Longer school days for middle school students in Prince George's County
Bad news for some Prince George’s County middle school students — look forward to longer schools days in the fall. The newly minted mandate that will extend school days by up to 40 minutes, with no financial burden, is an attempt to increase academic achievement.
The extended day is part of a national movement, spearheaded by the D.C. schools chancellor. While necessity of increasing academic results is the key driving force, the design presents the question of whether more schooling is the answer.
The extra time will be used to teach students who have fallen behind core subjects, and bolster additional foreign language and arts skills for students who have already displayed academic achievement. Though this extra time will likely benefit high-achieving students, is extra schooling the answer for remedial learners?
On one hand, the extended school day can be seen as mandatory homework time. If every student spent more time studying after school, they would certainly do better on standardized tests since that’s the measurement of academic achievement these days, right?
Not necessarily. A longer school day likely implies a larger amount of homework. And for students who are already struggling in school, more in-class assignments may actually work to deter these students from working independently after school.
Also, if students are falling behind in core subjects, the answer should not be more of the same. Even though Superintendent William Hite, Jr. says that the extended time will certainly not be more of the same, how can parents be sure that his statement is not just a piece of PR?
Schools need to instead seek out why students are falling behind and focus on how to change that. Though extended school days may sound like a death sentence for some students, it depends entirely on how that time is used.
How about one-on-one or group tutoring? Overlooking budgetary issues, teachers could focus on individual strengths and weaknesses, tailor lesson plans to suit the needs of students who require a little extra help and seek to engage students. That time could then be used for school-related activities or homework help for students who have met school-mandated testing requirements.
Either way, PG County students are not going to be happy about the planned extension. Change is always hard. But in the long run, the extended school day may be fruitful. It all depends on what each school does with the time.