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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

Angelique Martin's picture

I understand where you both are coming from, but this is my point of view. I have been teaching in South Korea for a year and a half. 97% of students here go to school from 9am to about midnight. The go to their public school and then to private schools to learn English, or to perfect in math and science. I dont believe going to school tell midnight helps but I do believe that going to school a little bit longer can help the students with their learning abilities and keep them out of trouble. I know that this society is different from ours but it could it be because of the longer school days? I think that U.S should try the longer school days and I am sure they will see improvements everywhere. I believe it will do more good than harm!

Betty Ray's picture
Betty Ray
Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia

(Katie, the writer of this blog, asked me to post this for her - BR)

Dear Terry,
Putting more time in the day was required due to the strict regime dictated by state standards and programs. Hawaii has the lowest instructional time in the nation in the classroom - about 5.5 hours while other states have 7 hours or more each day. Weaving cultural events with community support into the regular day, short enough as it is, was not possible all of the time. The Hawaiian culture also has a spiritual side to it that is not allowed in the classroom with the division of church and state; yet since 86% of the students are Native Hawaiian, understanding their cultural heritage is very relevant to their lives. And cultural knowledge is passed down by the elders...they cannot get it from a textbook or an online course - it is a living link to their ancestors and to future generations. The majority of Kamaile Academy's students live in poverty areas that are houseless (tents or tarps on the beaches) with predators - so being at school is the one "safe" environment in their lives. We do not have a division of haves and have nots...all of our children are have nots...indeed, 84% of all of our children are free and reduced lunch, with 86% Hawaiian. As Kamaile goes forward, the time spent in school is seen as a blessing to these children and their families because the school is the larger ohana or village that they come to rely on for personal acceptance, self esteem, nutrition, health services, food, and aloha. Kamaile Academy does not have time for school to be an artificial abstract...we have too many children dying on the beaches, and we don't want to lose even one. Mahalo for your thoughts about our work here in Hawaii...it truly is a race against time for us...but we intend to win!

Yeni's picture

I did not know that students in Hawaii only went to school for 5.5 hours a day. I found it interesting that students go to a school were church and state are not divided. Its great that students get to understand their cultural heritage more in depth. This is wonderful because they appreciate their heritage and where they come from. I think its great that the school day was extended because a lot of positive outcomes came from this. Students will learn more, will be in a safe environment, have food, make friends, and so many other positive outcomes that came from extending the school day. I really hope the best for you and I'm sure you will win the race against time. By the sounds of it there are so many great things coming from an extended school day. Best of luck.

Lauren S.'s picture

I can see how extending the school day would be beneficial, especially in the case of At-risk students. There has been talk in my district about moving to a ten hour school day and attending four days a week instead of five. We are facing a major budget crisis in the upcoming years and this could be a potential solution to the deficit. I'm not sure how I feel about this idea. I know that I am drained by the end of the school day and of course my day doesn't end when the bell rings. Another concern our community would have is that extending the day would eliminate any extra-curricular programs, mainly sports. There are so many kinks to work out, but it is an interesting idea.

Georgia's picture

I think that it would be a good idea to extend the school day from 5.5 hours. In the state that I live in we go to school from 7:30 to 2:30, and I feel like I can't get everything in. I agree with Lauren on not going for ten hours. A teacher can only hold student attention for so long. I don't think that teachers or students could take a ten hour school day.

Janice Martin's picture

I found the article very inspiring. The school in my neighborhood is low income, and unfortunately, we met the requirements for extended day, but the teachers voted against it. The poverty you wrote about was heartbreaking; I am impressed with the teachers' professionalism.

Janice Martin's picture

I apologize, this was my first time posting. What I wanted to say is below. Thank you for your patience.

Lucy Murray's picture

It is inspiring to read about educators who go beyond and adjust the norm to find the best way to help their students. We offered extended day to students in 3-5 grades that were struggling in reading and math last year. I enjoyed seeing the progress the students made. Had they gone home on the bus, these same kids would not have been studying or doing their homework. Unfortunately, the program was cut this year from the budget.

Lisa Bunn's picture

I believe that good educators always do their best to go above and beyond the curriculum to reach all students. I am not in favor of a longer school day for several reasons. The first one being that I feel that children need time to be children. We do not allow our kids enough "backyard" time anymore these days. I live in a rural area where farming is a way of life for many students and their families. Quite a few children around here have chores at home to complete after the school day is over. I feel that what is best for one school is not always the best fit for all schools. A longer school day in an inner city school might be best for those students, but do all schools have to take that path? My second reason for being against longer school days has to do with schools taking a step back and making parents step up to the plate with responsibility. When are we as a nation going to say "enough is enough?" I absolutely love my career as a teacher, but I am the teacher, not the parent. I am sure that some students would benefit from a longer school day, but I just don't want to see is mandated for all districts.

Tabitha's picture

I do believe that extended school days are helpful. My state is requiring more and more out of our students and more from the teachers. I have been a teacher for 10 years and every year I struggled everyday to fit in all of my lessons and required daily "stuff". I have wanted an extended day for awhile now. I do think there are many benefits to giving teachers the time in the classroom to teach.

However, if the teachers do not buy into an extended day and use it wisely it will not work.

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