National Edition

Longer school days mean better grades, studies say

Published: Sunday, May 25 2014 4:30 a.m. MDT

Some U.S. high schools are extending the school day, and researchers are seeing big effects for students: higher test scores and grades and improved mental and physical health.

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Underperforming schools are raising student-performance levels by lengthening their school day from six-and-a-half hours to eight.

Concerns over how to successfully improve failing schools have lead researchers to look at the benefits of longer days with a more varied curriculum. They found that when students in low-income areas are given more time, test scores improve between 11 and 24 percent.

That improvement isn’t subtle, according to the National Center on Time & Learning, which says the test scores not only improve, but also close in on those of well-performing schools.

“With more time, teachers have the power to transform the way they deliver their lessons and the way in which they lead their schools to higher achievement,” the Time to Succeed Coalition said. “Teachers can use expanded learning time to collaborate and share best practices from the classroom in order to improve their instruction.”

According to NCTL 1,500 schools have adopted the lengthened schedule, 900 of which are district schools, serving over 500,000 students.

“Schools should explore ways to use more time to focus on core academics and enrichment activities — such as art, music, apprenticeships and sports — that provide a well-rounded education, as well as to provide teachers with more time for collaboration, planning and professional development,” Tiffany D. Miller wrote for the Center for American Progress.

The change is not merely one of time. The research shows that more time means nothing if it isn’t well used. To improve education through NCLT means it requires a major commitment of time, money and resources.

“Schools in this study invest significant time assessing students, engaging teachers in analyzing the data, and then using the analyses to improve instruction and identify students who need specific additional support. This process creates a continuous improvement loop that allows schools to provide excellent instruction driven by student needs,” the executive summary from the NCTL noted.

EMAIL: nshepard@deseretnews.com TWITTER: @NicoleEShepard

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