A federal education pilot program focused on extending the school day to potentially improve academic achievement isn’t getting any rousing endorsements from local school chiefs.
The three-year pilot program, being implemented next year by 40 schools in five states, including the Rochester district, would add at least 300 hours of learning to the school calendar. The program will be funded by state, federal and local district funds and federal education leaders believe the results will have a dramatic impact.
According to a report by the National Center on Time and Learning at least 1,000 U.S. schools are running on expanded schedules already.
But Sayville Superintendent Dr. Walter Schartner and new Bayport-Blue Point School Superintendent Dr. Vincent Butera and aren’t nearly as convinced and believe other strategies would prove more useful and beneficial to local students.
Schartner, noting that Sayville already has one of the longest school days on Long Island, with a seven-and-a-half hour program, said it’s not appropriate to “paint every school district with the same brush,” when it comes to educational initiatives such as the federal pilot program.
“We have a 98 percent graduation rate. We are always striving to improve. This sounds kind of drastic to me,” he said. "The big question is also what will the bill be for taxpayers?"
Nothing that the extra hours would add 40 days to the school calendar, Schartner also questioned the extraneous costs in expanding a school program to cover operations and staffing and also wondered what impact the extended hours would have on the current student day.
“What will this mean for extracurricular activities? We already have a six week summer program for our special needs students to help them avoid regressing during the summer,” said Schartner. “What would be the impact on regents and AP test and state testing?"
“This kind of program needs to be a local district decision, not a federal or state [mandate]. We know our educational needs, we know what’s best for our students,” he added.
Bayport-Blue Point's Butera’s view is very similar to Schartner’s. He told Patch in an e-mail that it’s unclear what the benefits would be with increasing the amount of time students are required to spend in the classroom. The district's school day runs about six and a half hours.
“Rather than simply extending school hours/days, it is my belief that three of the most effective strategies to implement in order to boost student achievement are: the implementation of a viable and guaranteed curriculum across all grade levels, the development of performance-based assessments that truly reflect the type of learning we expect to take place in those classrooms, and ensuring that clear and timely feedback is provided to students and parents regarding student learning,” he said.
“Although not a comprehensive list, I believe that these three factors will have a greater educational benefit for students; one that would most likely far outreach those associated with purely increasing class time.”