, Newburyport, MA

Local News

December 3, 2007

Longer school days weighed; New study shows test scores jump with more learning time

NEWBURYPORT - In the coming years, area public school students could be spending an additional 300 hours in the classroom each year.

A state Department of Education report on Friday showed that lengthening the school day by 25 percent at 18 schools around the state is producing impressive results on MCAS scores.

The districts in Boston, Cambridge and Fall River where the schoool day is 25 percent longer boasted a 10.8 percentage point increase in MCAS English testing scores. In math, the average increase was 7.2 percentage points, and science scores increased 4.7 percentage points, according to statistics from Massachusetts 2020, a nonprofit that seeks to expand educational and economic opportunities for students and families.

As schools work to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires all students to score at a proficient or better level on the MCAS by 2014, lengthening the school day is an option that will be closely examined locally.

"Expanded learning is an interesting concept as more and more is asked of us as educators on a federal and state level," said Peter Hoyt, principal of the Cashman Elementary School in Amesbury. "I think it may not be a bad idea over time."

Though Newburyport has no plans to create a longer school day, Newburyport High School Michael Parent believes it may be the way of the future. Parent said that, over the next two years, he will be looking closely at how the schools can get the most out of each school day.

"One of the charges I was given from Superintendent Kevin Lyons was to look at the schedule, which is block scheduling," Parent said. "Part of this will be looking into the school day."

Amesbury Elementary is in session from 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. A longer school day would mean more time for instruction as well as an opportunity for more collaboration and conversation among teachers on best practices and curriculum development, Hoyt said.

Longer days are producing good results elsewhere, as well. At Seabrook Elementary in New Hampshire, school days were lengthened by 30 minutes last year, and already school officials have seen better grades and test scores. The extra time during the day has allowed the school system to offer band and chorus classes during the day rather than as an after-school program.

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