Why Are Longer School Days Vital?

Susan BrennaUncommon Schools, our Twitter friend and charter school management organization, sent us a tweet this morning, asking us to explain “why longer school days are vital.” We couldn’t come up with one 140-character tweet that encompassed the vital-ness of an expanded school day, so consider this series of under 140-character bullet points—an expanded tweet, if you will—our response:

  • All kids need a deeper, more individualized, more balanced, hands-on education and a fighting chance to succeed no matter where they begin.
  • Too many schools lack the time for arts, recess or inquiry-driven projects that teach collaboration, problem-solving + love of learning.
  • The current school day was designed for an age of factories and farms when people could live a good life without even a high school degree.
  • But we live in a knowledge economy, where demands on teachers and students keep growing while the school day stays the same.
  • More than 1/3 of students in urban schools fail to graduate on time, putting them on track to a lifetime of low-wage, unstable jobs.
  • We have the world’s best higher education system, but in fewer than half of freshmen in many communities can do college work.
  • The U.S. has dropped from 1st to 16th in the world in college completion.
  • Obesity and diabetes rates are skyrocketing, at the same time that phys ed, recess and sports are being cut from schools.
  • Research shows that more learning time leads to higher achievement, better school attendance, more enthusiastic learners. [Start with this PDF, a review of after-school research by Robert Granger.]
  • For example, ExpandED Schools students out-performed their city and state peers in improving their math and English proficiency.
  • Students in ExpandED Schools attend school, on average, seven more days a year than students in matched schools.
  • Teachers give ExpandED Schools high ratings, with 85% finding their students’ learning improved.
  • New research on the highest-performing charter schools finds additional learning time to be a critical element of their success.
  • Expanding the day doesn’t have to break the bank. ExpandED Schools achieve 35% more learning time at less than 10% additional cost.

But you don’t have to take our word for it. Hear what Sean, Robert, and Jorge have to say about how an expanded school day has helped them.