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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Extending the School Day Could Be Worth the Cost

Dr. Katie Klinger

STEM & Digital Equity Grantwriter & Education Technology Integration Expert

I agree with Maurice Elias's blog entry about furlough days for Hawaii's public schools -- a total redesign of the school day to meet the needs of our 21st-century learners. This means relevant, creative-project and service-learning environments aligned not only to state standards but also to student interests.

I am happy to share that one nonprofit corporation in Hawaii is doing just this. The Ho'okako'o Corporation (HC) is dedicated to transformational change that supports new opportunities for student success through conversion charter schools. Ho'okako'o is a Hawaiian word that means "to cause, to support" -- and HC is proving to be true to its name. With 1,500 students in three island schools, it is committed to redesigning public schools.

For those of you who are not familiar with the term "conversion charter school," a school in this category used to be a traditional state-supported school but elected to become a charter school. In doing so, it is able to keep its school facilities as long as it agrees to teach all children within its geographic area. (Of the 31 charter schools in Hawaii, five are conversion charters.)

HC and its three conversion charter schools are not doing teacher furloughs. They are actually moving in the opposite direction -- investing in more instructional time. HC schools are adding an extra hour to the school day, with an additional 10 days of teaching this year and 14 days next year.

In one HC school, 96 percent of the teachers voted to adopt a supplemental union contract in order to add the additional hours and days, believing that doing so is in the best interests of their students.

HC's three conversion charter schools are located on separate islands. Although each school is unique due to its island heritage, they are all Title I schools -- challenged by the impact of poverty. Native Hawaiian children, who have the highest risk factors of children in Hawaii, comprise 50-90 percent of the schools' populations.

One of the HC schools, Oahu's Kamaile Academy, in Waianae, is in the highest-poverty area in Hawaii, with close to 70 percent of its students either homeless or houseless (living in cramped quarters with multiple families.) When you drive down the main street of Waianae, the poverty jumps out at you -- weeded lots, broken bottles, torn signage, boarded-up buildings, and roadside trash. Estimates are that 5,000-6,000 people live on the beaches in the squalor of tent cities -- and not by choice.

The Kamaile Academy has a student transiency rate of 34 percent each year -- an educational revolving door as the children move from school-to-school when the state sweeps the beaches.

With guidance from the nonprofit organization Massachusetts 2020, the Kamaile Academy is piloting the Expanded Learning Time Model Initiative, increasing instructional time by 30 percent at the school.

The concept of expanded learning time requires the complete redesign of a school's educational program. For starters, ELT increases the instructional time and supports teachers by giving them more time for planning, training, and professional development.

In Hawaii, HC stands alone in innovation. Here's what it is doing:

  • Rewriting union contracts to provide teacher stipends for additional work time.
  • Piloting an ELT model with the state Department of Education.
  • Renewing Hawaiian cultural knowledge for school personnel who come from the same cultural background as students.
  • Providing all students with enrichment activities to enhance educational services provided to Native Hawaiian children.

With longer school days, HC schools now have the flexibility to create culturally healthy and responsive learning environments for at-risk students. Students experience integrated projects through observation and hands-on demonstrations of cultural knowledge and skills. They also engage in intergenerational learning practices of good stewardship, resource sustainability, and spirituality.

Historically, Native Hawaiians believe that it takes a village to raise a child. HC conversion charters have certainly taken this belief to heart -- and to practice.

Could having additional time for learning make a difference? What about at your school and for your students? Please share your thoughts and ideas.

Dr. Katie Klinger

STEM & Digital Equity Grantwriter & Education Technology Integration Expert
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Comments (41)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Linda Martin's picture
Linda Martin
Advanced Academics Resource Teacher from Reston, VA

Many of the respondents demonstrate that school must be flexible in how it responds to the needs of its community. To keep students safe, provide food and even shelter may be a priority for one school while another school may need to allow students the freedom to use time in their own way, whether connecting with family, or for extracurricular activities, or after school programs. Overall we need to get away from the cookie cutter mold that all schools must look the same, operate the same, and provide the same services. Equal is not fair in this case. Each community has its strengths, it's issues, and its needs. Schools need to be a part of that community and reflect it's spirit if we are to be considered vital, relevant, and a true human resource. Believe it or not, every school has the power to be responsive, as the school in Hawaii has become, but how it responds is as unique as the community in which it is set.

Meyers's picture

I agree wholeheartedly with longer hours as long as followup studies confirm the benefits. At the very least it will keep them out of trouble and less time playing video games. Otherwise they might just as well be out surf fishing

Mrs. K. Brown's picture
Mrs. K. Brown
High School Special Education Teacher from South Carolina

I think that an slightly longer school day would benefit students but we must be careful not to overload students at the same time. I teach special education and by the end of the day my kids have all but run out of steam. For me loner days would not be very beneficial, however I sometimes feel that the year round school option would be best because my students would have shorter periods off to forget the information that they have learned. At the same time I am also a parent of four children and I hate to think that I would have less time with my kids if school were extended. I'm torn on this one. I can see the benefits but also the negatives. Extended days should focus on the school and the students and what serves them the best, however with states and districts looking for uniformity (at least where I am) it would be difficult to decide school by school. Also the parents and community would have to be on board.

Nicole Elliott's picture

I can also see how extending the school day could be very beneficial. It would help student's who were falling behind in instruction and also give more time for teachers to plan and participate in professional learning communities. I wonder how the teachers feel about that. Many times teachers get burnt out, there would need to be efficient breaks to keep the educators refreshed, after teaching week after week of long school days. I also can see how extended the school day might not be the best option, what would happen to kindergartners, or younger grade levels in elementary schools. Even first graders have a hard time being at school all day and get very restless. I also agree in after school tutoring and other programs that can extended some students learning longer. I think extended the day can be beneficial if the time is used constructively. It sounds like the extended day is used to help struggling readers, if teachers use their longer planning times to implement support groups within the grade level for those struggling learners and reinforce concepts it would be very valuable to them. The advanced learners would also need to be challenged more too. With a longer school day they would need more to stretch and enhance the longer school day for them as well.

Nicole's picture

Our district has mentioned the idea of extending the school day just enough for us to attend four days a week instead of five. This was one of the ideas that came up during a brainstorming session on how to save money and cut the budget without cutting teacher and their salary. This was a suggestion that most teacher were on board for, however the biggest factor was the outcry from the parents who view school as a temporary daycare. Those families that have both parents working a nine to five, five days a week job were not in favor of this idea. As much as it would save us on janitorial fees, electricity, ect I feel like it is something that should be considered. I find our crunch for time occurs with those students that are in need of extra assistance, or remediation. I have to agree that there just doesn't seem like there is enough time in a day to teach all that is required when a student is academically behind. If you want to teach a curriculum that is a mile deep and a mile long then we need more time. What about a program that requires a extended school day for those that are in of additional support? It would resemble a massive, public, tutoring program for lesson than a commercial institute.

Nicole's picture

Our district has mentioned the idea of extending the school day just enough for us to attend four days a week instead of five. This was one of the ideas that came up during a brainstorming session on how to save money and cut the budget without cutting teacher and their salary. This was a suggestion that most teacher were on board for, however the biggest factor was the outcry from the parents who view school as a temporary daycare. Those families that have both parents working a nine to five, five days a week job were not in favor of this idea. As much as it would save us on janitorial fees, electricity, ect I feel like it is something that should be considered. I find our crunch for time occurs with those students that are in need of extra assistance, or remediation. I have to agree that there just doesn't seem like there is enough time in a day to teach all that is required when a student is academically behind. If you want to teach a curriculum that is a mile deep and a mile long then we need more time. What about a program that requires a extended school day for those that are in of additional support? It would resemble a massive, public, tutoring program for lesson than a commercial institute.

thomas hall's picture

Where are you going to find the money. I am already working 10-12 hours per day trying to keep up with Six different lesson plans, grading papers, tutoring after school. I can not take on any more. Where are the districts going to find the money to hire more teachers? I do agree that many children need a place to go that's safe in the afternnon. The focus should be on safe after school activities that do not involve instruction.

Wanda Davis's picture
Wanda Davis
English Department Chairperson

I'm not sure that a longer school day is the answer for any school district. What we do with the time is more imporant. Many students are turned off by school because their teachers have failed to change their instructional practices to meet the needs of these students. I suggest that we take a look at the way we deliver instruction and address the issues we face in that time that we already have in school.

Nettie Barrow's picture

I applaud nonprofit corporation in Hawaii such as the Ho'okako'o Corporation. I believe that longer school days may not be beneficial to all school systems but if it helps at risk students then it is something to consider. I also appreciate the teachers who in one HC school, 96 percent of the teachers voted to adopt a supplemental union contract in order to add the additional hours and days because they cared about doing what is in the best interests of their students. Wow, what an inspirational story to validate that it is not what you have is the essence of living or how much we can afford, but how much we give.

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