What if schools could increase learning time by 30 percent without increasing the budget or adding hours to teachers’ workdays or work year?
Generation Schools Network, a nonprofit funded by the Ford Foundation, claims to do just that. In its recently released report, “Cost-effective Strategies for Extending Learning Time and Expanding Opportunity in K-12 Education” [http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/time_and_learning/ELT.pdf], GSN says its model of “reinventing” the typical school schedule has improved student performance and teacher satisfaction in its two model public schools in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Denver.
Brooklyn Generation School, grades 9-12, and West Generation Academy, grades 6-12, have significantly increased student performance, the report says, by adopting the GSN model of adding instruction time to core subjects and career guidance. The model expands school time from the common six-and-one-half-hours per day, five days per week, 180 days per year to eight hours per day, five days per week, 200 days per year. That reduces the typical ten-week summer vacation to six weeks – but just for students. Teachers maintain a nine-month work schedule with staggered leave based on grouping teachers at the same grade level. No longer are teachers and students on a contiguous schedule, partly because students rotate through month-long career guidance twice a year, while teachers take a week of professional development, then three weeks of leave.
Developed in collaboration with the United Federation of Teachers, GSN leaders say the model improves teacher satisfaction by lowering class sizes, reducing the number of classes per teacher and expanding planning time.
Like most major education policy changes, the GSN model is complicated, and it demands a radical shift in the typical school day. GSN leaders also report there are tradeoffs to using the model, including having less time when all the staff is working at the same time.
But at a time when teachers and students are desperate for more quality time in the school day, innovations in schedules, such as GSN’s, shouldn’t be ignored.