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Students Will Spend Hundreds More Hours In School At 7 Public Schools

Extended Time In School To Be Funded by Ford Foundation, Federal Money

By KATHLEEN MEGAN, kmegan@courant.com The Hartford Courant

6:57 p.m. EST, December 3, 2012

More than 3,100 students at seven public schools in Connecticut will spend hundreds of hours more in school next year as part of a national initiative called the TIME Collaborative.

The new program involves five states and almost 20,000 students nationally who will see significantly more time in school next year with the support of Ford Foundation and the National Center on Time & Learning, a Boston-based non-profit organization.

At a news conference in Washington D.C. Monday morning, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the "the goal here is not more time. The goal here is more learning."

By extending the school day in a variety of ways, Duncan said, children who "are not blessed with households full of books" or with family members with high school or college degrees, will be given more opportunities for learning.

Duncan said the hope is that "if we close the opportunity gap, the achievement gap goes away."

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy joined Duncan at the news conference, saying, "Connecticut is proud to be one of the five states selected. We know our students and teachers need more time."

Malloy said that 3,184 students will benefit from expanded time at the seven schools – at least 300 hours more per year. The schools are located in East Hartford, Meriden and New London.

To pay the cost of adding these programs, the Ford Foundation is contributing $300,000 to the state in each of the next three years. In addition, Ford is providing the National Center on Time & Learning with $300,000 each year to provide technical assistance needed by the districts to develop plans for extending school time.

In addition, state and federal funding is available to help fund the extended time. Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said there are different ways of paying for adding time to a school year.

For instance, Pryor, said in Bridgeport at the James J. Curiale School, students have an extended number of hours in school because teachers have a staggered work schedule. In Meriden at the Casimir Pulaski Elementary School, teachers are paid $20 an hour for additional hours in the school day. The Pulaski school extended day program started in the fall and is funded by an American Federation of Teachers innovation grant of $150,000 a year.

According to a new report from the National Center on Time & Learning, 31 schools in Connecticut — 40 percent are charter schools — have significantly expanded school time. Since the publication of the report, additional districts have also extended time at certain schools.

Noting that Connecticut has the largest achievement gap in the nation, Malloy said, tolerating "different levels of achievement based on geography or race or health or home ownership" does not make sense.

The move to lengthen school days and the school year by at least 300 hours a year has attracted great support across the country as educators look for ways to turn around public schools, and improve student performance, particularly in areas of high poverty.

In Connecticut, the schools that will participate in the program are the Thomas O'Connell Elementary School in East Hartford; the Casimir Pulaski and John Barry elementary schools in Meriden; Nathan Hale, Jennings, and Winthrop Elementary School and Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School in New London.

The districts can choose how they want to increase school time by lengthening the school day, holding school on Saturdays or by adding school time during the summer.

Jennifer Davis, co-founder and president of the National Center on Time & Learning in Boston said that research shows that poor students who get extended time in school do make academic gains, but she emphasized the time must be added thoughtfully.

She said the time added can be used in a wide variety of ways, including adding academic support and tutoring; providing time for teachers to collaborate; and offering after-school enrichment programs in the arts, music, robotics and other areas.

Copyright © 2012, The Hartford Courant

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