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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

Shayla McIntyre's picture

I can see both sides to this argument, but I do not think that increasing the amount of time spent in the classroom will be the best route for every student for several reasons. First, I think that if teachers effectively managed time in the classroom that a lot more would get accomplished. Also, I liked that Lisa pointed out that teachers are to play their role as the educator and that parents need to take responsibility at home as well. Furthermore, what about the students who have families at home who are very active in what they do? This causes disruption in family activities and family time that a lot of students need and want. This is great for students who have an empty house to go home to after school, but get them involved in extra curricular activities. Finally, being not only a teacher but also a coach, isn't it late enough when the basketball game gets done "late". Now we push that back another hour? I think you would actually see a decrease in some students' achievement. If we want to help those students who really need help then give them school support after their regular school day. I think this would be much more effective. We even have an afterschool program that is just a homework club where students can stay for up to 1 1/2 hours after school and have time and support in doing homework. The teacher to student ratio is fairly low and there is much more individualized help and instruction. Just some ideas to ponder.

jennifer leslie's picture

I see the advantages and disadvantages to both sides. I would be curious to see what the curriculum schedule looks like and why they would need to extend the day to incorporate it. Can anyone who has extended day give an example of an average day teaching? I feel one improvement that needs to be examined is the way instruction is delivered. I just graduated the teaching program and begun substituting this year. I deliver the lessons as I am instructed to by the primary teacher. However, there are times when I think there has to be a more exciting way to teach the lessons than giving them worksheet after worksheet. It's no wonder so many get bored and act out. Has anyone here used power teaching? It is a great way to engage the students and ensure everyone is participating. I was curious about what the teaching day in South Korea looks like. You said you go from 9:00-12:00 a.m. I would love to see how that day looks.

Hannah's picture

At my school, the topic of extending our days and going to a 5 day-4 day schedule has been brought up with all the budget cuts that are being made. I have to say that most all the teachers at my school say they would love this! We currently go from 7:55am-3:00pm. I think adding on an additional 30 minutes- 1 hour would not be a bad thing.

Mary Scorpati's picture

I agree with Lisa that what is best for one school is not the best for all. The district I teach in is lower income. Many of my students have part-time jobs which are necessary to help with family finances. Some of my kids who come from single parent homes also have the responsibility of caring for younger brothers and sisters after school. In an effort to get students on track for graduation, our district offers and early morning period in most disciplines. It is not a mandatory class, but rather students enroll on a volunteer basis to gain extra credits, or to make up lost credits from previous semesters.

Mary Scorpati's picture


I was heartbroken reading your post. It is hard to believe that children in our country are dealing with the life and death issues you have described. They may not have much, but they are lucky to have you advocating for them. Your knowledge is admirable, and your passion to do right by them is uplifting and inspirational. I do believe you will win that race.

Sara P's picture

We have pondered the idea of extending the school day in my district also. We are a Title I school, have the highest special education numbers, and have a revolving door with our student numbers. We have looked at extending the school day and working Monday through Thursday.
I can see both sides of the debate. Although I feel that extending the time students are at school could be beneficial, I worry about their lack of time at home. When do parents take an active role in their child's upbringing? I also worry that teachers keep getting and taking on more responsibility when we are stretched pretty far as it is.

Tiffany Lynch's picture

I definitely believe that extending the school day could be beneficial. While I agree that you can only keep a student's attention for so long, I also think that by incorporting more hands-on activities you may be able to hook their attention and keep them motivated to learn. Most days I feel that I am constantly rushing to try and cram everything into one day that I need to cover, and most of the time I feel that as soon as the students really start understanding what we are covering, it is time to move onto the next thing. There are many times each week I think "If I only had ten more minutes to cover this..." I feel that the students may be able to retain the information longer if we focused on it just a little longer, instead of jumping from one topic to the next, in order to assure that we cover every standard.
This past year, our school offered an after school program to students in grades 3-5, who were either at-risk or had failed the CRCT. Teachers worked with students in small groups, twice a week for an hour and a half each time. Students were grouped together based on their weak areas and teachers noticed great strides towards improvment with many of the students. Sometimes, it seems that all the students need is just a little extra time to be able to understand something and then they can retain it and apply the information later. Small tutoring groups like the one at our school has really helped out students.
I was shocked to see that 70% of students at the one school are homeless. Children have so many responsibilities as students, and it just seems completely unfair that they also have to deal with adult issues. The charter schools seem to really be working great and benefiting the students. This past year, our county just converted one elementary school and one middle school to charter schools. During the summer, parents were able to apply for their students to attend the school and administration chose from the applications which students would attend. Parental involvement seemed to be the big push in these schools. Parents were asked to participate and volunteer as much as possible at the school. Since this is the first year for these schools to be charter schools, there are still a lot of little kinks to work out, but it seems to be going great so far!

Lisa Bunn's picture

I agree with many of you on not being able to get everything done in a day that is always scheduled, planned, etc. I currently teach full-day kindergarten and we start at 8:05 a.m. and end at 3:05 p.m. I allow for a 20-30 minute "rest time" where I have the students bring beach towels and lay on the floor to "rest" their minds and bodies. We talk about how they do not need to sleep, but just need to give themselves a break to digest everything that we have learned. I keep rest time right up until the last day of school. My students are asking when it is rest time because their bodies need it. I can't see how keeping them any longer in the day would be any more productive for me at this point. As I said in my earlier post, each grade/district/state is different. There can't be a cookie-cutter solution, but it has been interesting to read everyone's ideas in support or not of this idea!! Thanks for sharing!!

Mrs. H's picture

I also believe that good teachers do everything they can do go above and beyond to reach all their students. However, there are some times when there is nothing more you can do. I have so many students being pulled out for various services that I lose instruction time. We have also implemented an intervention session this year that takes away from instruction time. This year I have lost 100 minutes of reading instruction a week, and I have to get my students to pass a state test. That makes my job a little bit more stressful. A longer day would sure help my cause. Although, I understand those that are against it as well. Even an extra half an hour would help a little bit.

Pamela Fitzsimmons's picture

The differing views on a longer school day are fascinating. My first reaction is that,on the whole, school days around the country are longer than they were in the 1960's and 1970's when I attended school, yet student achievement has steadily declined. That is why we have the initiativcs like NCLB. But simply stating that fact does not adequately explain the correlation between the two. As I reflect further, I realize that many school districts are requiring us to teach many non-traditional subjects and present information to our students about current social problems such as bullying, domestic and gang violence, and suicide prevention. Maybe the answer to the problem is not to extend the school day, but to return to the basics in teaching - the three R's - and return the teaching of social issues to the parents and community. I agree with many of the bloggers that attention spans for both teachers and students have limits. I'm not sure which solution is the best without research backed by data to support it, but I do believe it is a qaundary that warrants further investigation. I look forward to receiving more input on the topic.

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