Conn. joins states in trying to address achievement gap with more school hours

Connecticut education officials have announced plans to extend school hours in some of the state’s neediest schools beginning next year. The announcement was made today at a forum with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in Washington. Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Colorado and Tennessee will add at least 300 hours of learning a year to some low performing schools. U.S. Education Secretary Duncan says the goal is to boost student achievement in those states. The three year pilot program will affect about 20,000 students in 40 schools in the five states.

Governor Malloy says schools in Hartford, New Haven, Meriden, East Hartford and New London will participate. He says its a natural outgrowth of an education reform law passed by the state in May that included $100 million in new funding to help close the state’s academic achievement gap, one of the worst in the nation.

“The idea that we can tolerate different levels of achievement based on geography or race or wealth or home ownership simply doesn’t make any sense,” said Malloy.

Here’s Ebong Udoma’s story:

Connecticut education commissioner Stefan Pryor says teachers unions are helping make the longer school day happen.”Bridgeport has undertaken a shift method where they are beginning to look at how the teachers can arrive early or later and extend time with limited cost impact,” said Pryor.

Mark Waxenberg of the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union says the important thing is not just adding time for time’s sake. “It’s how to use the time to advance the cause of public education.”

Federal, state and local district money will be used to cover the expanded learning time. The Ford Foundation and the National Center on Time and Learning are also chipping in resources. Here’s their press announcement.

Not everyone agrees that longer school days will make a difference. A report last year from the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education disputed the idea that American schools have fallen behind in classroom time. The report said students in high-performing countries like South Korea, Finland and Japan actually spend less time in school than most U.S. students.

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