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5,000 students in Mass. will have longer school days

State to add to its program as part of US effort

Federal and state officials will announce Monday that Massachusetts and four other states will begin implementing longer school days for some students next September, to provide extra academic traction and enrichment for thousands of children.

Select schools in Colorado, Connecticut, New York, and Tennessee will join Massachusetts in adding extra school hours. The announcement comes six years after the Bay State launched a program to extend the day at schools in several districts; the new effort will add to that.

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“It’s a pretty red letter day for Massachusetts,” said Christopher Gabrieli, chairman of Massachusetts 2020, the group that spearheaded the effort that launched in 2006.

More than 5,000 students at schools in Lawrence and Fall River will see longer days under the pilot program, and more than 19,500 students will participate in all five states, Massachusetts 2020 said.

Gabrieli said Massachusetts is the only state with a “state-level policy” for allowing traditional public schools to extend the day. “There’s no question that that’s kind of the inspiration for this,” he said.

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is scheduled to appear with other officials on Monday morning to announce the initiative, according to a statement on the department’s website.

Participating schools will also receive technical assistance, Massachusetts 2020 said. Schools in the pilot program will plan to offer 300 extra hours of instruction and enrichment during the year.

The earlier initiative launched in 2006 in the Bay State relied mainly on state funding, according to Gabrieli. His group said Sunday in a statement that the Ford Foundation will contribute private funding for the new effort, adding to federal and state funds. It was not known how much the federal and state governments will contribute to the program.

The pilot program is dubbed the Time for Innovation Matters in Education Collaborative.

More than 1,000 schools offer extended day programs in 36 states and the District of Columbia serving about 520,000 students, Gabrieli’s group, which is known nationally as the National Center on Time & Learning, said in a report on the issue of extended days released Monday.

About 43,700 students in dozens of cities and towns in Massachusetts were enrolled in extended day programs during the last academic year, according to Massachusetts 2020.

Fall River Superintendent Meg Mayo-Brown said that three schools in the district that currently offer extended day programs have seen a boost in student achievement.

“When we had an opportunity to become part of the [pilot program], frankly we jumped at it,” said Mayo-Brown.

She said three middle schools and an K-8 school will participate in the new program.

The superintendent of the Lawrence public schools, which are in state receivership, could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Frank McLaughlin, president of the Lawrence Teachers Union, said his members support the additional hours, but only if they are used wisely and if teachers are compensated fairly.

“We agree that extended school hours will help children, and we’ll vote for helping children,” he said.

Schools in Lawrence, he said, have long offered extended-day programs for students who needed them. But as part of the receivership, all schools in Lawrence will see mandatory extended hours, and three schools have extended hours this year, according to McLaughlin.

He said that longer days are not a cure-all for the district.

“Longer school day is just one of the solutions,” he said. “We have students — they don’t even get the newspaper in their homes. We have students that are highly transient. We have teenage mothers that are victims of abuse.”

Extended learning time has not always been implemented seamlessly in Massachusetts.

The Globe reported in 2009 that schools in Framingham and Southbridge had dropped extended day programs, and six Andover schools went through the planning process during the 2007-2008 academic year before deciding not to go forward.

Problems among the schools who either dropped programs or balked at launching them included a lack of parental support and teacher collaboration time, officials said at the time.

David Miles, chairman of the Framingham School Committee, said Sunday that two schools in town dropped extended day, partly because the subjects offered did not have enough impact on academics to merit the additional hours. He said that while he cannot speak for other school officials, he might be willing to revisit extended days in the future.

Twenty-two public schools in Boston offered extended time during the last academic year, the most of any school district in the state, according to Massachusetts 2020.

The Boston Teachers Union says about one-third of the district’s 128 schools offer an extended day.

Matthew Wilder, a spokesman for the Boston public schools, said in an e-mail that extended day programs have been a key strategy for improving underperforming schools, and the district plans to extend the day at more schools in the fall. “Superintendent [Carol] Johnson believes strongly that our students require additional time with their great teachers,” Wilder wrote. “However, she also believes that just adding time to the school day isn’t enough; an extended day must be methodically planned and include opportunities such as the arts and athletics for it to be successful.”

Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union, also said an extended day should provide varied offerings. He said Boston launched the first extended-day school in the state in 1986 and that the program in the district has generally been “a reasonable success.”

But he also said that keeping students in school for more than an additional 90 minutes appears to be counterproductive. “All in all, it’s a good thing,” Stutman said of longer days.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com.
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