New US plan to help students catch up
Faced with lagging achievement and growing evidence that American school students are not keeping pace with kids in other industrialised nations, five US states have announced their participation in a pilot project that will give thousands of students more time to learn, starting next year.
"Adding meaningful in-school hours is a critical investment that better prepares children to be successful in the 21st century," US Education Secretary Arne Duncan said.
Duncan, along with officials from the states of Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee formally announced the "Time for Innovation Matters in Education" (TIME) collaborative, which provides 300 hours of additional learning time for reading, writing, arithmetic and other classroom lessons.
The three year test programme targets roughly 20,000 elementary and middle school students at 40 schools in primarily lower-income communities and will tap federal and state funding as well as additional private resources.
Although other schools in the US have begun experimenting with models for extended learning, the TIME programme is designed to be a collaborative effort that will gradually expand to more schools over a three-year period.
"To prepare students for college or a middle-class job in today's economy, the conventional basics are not enough," said Jennifer Davis, president of the National Center on Time and Learning (NCTL), a non-profit organisation that supports expanded learning time for students and is providing some of the resources for the project.
"For high-poverty schools, more time means more learning opportunities for children to succeed in school and in life," she added.
It's not that students in the US are learning less than they used to. It's that students in other developed nations are learning more.
A report released by Harvard University's Programme on Education and Governance found US students lagging two to three times behind students in developed countries around the world.
For school districts that are falling behind the rest of the nation, "The additional funding we're announcing will allow for the intensive turnaround models that will help us close the nation's largest achievement gap," said Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy.
"The common theme is, we need more time with the kids," said Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.
"Especially the kids that are coming from difficult neighbourhoods, broken families, this allows them to continue the momentum from the day before, allows them not to slip backwards."
The five states in the programme have not yet decided if students will have longer days, extended school years or a combination of both to allow for the extra classroom time.