Reimagining the School Day

Photo of Secretary Duncan announcing TIME initiative

Secretary Duncan joined five states in announcing a new initiative to extend learning time. Official Department of Education photo by Leslie Williams.

“I think these are the kernels of a national movement,” Secretary Arne Duncan said earlier this week during the announcement of a major new effort by public schools in five states to add significantly more time to the school year for tens of thousands of students starting in the 2013 school year.

The schools in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee will use a mix of federal and state funding to cover the cost of adding 300 hours of instruction and enrichment to the school year, and will receive technical assistance from National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL) and capacity building grants from the Ford Foundation, which has committed $3 million a year over the next three years in support of the state efforts.

Secretary Duncan, who joined Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy at the announcement, has made increased learning time a priority during the Obama Administration. “I’m convinced the kind of results we’ll see over the next couple of years I think will compel the country to act in a very different way,” Duncan said.

In conjunction with the announcement, NCTL released a new report showing a significant increase over the last three years in the number of public schools that have expanded learning time. The report, Mapping the Field, shows district schools now account for 40 percent of all expanded-time schools, up from 20 percent of the total in 2009.

For more information on the TIME (Time for Innovation Matters in Education) Collaborative and to read the full Mapping the Field report, visit


  1. Increasing the number of hours in the school year will not increase student productivity. We need to make changes so that the time we currently have is effectively utilized. A very important concept that appears to have been forgotten is that success starts at home. Parents are the key to increasing student success, not more hours at school.
    However, if we are determined to put all of the responsibility for student success on the teachers then we must work toward decreasing student/teacher ratio so that teachers can provide more one on one instruction time for each student. Additionally, children must be taught to respect their teachers because valuable instruction time is often spend dealing with disciplinary issues rather than providing quality instruction. Children often have so many problems outside of school that the least of their worries is whether they pass a test or even a class. For example, we have homeless children dealing with surviving in a world they have no control over in the rural area of Tennessee. Is giving those children more hours at school and less time to do what they need to do to survive after school going to make them more productive?!
    There are so many variables affecting student success, but we in Tennessee can produce successful students as it has been proven over and over. Look around, who are the successful students? They are almost always the children whose parents take an active role in assuring their children are successful. Perhaps teachers can take the place of parents, but the only way they can begin to do it is to decrease student/teacher ratio so that teachers can give each student more one-on-one attention. Of course, if we want to provide a babysitting service then we should continue to provide more of the same while increasing the number of hours we keep the children. So my question is, what is the real motivation behind increasing the number of hours in the school year? Excuse me folks, but it sounds like babysitting to me.
    By the way, teacher salaries in the state of Tennessee start out between $31,000 to $35,000 per year depending on education, demographics, etc. so I see us experiencing a drastic shortage in teachers when more hours are added to our school year because, face it, one of the perks of teaching is the built in vacation time. I know increased salaries are promised, but I wonder at the probability of that becoming a reality.

  2. Please do not make my children spend any more time in school. Too much school time is already devoted toward having the students who perform sit around and wait for other kids to catch up (or behave).

    The money would be better devoted toward summer enrichment or credit recovery for those children who truly need more academic time or who just need to be kept out of their own home environments.

    The country needs to better target its educational resources and more time for all kids is not a good effort.

  3. Finland is successful for one reason – the best of the best go into teaching. One university had 2300 applicants for 120 spots in an education program. In the U.S., the most talented, intelligent people do not enter education. SAT scores for education majors are among the lowest of any major. Until we can recruit the best into teaching, we will never be able to compete with the Finlands of the world.

  4. How about using the time we do have for MEANINGFUL instruction and learning. Extending the school day and doing nothing about the poor instruction and standardized test pandering that takes place during that time is only going to leave us exactly where we are now: with a failed public education system. Taking something that isn’t working and simply doing it for longer stretches of time will not help anything. THIS IS A WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY.

  5. Curious about the impact on teachers and pay? Will the added hours be reflected in more pay? Teachers are already stretched so far that many of us have second jobs in the summer or even during the school year.

    • Colleen,

      Thanks for the comment. Secretary Duncan thinks teachers should be paid more, period. He said in a speech last year:

      “We should also be asking how the teaching profession might change if salaries started at $60,000 and rose to $150,000.”

      Cameron Brenchley
      Office of Communications and Outreach

  6. I agree with Dorothy. Finland is an excellent model for highly effective schools. Its students consistently score at the top in the Program for International Student Assessment even though they do less testing than almost any other developed country. The emphasis is on individualized assistance to children to meet each child’s unique needs. One practice that we could easily copy is starting first grade at age 7. As research on brain development at the US National Institute of Mental Health has shown, normal children reach developmental readiness for school tasks at different ages usually from about 7.5 years to 10.5 years. Age 6 is still kindergarten in Finland. Snatching children from the cradle will not change the dynamics of brain development. The recent “reforms” in Louisiana that will assign academic grades to 3 and 4-year children are silly at best.

  7. My first thought when reading this article about adding time to the school day was that I would be way too burned out. Then I thought about how they may structure it? If they ran the extra time in the summer more like topic based camps, such as rocketry, pilates, or band camp it may better round off our kids. Kids in high school severely need hands on activities, projects where they can use their creativity, knowledge and skills. This is where they begin to grow as a human being rather than just a DOE number/statistic. For the first time this year I’m actually teaching to the #&@# ACT and my kids scores will go up. The school will be saved as it’s an impoverished, multilingual, multicultural failing school according to the government. What are the stats on a student who starts kindergarten behind? Can they catch up to the child who has been read to every night for the first 5 years of their life? What about the children brought here who are 12 and just now learning to speak English. They are expected to perform just as well as your kids? Really?

    I’ll still put my best kids up against anyones. There is some amazing talent in these schools. I do my best to give them a fair crack at the world! I’m still worried about the government doing what they can to burn me out. I’m a fighter, but I’m tired of their abuse, not only to me, but my life and my students.

  8. Extending the school day could be a great solution to meeting the needs of ELL students. Use the extra time to focus on making gains which would help most in the other courses they are taking. Targeting the extended time effectively to meet the unique needs of the students, as opposed to simply adding extra time to each class.

  9. Adding time spent in school is NOT a good solution to our education problems. Pushing curriculum down into younger ages is NOT a good solution to our education problems. TRY looking at Finland if you want to see what really needs to be done. Deemphasize testing. Put an emphasis on hands on learning through play in preK, K and even up to 2nd grade. THINK people what you have done with the whole movement to evaluate teachers on test results and to push high stakes testing has created an epidemic of cheating, not good results. We have too many students who care only about grades and not about learning. That is the result of the use of extrinsic rewards and of emphasis on grades and tests. STOP the MADNESS!!!!!!

    • I echo Dorothy’s comments. It seems much of the school day is either testing or preparing for testing. Adding competition (NCLB & RTTT) to Education destroys learning.

    • Finland is a completely different country with different demographics, funds and social values. Inviting the comparison betrays nothing short of naivety.

    • I agree that we need to change our outlook on testing. How do you feel about performance assessment evaluation? I think that extending the school day might be a good idea. Having students stay after school for art, music, and other enrichment programs is something for us to consider. If students stay after school to learn an instrument, they gain many skills such as time management skills. The skills they gain may help them to perform better in the classroom.

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