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Longer class time for public HS could lead to more diverse colleges

While a collaborative effort by state leaders, the Ford Foundation and the National Center on Time and Learning to add 300 hours of class time to select public schools might not directly affect BU students, School of Education professor Philip Tate said BU’s diversity might increase as a result.

Tate said the initiative is expected to help students in low-income neighborhoods that do not perform well in school, and some might become competitive enough for BU.

“I would like to think eventually it would mean that BU would be accepting more students from high schools in working class and poor neighborhoods than we are now,” he said. “I’d like to think that eventually it might lead to a little more diversity in our student body.”

The TIME Collaborative, a three-year pilot program, is expected to affect 5,066 students in Lawrence and Fall River during the 2013–14 school year and add class time to school year calendars in Colorado, Connecticut, New York and Tennessee.

“Something that we believe here is that it’s important not just to add a few hours onto the beginning or end of the day but really to make sure you’re using those hours wisely and thinking about, strategically, what are the students in your school maybe struggling with,” said Heather Johnson, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education.

Johnson said students, teachers and parents in Lawrence and Fall River school districts will have a part in choosing if the 2013–14 calendar includes an extension of school days or the school year.

“We want to make sure that schools who are using additional time are not just tacking it on to the beginning or end of the day, but that they’re really using the time strategically to figure out what their students need to be able to be able to succeed and master their core subjects and give them the additional time they need to do that,” she said.

Students at school with extended learning initiatives should be better prepared for college, Tate said.

“They should have more content knowledge, and hopefully if they take our advice and do more interesting things with the extra time, they should actually be more creative and imaginative students as well,” he said.

Programs involving education time have been on the state agenda for a long time, Tate said.

“We have a good department of elementary and secondary education at the state level, and one thing they’re good at is thinking big,” Tate said. “They’ve always been looking for ways to improve student achievement and this is one of the things they’ve been thinking about for a long time.”

Tate said the state should avoid adding “drill-and-kill” instruction.

“If the use of extra time is for things like music lessons or robotic lessons or tutoring or individual projects, then students benefit from the extra time to solve problems and create,” he said. “Schools that have done that with their extra time have found that they’ve had a lot of success.”

Tate said adding instruction time to the school year could be successful, but will not eliminate other problems in the U.S. education system such as teaching quality.

“Adding hours to the school year in general is a good idea,” he said. “They’re limited to how much that’s going to improve our schooling in the U.S. There are many other issues that we need to tackle if we want to improve the way we educate students in Massachusetts and in the country.”

 

College of Communication senior Micaela Bedell said she does not believe the additional class time will be effective.

“As a high-schooler, you are always watching the clock during that last period,” Bedell said. “You are ready to get out of that school.”

Bedell said content will not stick with students despite added class time.

“Extending the day and forcing them to learn more information in a more compressed timeframe, it’s not going to help anything,” she said.

Brianna Muenzer, a School of Management sophomore, said extending learning time might lead to academic improvement.

“It would be a good idea just to raise test scores and help them [students] learn more,” she said.

College of General Studies freshman Caroline Richard said thinking about break time is important when considering extended class time, particularly with students in lower grades.

“Once you get to college, you’re not always working because you have a lot more time off,” Richard said. “I feel pretty prepared coming from my high school, so I don’t know if adding more [class] time would be beneficial at all.”

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