Two years ago, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel got the longer school day that SRC Chair Bill Green wants. And although Chicago officials say their “Full School Day” has helped boost graduation rates and test scores, critics point to a growing list of unintended and potentially damaging consequences.
Many people think of the school day as seven hours with a bell schedule that divides it up into eight or nine equal periods. But in Philadelphia schools, what the school day looks like increasingly may vary from one school to the next.
To explore the variety in how the day is used, the Notebook lined up the schedules of 10th graders at five different high schools [see comparison of 5 high schools] – a neighborhood school, a special admissions school, a career and technical education school, a charter school, and a private school – to see what a typical day looks like at each school, both teacher time and student time. We surveyed school leaders about the structure of the day and about their perspectives on how time is used.
Jennifer Davis was in 3rd grade in her home town of Haverhill, Mass., when she was diagnosed as dyslexic.
But her family was solidly middle-class – her father was a realtor – and soon she had tutors and the extra help she needed to catch up.
“I was lucky enough to have a family with resources,” says Davis, who now heads the Boston-based National Center on Time and Learning. “What we’re trying to do is create those support systems for all children.”
Beset by massive budget cuts and with more deficits looming in future years, Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite has been reaching out to area businesses, nonprofits, and foundations to make up the losses in money and programs.
Last year, he created the Office of Strategic Partnerships to find new allies that would augment the District’s programs and finances, while cementing and enhancing relations with old ones.
Maximizing outside partnerships is a good strategy in any case, but is crucial when a cash-starved district is trying to provide enough quality learning time for students.
Edison High School/Fareira Skills Center students, dressed in green polo shirts and khaki pants, file off buses and into the building around 7:40 a.m.
A stern warning above the entrance states that any student coming in after 9:15 a.m. must have a written explanation or be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Edison, a neighborhood school in Hunting Park, is on a “block” schedule with 80-minute double periods and “A” days and “B” days that define which classes a student will have.
Germantown Friends School is a K-12 private school that educates students in traditional humanistic studies in light of the Quaker tradition. Class sizes are small, usually less than 20 students. Students usually take five major courses of their choice each year, and anywhere from two to four minor courses (similar to electives). The schedule allows students to balance their academic priorities with other interests.
Swenson Arts & Technology High School principal Colette Langston lives by the motto: “If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.”
“What’s different about us is we’re giving kids a trade,” Langston said. “They’re going to leave here with at least an inkling of what they’re good at.”
Science Leadership Academy is a special admission high school in Center City that takes a holistic approach to education.
That approach includes the school’s concept of advisory: 20 students stay with the same teacher all four years.
Students take courses in a cohort called a stream. Classes are built around essential questions and gradewide themes. For example, if the theme is “identity,” students in that cohort consider how they define themselves and how they interact with the world.
Mastery Charter Schools, Lenfest Campus is one of seven Mastery campuses in Philadelphia. Students dressed in black or blue slacks with gray polo shirts arrive by 8:10 – or earlier for socializing or tutoring.
Students file into the cafeteria before the first bell.
Once the day begins, students work at their desks with a book or white board in hand. Classrooms are visible to people walking by on Fourth Street near Market. One classroom is surrounded by windows.
A longer school day is most often justified as a way for students to spend more time with teachers, work on core subjects, or engage in extracurricular activities.
But another good reason for extra time is to give teachers more time to collaborate.
In fact, some educators argue that teacher meeting time is the glue that holds schools together.