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The New Jersey state Senate Education Committee approved a bill this week that would create funding for three-year pilot programs in 25 school districts to study innovative approaches to using time in schools.
“The goal of the pilot program will be to study the effects of a longer school day and school year on advancing student achievement, enhancing the overall school learning environment and increasing student enrichment opportunities and educational offerings,” the text of SB 2087 reads.
An informal Barrington Bulletin poll this week shows a narrow majority are initially opposed to the prospects of the Barrington School District working to be part of such a pilot program. (See the poll below and please vote if you haven’t done so yet.)
The N.J. Education Association, N.J. School Boards Association and N.J. Association of School Administrators have voiced their support for the legislation, according to PhillyBurbs.com.
Programs to extend the school day and year have become more popular in recent years. According to a New York Times report, about 170 schools nationwide have extended the school year to 190 days or more in recent years.
The movement gained momentum in 2010 when President Obama called for an additional month of school each year, to be accompanied by an increase in teacher salaries.
“We now have our kids go to school about a month less than most other advanced countries,” the president said. “And that month makes a difference. It means that kids are losing a lot of what they learn during the school year during the summer.”
Longer school days, meanwhile, can offer students a more relaxed learning atmosphere, according to an article on the National Education Association website.
“Kids used to be rushed,” eighth-grade Language Arts teacher Elaine Ivy states in the NEA piece. “Forty minutes for a class is too short, and it winds up being just 30 minutes after you get them settled into their desks for the lesson. Now (with a 90-minute class) we’ve slowed the process down, and class is more like a relaxed country drive where they can absorb what they’re learning versus being stuck in rush hour traffic where they’re in a hurry but not getting anywhere.”
Opponents to extended school years, meanwhile, note the potential for financial issues. FoxNews, for example, warns of including increased costs for school systems, major cuts to the nation’s hotel and tourism industries and a serious blow to summer camp operators.
The New Jersey bill attempts to address the initial costs to school districts, but the financial issue will be the next key step as the bill now moves to both the state Senate and Assembly appropriations committees.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Interested in telling your representative in state government what you think about the issue? Contact state Sen. Donald Norcross and Assemblymen Gilbert “Whip” Wilson and Angel Fuentes at the District 5 legislative site.