By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Twenty New York City middle schools will add an extra 2.5 hours to the school day of 2,000 sixth-graders starting in September, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said on Monday.
Six of the schools are in Brooklyn. These include: Juan Morel Campos Secondary School, East Flatbush Community Research School, I.S. 30 Mary White Ovington, I.S. 340, Andries Hudde and P.S. 109.
The 20 extended-day schools were chosen randomly from 130 schools that requested to be part of the pilot program, announced by Chancellor Walcott in April. The extra time will be used mainly to improve literacy skills.
The $6 million pilot program is part of the expansion of the Middle School Quality Initiative (MSQI) sponsored by the New York City Council, Robin Hood, The After School Corporation, and Harvard Ed Labs. The goal is to help at-risk middle school students stay on track, as well as accelerate their progress towards reaching the new Common Core literacy standards.
A total of 40 schools were added to the Middle School Quality Initiative (13 in Brooklyn) bringing the number of participating schools to 89, but only 20 added hours to their day.
If the program is deemed successful, organizers hope to increase the number of extended-day schools.
“We are committed to ensuring that all students are prepared for college and 21st century careers, and the Middle School Quality Initiative has been central to this mission,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott in a statement.
Speaker Quinn said the program “has already shown promising results with both low and high performing kids, and we are confident that a daily dose of extra tutoring for students struggling with English Language Arts will significantly increase students’ ability to comprehend at grade-level across all subjects.”
When asked about scheduling sports and other afterschool programs at the extended-day schools, DOE spokesperson David Pena told the Brooklyn Eagle, “When it comes to scheduling extended learning days, we’ll work closely with individual schools that have afterschool activities.”
Principals from the selected schools met on Monday with Department of Education (DOE) officials to learn about the programs.
Students in Asian countries such as South Korea, Japan and China spend many more hours in school than American children do, and school administrators across the U.S. are at least considering the idea. According to Scholastic.com, schools in Florida that added one hour to the school day showed improvement in proficiency in reading, language arts, math, and science.
Still, the extra time at the school desk – and the millions spent on providing it -- may not pay off. According to Scholastic, a major study found that every 10 percent increase in school time has resulted in just a 2 percent jump in actual learning.
And then there’s Finland – the country whose schools consistently rank among the highest performing in the world. Yet the school day in Finland starts between 8 and 9 a.m. and finishes between 1 and 2 p.m. –- only five or six hours long, including a nutritious hot lunch and an hour or more of recess. Kids average less than an hour of homework a day, and there are no standardized tests.
Updated with quote from the DOE on June 11 at 1:56 p.m.