Rochester, N.Y.—Jamie Klotz is used to coming to school during what are normally considered off-hours. The second grade teacher worked on Saturdays at one point, and usually doesn’t leave her room at the Nathaniel Rochester School until late afternoon.
She is among the teachers in favor of extending school time for students.
“We dismiss around two o’clock and I’m just leaving now,” said Klotz. “So I already put in the extra time. I’d rather have the students in front of me.”
Rochester is one of eleven school districts in the United States selected for a new three-year pilot program involving the Ford Foundation, and the National Center on Time & Learning, along with the state and federal governments.
The program would add 300 hours of learning time each school calendar year.
Beyond adding hours, the initiative’s goal is to re-think the way time is used in each school day.
“What we are trying to do is give our teachers (and) our students the tools they need to succeed,” said Bolgen Vargas, Rochester City School District Superintendent.
Some experts in the field of education are skeptical of the idea that more time means greater results.
“The research is mixed on adding more time,” said Dr. David Hursh, a Professor of Teaching and Curriculum with the University of Rochester’s Warner Graduate School of Education.
Hursh said he has concerns that this is being done to help students pass standardized tests.
“I would prefer that students be provided a rich, intellectually and personally challenging curriculum that would excite them about school and give them a reason to attend,” Hursh said.
Vargas said the increased learning plan is not based simply on instruction time.
“We are talking about providing children with the opportunity to learn,” Vargas said.
“It is to be improved time by more active learning by lowering class sizes, by having everybody who is certified to teach take up some of the teaching responsibilities,” said Adam Urbanski, President of the Rochester Teachers Association.
Funding for the initiative would come from state and federal grant money, in addition to resources provided by the Ford Foundation and National Center on Time & Learning.
The schools involved are 3,9,10,19,23,34,45 and 46, according to a district spokesperson.