Extended school time is an education reform option that seems to be gaining in popularity. President Obama gave his endorsement earlier this year, while districts such as DCPS have extended time legislation under consideration.
The idea is fairly simple: Make the school day and/or year longer, so kids will have more time to learn. Unlike many of the policy proposals flying around these days, it’s an idea that actually has some basis in research. While, by itself, more time yields negligible improvements in achievement, there is some evidence (albeit mixed evidence) that additional time devoted to “academic learning” can have a positive effect, especially for students with low initial test scores. So, more time might have potential benefits (at least in terms of test scores), but the time must be used wisely.
Still, extending schools days/years, like all policy options, must of course be evaluated in terms of cost effectiveness. Small increases, such as adding a few days to the school calendar, are inconsistently and minimally effective, while larger increases in school time are an expensive intervention that must be weighed against alternatives, as well as against the fact that states and districts are, facing a few more years of fiscal crisis, cutting other potentially effective programs.