Greater Greater Education

Henderson says higher scores show extended day works

Recently released test scores show that extended school day programs work, says Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson. Whether she'll be able to expand them to more schools may depend on the newly elected president of the Washington Teachers Union.


Photo by DCPS

Last year 8 DCPS schools experimented with an extended school day, and 7 of them showed gains on the 2013 DC CAS in both reading and math.

Four of them had double-digit gains. Overall, gains at the extended day schools exceeded those at schools on a traditional schedule by a significant margin: 10.6 percentage points as compared to 3.3 points in math, and 7.2 points as compared to 3.7 points in reading. Based on those results, Henderson said, "We will be looking at how we can deepen and expand that work."

But, she added, there are two possible barriers to expansion. One is money. The other is the need to renegotiate the teachers union contract to allow some form of extended hours.

The former WTU president, Nathan Saunders, had agreed in principle to some form of extended school day. But that agreement was thrown into doubt by the election of Elizabeth Davis, a longtime union activist, in early July. Davis hasn't yet taken a position on the issue. To make matters even more uncertain, Saunders is now challenging the election results, a process that could drag on for some time. Saunders appealed the election results but then decided to withdraw the challenge, and Davis took office August 1.

Henderson said that she's worked with Davis in the past and seemed optimistic that the two sides will reach a satisfactory agreement.

The 8 schools that experimented with extended day last year did so in a variety of ways. Some had extended hours three days a week, others had five-day programs, and one included hours on Saturdays. The programs were funded through a DCPS grants program called Proving What's Possible.

Henderson emphasized that an extended school day doesn't necessarily mean that teachers will work longer hours. Teachers' hours could be staggered to accommodate an extended day, and outside organizations could be brought in as partners.

"We want to be creative," she said, "but we need the flexibility that the contract doesn't allow us."

The one expanded-day school that didn't post gains in its scores was Dunbar High School, the only secondary school in the group. The other 7 schools were elementary schools. Dunbar's scores fell by 2.9 percentage points in math and 9.8 points in reading.

Dunbar has also pioneered a 9th grade academy program, which separates first-time 9th-graders from students who are repeating the grade and provides them with extra support. Henderson plans to expand the 9th grade academy program to all neighborhood DCPS high schools this year. She dismissed the suggestion that Dunbar's score slippage indicated that the program doesn't work.

"You can't go by just one year," she said.

DCPS is basing its expansion of the program not solely on Dunbar's experience, Henderson said, but on extensive research on the success of 9th grade academies around the country. In addition, this year's Dunbar 9th graders didn't take the DC CAS, which at the high school level is given only to 10th graders. Although Dunbar's 10th graders had a version of the 9th grade academy experience the previous year, the program was strengthened and expanded this past year.

Henderson also said that she has no second thoughts about closing one school, Macfarland Middle School, that achieved significant gains in both reading and math. The closure decision was based on under-enrollment rather than academic performance, but there's a possibility that Macfarland's improved scores could have attracted more students.

"We make bets every year," Henderson said. "Sometimes they're wrong, sometimes they're right."

She said that the closure will save resources, and that the students from Macfarland have been reassigned to other good schools.

Overall, middle school students made some of the most significant gains on the DC CAS. Henderson said she hopes the improvement in performance will stem the attrition of families from the school system after elementary school.

Natalie Wexler is the editor of Greater Greater Education and a member of the boards of DC Scholars Public Charter School and The Writing Revolution, an organization that promotes the teaching of analytical writing. She has been a lawyer, a historian, and a journalist, and is the author of three novels. 

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Even in schools where the day is not extended, many professional parents have aftercare. I would appreciate that aftercare truly being an organized extension of the school day. Organized activities seem valuable, and learning could still be in the mix.

by andy on Aug 1, 2013 4:10 pm • linkreport

I don't get her logic. For extended hours one year of data is enough to expand the system, but for the 9th grade academy one year of data is not enough to make the decision to stop the project.

While I am happy there are gains the overall numbers are still horrible and too many schools are still horrible. Much more work to be done and I fear most of it needs to be done at home and that is not happening.

by Sally on Aug 1, 2013 6:09 pm • linkreport

Macfarland Middle was a special place; you can re-assign kids but you can't re-assign relationships. DCPS has done a terrible job with addressing the emotional impact closing schools has on children and families. Relationships and stability had been nurtured at MacFarland which was a community place. People invested their lives in ensuring that the school turned around. And then it gets closed for funding purposes because someone wants to re-invent the wheel. Administrators shift kids around with no thought to the trauma that it causes when kids, many of which have had no stability in their lives, are once again torn form some of the only stable relationships they have. In a way, it is a slap in the face for children who worked hard and believed that if they did well, their school just might stay open. TSK TSK DCPS. TSK TSK.

by Ward4Parent on Aug 2, 2013 9:50 am • linkreport

Extended day can mean a lot of things -- an extra hour on the end of the day, many one or two day week enrichment opportunities or a fully organized after school and summer program with homework help, dinner, physical activity and supplemental curriculum.

PAL works in two SE schools, in partnership with the school day team to extend the learning day by three hours a day. We help kids learn, we support working families, and we support the efforts of the daytime schools to make the schools amazing places for kids.

PAL has an natural science Animal Studies program where children learn about the natural world in a myriad of ways.

We use a secondary, part time workforce to staff the classes. The day time teachers are super hard working folks, but after six or more hours in the class -- classes that may be as large at 30 children -- teachers need time to attend meetings, prepare for the next day, and complete the many, many administrative demands that are placed on teachers.

Another important thing that happens after school is free meals are provided, which requires logistics and support. PAL supervises the distribution of ensured children received $107,000 in federally funded free meals last year.

At both our schools, we will have wait lists this year fall.

Our after school program is a part of a comprehensive, school wide effort at both schools to provide structure, instruction, fun and family engagement. High quality after school is an important part of an overall effort to create fantastic schools for lower income, high need children.

Funding matters: DC has three current sources of funding, federal dollars funneled through OSSE, Children's Youth Investment Trust Corporation and OSSE dollars that go through DCPS. There is hot competition for these funds, so currently, there is no parity for principals, kids or parents.

I hope this issue receives lots and lots of attention, as DC could use a dramatically expanded, high quality after school and summer programming to support learning, working families and hard working schools.

by Rene Wallis on Aug 2, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

"We make bets every year, sometimes they're wrong, sometimes they're right."
Leading DCPS on that basis is wrong.

Ward4parent--you are soooo right!

by Sarah Livingston on Aug 5, 2013 1:15 am • linkreport

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