Three Baltimore schools will serve as testing grounds for a new expanded school day program, thanks to the TASC Expanded Learning Time initiative. According to the Open Society Foundation, one of the program’s funders, “these schools will partner with local community organizations to provide students with engaging, enriching activities that reinforce classroom lessons” after the normal 3 PM closing time.
President Obama himself has trumpeted programs to keep kids in school longer, either through lengthening the school year or extending the school day. Advocates claim that more time in school leads to better performance and greater rates of on-time graduation. And the more time kids are at school, the less time they have to get in trouble. (It’s also worth keeping in mind that U.S. students have an incredibly short school year [180 days], compared to other industrialized nations. Japanese students spend 243 days in school each year; even the notoriously lazy French have 5 more school days per year than we do!)
Rather than keeping kids sitting at desks for 3 bonus hours a day, TASC schools fill the extra time with “rich and varied” activities from sports to academic enrichment. With the traditional school day increasingly taken up by test-prep activities, TASC makes room for extracurriculars, experiments, art classes, PE, and other hands-on “extras.”
It’s a shame, though, that experiential learning, fun projects, and other ways to keep kids engaged are relegated to the “extras” column. Does this program sound like the right kind of move to you?