Early Childhood

Boston Mayoral Candidates Focus on Extended Learning

By Laura Heinauer Mellett — October 29, 2013 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Issues around extended learning time are creeping into the Boston mayoral race, according to a story posted yesterday by Education Week writer Lesli A. Maxwell.

Both candidates in the race have made extended learning time a priority, with John Connolly, a city councilor, highlighting a proposal to extend the school day in Boston schools and Martin Walsh, a Massachusetts state representative, pushing to double the number of students in full-day pre-kindergarten.

Walsh’s website says that he wants to expand summer programs that prepare 9th graders for high school and give each freshman an individualized plan for graduation that “in some cases may include a fifth year of high school.” He also wants to strengthen community-based reading and writing programs.

On his campaign website, Connolly emphasizes the need for a longer school day, claiming that Boston’s is the one of the shortest in the nation.

I didn’t see many specifics on what any of these proposals would look like in action. Connolly has said he wants an extended school day so students can get “arts and music, science, and physical education.” Walsh’s proposal for the fifth year of high school has scarcely been covered.

I did find an interview with both candidates, in which Walsh says that in certain cases a longer school day is “going to be needed,” and that he would work to persuade the teachers union to get on board. Meanwhile, Connolly, while not promising to push for universal prekindergarten, has called for strengthening and replicating existing early childhood education programs.

A piece in The Boston Globe yesterday said that actually, both men agree on extending the school day and expanding early education, and what distinguishes them are their leadership styles—particularly in how they say they will deal with the Boston Teachers Union. From the Globe story:

John R. Connolly, an attorney and former teacher, vows to shake up the Boston school system, ousting dozens from the "dysfunctional" bureaucracy and hiring an unconventional superintendent who is not a bureaucrat. If teachers union negotiations deadlocked, Connolly said, he would simply implement the city's final best offer. By contrast, state Representative Martin J. Walsh, a longtime labor leader, says he would stress teamwork, partnering with the union to overhaul schools. He would pick a collaborative superintendent who would work with, not battle, the union and administrators."

So perhaps, in this election, it won’t be so much a question over whether the candidates support extend student learning, but what their priorities will be and how they will go about implementing them.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Time and Learning blog.