Advocates Push for State Funding to Extend School Days

A Massachusetts program that extends the length of the school day for students in schools with high poverty rates could see a boost in funding next year. Supporters of a longer school day are slated to hold a briefing at the State House tomorrow to ask for more money, also included in Governor Deval Patrick’s budget proposal.

The so-called “Expanded Learning Time” program began in 2005. Currently 19 schools participate at a cost of $14 million per year. Patrick’s proposal would increase that spending by $70 million over several years, including $5 million next year, which could allow more middle school students in low-income communities to be included. Chris Gabrieli, head of the extended school day advocacy group Massachusetts 2020, says currently participating schools add about an hour and forty five minutes to each school day. He says individual schools are allowed to decide how to use the time. 

“For the students, it’s more academic support, especially individualized academic support, small group, even one-on-one tutoring for students to help raise their skills where they’re weakest, and secondly it’s also about a more well-rounded education for students with things like arts, music, drama, sports added to the schedule.”

Gabrieli says while longer days can improve students’ performance, lower dropout rates, and better prepare students for college, not all of the programs in the state have been successful. But he says measures to evaluate school performance are in place with the state. 

“And if they don’t use the time well to benefit students tangibly, then they lose their funding, and the state has cut off funding for expanded learning time to a couple of schools already that were recipients in the past.”

Gabrieli says expanded learning time has the support of many legislators, as well as both of the state’s major teachers unions.