It’s hard to avoid the discussion of extending the school day. Urban school districts are encouraging it as a means to help close the achievement gaps, parents by and large like it (though a great many insist that it be voluntary for their children), and teachers generally think it can be one tool of many to help, provided it is done wisely. Teacher unions, including ours, are generally of similar minds: if done wisely, an extended school day can be a useful tool to help children academically, enrich children by exposing them to activities not usually available during the course of the regular school day, and give parents more flexibility by accommodating their work schedules. We see this as win-win.
Ideally, we’d like to see the school day extended a reasonable 30-45 minutes for purely academic purposes with an additional segment beyond scheduled for enrichment—not academic—activities. The first segment would be mandatory, the second voluntary.
During the first segment, individual schools and teachers could decide how best to service their populations. Some schools might concentrate on math, some on English Language Arts. Still others might feel that the time could be better spent, a semester at a time, on various themes. We’d leave that up to individual school communities to decide what’s best, what works, and what their students need.
The second segment could be devoted to the range of activities that children, especially urban children, are not necessarily exposed to: music, the arts, karate, foreign languages, and robotics, just to name a few. And their teachers wouldn’t necessarily be the same teachers they see during the regular school day. They’d come from a variety of places and organizations, dance troupes, non-profits and the like. Colleges could send in students to tutor. Museums could offer classes in art. With the hundreds of non-profits in this area, we could surely find a means to provide a wide array of activities. That’s what we do now at a handful of schools, such as the Edwards in Charlestown.
We’d like to see every school be transformed into the Edwards model, where all students receive extra academic help, then an exposure into a host of enrichment activities. Teachers and outside providers join together every day and provide a terrific array of exciting and worthwhile activities for children. The result: The Edwards has gone from a failing, unpopular school to a wildly successful, hard-to-get-into school of choice.
So how would this be paid for? Well, for the first part of the daily extension, teachers could instruct and they would of course be paid. We could work out these details, and reach an agreement. But we would not work without compensation. No one would. And no one should be expected to—whether we’re talking about your accountant, plumber, lawyer, medical professional, or computer technician. If we value someone’s work, we need to pay for their time. In the enrichment phase of the extended school day, we would also have to pay for their assistance, though some of the larger non-profits, we believe, could be coaxed into providing services in lieu of the taxes they are not currently obligated to pay. If we as a society are interested in closing the achievement gap and lessening the disparity in exposure to the world by zip code, then we need to come up with the resources to do this. Some of our children are blessed with a wealth of resources in after-school programs that their parents can afford. We should strive to give the same exposure to our urban children who are not as fortunate.
Now many have suggested that we ought to work without compensation. That would be the quickest and easiest solution to extending the school day. Some policy makers and politicians have even threatened to legislate this change. We understand that that could happen. We also know that it wouldn’t be the right thing or the fair thing to do. We’d all be better served if we put our heads together and figured out how much and what our students need, and then we ought to figure out how to make our schools full-service and sustainable institutions.
The Boston Teachers Union supports the governor’s tax package that would take a few steps, albeit small, toward helping our students on a more level playing field. We’ll be participants in that, and we’ve offered the school system a variety of cost-effective options to begin to put these needed programs in place. We look forward to working with the district to make the school day extension a reality.
This is a brief excerpt of a video the BTU produced a year ago in support of wisely extending the school day. (Full disclosure, I am the Political Director of the BTU.)
I don’t know what I think about increased pay as a trade-off for a longer school day, in part because I don’t know how Boston teacher pay compares to teacher pay nationally. I read that ” Boston is at the bottom two percent of districts nationwide when it comes to the length of our school day.” So I could imagine that Boston teachers could be overpaid relative to peers per hour in the classroom, if Boston teachers’ salaries are on par with peer salaries. Or it could be that Boston teachers make less than peers, so that the pay per hour in the classroom is comparable. Are there statistics on pay that would show which it is?
I agree with the general theme: “if done wisely.” Not easily accomplished.
Thanks, GGW. So the average teacher in Boston makes approximately 20% more than the average teacher in the Commonwealth. How does the Boston school day compare to other school days across the state? Perhaps you have some more statistics in your magic hat!
I don’t know the data here. This WBUR article suggests shorter in Boston.
As noted in the link you provided, Dr. Johnson continues to overlook the uncompensated “volunteer” time that teachers spend on the job. Many Boston teachers, keep kids who need extra help after school, as well as kids who need behavioral redirection. Teachers attend student’s sports games because parents are working, and empty bleachers dispirit the team. (If Dr. Johnson, and what’s left of her “team,” would show up for a game, uncompensated, I’ll supply the pom-poms!)
Teachers attend science fairs, art fairs, talent shows, and chaperone dances so BPS kids can enjoy the same experiences as their suburban peers. Teachers take kids on field trips that put us on a bus before the school day starts, and returns long after the school day ends, when we transport those kids without rides home.
Teachers participate on the School Site Council, the Instructional Leadership Team, and the School Accreditation Teams. All these additional activities are uncompensated! Boston Teachers pay for Xeroxing at Staples and buy copy paper and supplies that the BPS never seems purchase enough of, all unreimbursed. That is enough, if the BPS wants an extended day providing teaching services, there has to be a “quality” plan, and BPS needs to compensate teachers fairly.