Friday, March 19, 2010

Students benefit from longer school days

KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg with a great op ed on on the importance of extending the school day and year:

Dave Levin and I started KIPP in 1994 in Houston, Texas, after we completed two years of teaching with Teach for America. Almost all of our students were Hispanic or African-American children from low-income households. Less than half entered KIPP at their grade level in math and reading.

Dave and I knew that our kids could overcome these challenges, but we were hemmed in by the traditional school calendar.

We decided to eliminate the lack of time as an excuse for failure by starting the KIPP day at 7:30 a.m. and ending it at 5 p.m., with Saturday school twice a month and at least three weeks of mandatory summer school.

By 1999, KIPP Academy became the highest performing open-enrollment public middle school in Houston. Sixteen years later, there are now 82 KIPP public charter schools in 19 states serving 21,000 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade across the country. Nationally, about 80 percent of KIPP students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and more than 85 percent of the students who graduated from our first five KIPP schools have gone on to college.

What does the extra time allow KIPP to do?

KIPP schools are in more than 30 urban and rural communities across the country. They don't have to choose between teaching math or music; they can do both. In New Orleans, Louisiana, KIPP middle school students play in a jazz band. In the Mississippi Delta, KIPP students are taking Spanish in kindergarten.

Many of our KIPP middle schools also offer Saturday school twice a month, but don't picture a scene from the 1980s movie "The Breakfast Club." Students actually look forward to their weekend KIPP days, when they get extra academic help and participate in activities such as cooking, knitting, soccer or African drumming.

KIPP is not alone -- 655 schools in 35 states have added more time for learning, according to the National Center on Time and Learning. These schools, like KIPP, are finding ways to extend the school day even in a time of scarce resources, because they see the impact it has on student learning.

How does KIPP afford the extra time? The simple answer is that it's not easy.

It costs an additional $1,100 to $1,500 per student to fund KIPP's longer school day and calendar, which is about the same as the average price tag for other experimental extended day programs. Excellence is not cheap.


Students benefit from longer school days

By Mike Feinberg, Special to CNN

March 17, 2010 2:16 p.m. EDT

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