Additional School Time Questioned

May 19, 2009 1 min read

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan take note: longer school days and years may not be the key to improving student performance. According to a Miami-Dade County district report, a three-year, $100 million project to extend the school days and school year in the district’s lowest-performing public schools failed to improve student achievement, The Miami Herald reports.

The School Improvement Zone, a “pet-project” of former Superintendent Rudy Crew, added an hour to each school day and increased the length of the school year at 39 elementary, middle, and high schools. The project initially earned strong praise in education circles, including being named one of the “top innovations in government” by Harvard University. But, in a comparison of the Zone schools with a control group, the district’s final report on the project found that Zone students did worse on reading, science, and math exams and only slightly better on writing exams. The long hours and added workload also reportedly left both students and teachers exhausted.

Now some are wondering whether the program was a waste of taxpayer money.

“It was more of a public relations campaign to make the administration look good than anything else,” said Marta Pérez, Board Vice Chairwoman. “They used massive amounts of money without testing or piloting it first.”

In previous interviews, according to the Herald, Crews has defended the program, saying it brought heightened attention to the district’s lowest performing schools and gave them an opportunity to boost achievement.

Another school board member, Ana Rivas Logan, said the district needs to learn a lesson from the failure of the Zone program. “This shows us that throwing money at the problem is not the solution,” she said. “We need to implement programs that have proven results.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.