiences and just … well.. stories .. and having conversations about how things work and why they are and a base vocabulary. The problem is making up that 2,000 hours AFTER a student hits kindergarten. Our current system assumes those hours are in place and so doesn’t leave any room to make them up in the regular school day, especially the way it is structured now. Spend more time on these endeavors, especially in K – 2 years and I’m for that extra time again.

If this “extra-time” in school included more time and funding for field trips and field trips that come to you … like when someone brings their collection of snakes or a science show or activity in your auditorium,  and art experiences and a strong PE program starting in Kindergarten, well then I’m for it again, because for my students I don’t know where else they would or could get those experiences. The elementary schools tend to be neighborhood schools more than middle or high schools are so transportation is much less an issue.

If the extra time included regular science and social studies and art classes, since for years now I “break the rules” to teach those subjects outside of embedding them in Reading (which is OK if you are integrating, but not good if that IS your science and social studies program), I’m for it too.

Extra time in and at school? If done well … sign me up!!!

7 Responses to “Extra Time In School? If Done Right, I’m For It!”

  1. Brian,

    You make great points about how extra time can be used to improve the learning experiences for students—whether they live in high poverty communities or not!

    I know that my students—and I’m teaching science and social studies—come to me with very little context knowledge because time for science and social studies has been pushed so far aside in elementary schools. That only makes reading more and more difficult in middle school, where nonfiction text forms the majority of a child’s reading experiences—both tested and untested!

    Your points about field trips, clubs and teams are also well taken—Richard Rothstein’s research has shown that these are the kinds of experiences that most kids in high poverty communities miss out on and that the kids in my suburban schools take for granted.

    I guess I’m still pretty doubtful that any extra time will be used in this way, though—-and that’s what worries me the most! I keep having nightmares about schools of poverty ending up looking a whole lot more like those Linda Perlstein documented in Tested: The Price We Pay to Make the Grade.

    Here’s to hoping that Duncan will pair his language around extra time with language describing the kinds of experiences that you and Larry have detailed here.

    Bill

  2. I posted a question about this topic to both my WordPress and OpenSalon blogs a couple of weeks ago. The WordPress post got a few interesting comments, but the OpenSalon discussion was, well, like a freakin’ block party. Here are the two links:

    http://siobhancurious.wordpress.com/2009/04/30/will-more-school-make-us-better-people/

    http://open.salon.com/blog/siobhan_curious/2009/04/30/the_most_important_skill_we_learn_in_school

    Everyone had very strong, and generally well-informed, views on the subject. I learned a lot.

  3. alicemercer says:

    UGH! One more thing to put on my MUST read list! Am I the only one getting overwhelmed by the end of year?

    Seriously, I’m dying to read it. Thanks!

  4. dswebb says:

    This is a very interesting and highly debatable topic! After reading Brian Crosby’s take on the topic and then reading the comments posted, I must say that I am not sure where I stand on this. I also followed the link above posted by Siobhan Curious to the open salon page. I found more information there. I went back and read President Obama’s take on this topic as well.

    I think what it boils down to is what would the “extra time” be used for? More test preperation for students? As if enough time is not already spent on this! We are teaching a generation of students who are “test taking” experts! These students can test, test, test but many of them can not think critically!

    I can see the merit in using the “extra time” to enhance students’ learning with field trips and extra curricular activities, especially in low income areas.

    President Obama makes valid points in that we are falling behind as nation with our education system. He stated,” The challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom… if they can do that in South Korea, we can do it right here in the United States of America.” We can do it IF it is done correctly with the right intentions. Again, dare I bring up teaching to the test? WE DON’T NEED MORE TIME TO TEACH FOR THE TEST!

    I think children should spend a lot of time learning – in fact, I think they should spend all day, every day, learning, as should adults – but that “school” is only one, and not always the most effective, path to learning. If we are going to create productive 21st century learners, we have to prepare them for the world in which they are going to be living in, not for the test!

    So, yes, maybe we do need “extra time” to enrich students’ learning with experiences they may not get otherwise.

  5. DSWebb:
    I appreciate the attention you gave to my blog post on this subject; however, I wish you’d correctly credited the sentence “I think children should spend a lot of time learning – in fact, I think they should spend all day, every day, learning, as should adults – but that “school” is only one, and not always the most effective, path to learning.” These are my words, taken directly from the post!

  6. dswebb says:

    I am so sorry! I tried to make sure I researched this topic and gave credit to each source I read! I did not intend to take credit for your words. My apologizes. I am currently new to blogging and doing this as a part of a graduate course I am taking and wanted to make sure I read up on the topic. I read many things and tried to cited them appropriately. I will be more concious in the future. Again, my apologies!

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