Sent to the Baltimore Sun, Jan 1, 2012
Three schools in Baltimore are lengthening the school day based on the “success” of an expanded instruction program in New York (“Three city schools to extend day by three hours, Jan 1).
What success? According to the Sun, New York’s overtime students gained 2.2 percentage points in English Language Arts in three years, more than the city average of 1.5 points.
Please do the math. That’s a .7 difference over three years, about one quarter of a percentage each year.
We can get much bigger gains with a lot less work, with an approach that children will like a lot better than staying in school longer: Invest in libraries and librarians. Studies show that children who do not do well on reading tests often have little access to books, and studies also show that increasing access to books through libraries increases reading as well as reading achievement.
Just reading one extra book for pleasure each year will produce a larger gain in Language Arts than overtime schooling.
Access to books, libraries, reading achievement: Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading.
One extra book: Kim, J. 2004. Summer Reading and the Ethnic Achievement Gap. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 9(2):169-188. Kim concluded that reading five books over the summer results in a gain of about three percentiles on standardized reading tests, about 2/3 of a percentile per book.