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Schools Developing Strategies For Extended Hours In 2013-2014 Year

New London teachers and administrators seek input and cooperation from community partners in developing pilot program

Speaking at a community forum on the planned extension of the school year under a pilot program, teachers and administrators in the New London Public Schools said a number of different strategies will be employed and that collaboration with community partners will be included.

New London was one of 11 districts in five states selected for an extension of the school year by 300 hours, beginning in the 2013-2014 school year. Kate Ericson, chief academic officer for New London Public Schools, said each of the participating schools will design its own strategy for how to implement the extra hours.

“There’s no one model for how this looks,” said Ericson. “There’s no cookie cutter approach.”

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Under the three-year pilot program, Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School and the district’s elementary schools will each receive the additional school time. Dr. Nicholas Fischer, superintendent of New London Public Schools, said additional learning time will also be included at New London High School as part of an improvement grant.

The program is being financed by federal, state, and local funding as well as the Ford Foundation and National Center on Time and Learning. East Hartford and Meriden are also taking part in the pilot program.

Ericson said the hours may be included in normal school days, weekends, and summer months. She said the elements of the program will include focusing on school-wide priorities, individual academic intervention and acceleration, targeted teacher development and collaboration, increasing expectations, and engagement in enrichment programs.

“We are not going to have a circus in our buildings,” said Ericson. “We’re not going to have 40 things that just make no sense.”

Alison Ryan, principal of Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School, said schools will be working to utilize the additional hours in ways that benefit their school improvement plan. She said the middle school is looking to increasing reading and vocabulary comprehension as well as further development of existing enrichment program, such as cooperation with local colleges and organizations.

“Really what we’re talking about at Bennie Dover is getting better at what we’re doing,” said Ryan.

Ed Sweeney, after-school coordinator at the middle school, said he enjoys working with such partners and that there are “tremendous opportunities within our own community.”

Margaret Lewis, a fifth grade teacher at Jennings School, said strategies will focus on how schools best use time and resources. She said schools are also looking to build sustainable models that can continue after the end of the pilot program, saying one possibility would be staggering when teachers start their day to extend the school day without affecting the length of a teacher’s workday.

“When the money runs out—which it will—we need to design programs that can keep going,” said Lewis.

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Wayne Vendetto January 08, 2013 at 01:50 PM
It will be interesting to see how the administration spins the uptick in absenteeism as a result of this plan. Good luck getting kids there during the summer or on weekends. If there is any attendance during these times at all, it will be because of substantial incentives at the expense of taxpayers.
Lisa Beth January 08, 2013 at 08:33 PM
I'm so glad my kids are 26 and 21. I don't have to deal with this anymore! Back in the Dark Ages when I went to school we did this really weird thing called 'learning in class'. We managed to learn to read, write--print and script!--to spell (without spell check), to do math (without a computer or calculator), we even learned all about history (without the aid of Google) I know, we must have been sorely 'underprivileged' but we just didn't know it. I don't know how we ever did all of that during the course of a normal school day and year. I also don't know what the transportation plans are for these extended learning times but I'm hoping they're good or those weekend classes and summer classes will be very empty. I guess Paul Simon said it best; "When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school it's a wonder I can think at all. Though my lack of education hasn't hurt me none I can read the writing on the wall". In this case the writing reads; EPIC FAILURE IN PROGRESS. Let's face it, if they can't manage to educate students during the course of a normal day (and most of them can't anymore), what makes anyone think that more time is the answer to the problem? Or more money? Being the product of a 1980's NLPS edumacation and having the monumental displeasure of dealing with the NLPS on behalf of my daughters, I think more effective teachers is the answer. Not time.
Jason Morris January 09, 2013 at 08:35 PM
(class of 2011 to preface) LB...your immediate during and after school prospect careers didn't include keyboards, so you didn't have them. Your possible careers didn't have a computer with incredible technology easily implemented (like spell checkers) included in it...so you had to spend MORE TIME on those things. Calculators weren't as sophisticated, inexpensive, and everywhere you look as they are now...so you NEEDED to know how to do it without. Public education didn't care if you knew all the details of history - just the bits they wanted you to learn to coincide with the country they were guiding (example: howard zinn's A Peoples History of the United States of America). Things are different now, at least we still use #2 pencils in elementary school so you can still have something to compare with kids today. As for "more effective teachers", if you would please do some research into how teaching is evaluated...I'd hope you'd come back and apologize to the teachers. The method our country uses for evaluations is terrible, testing and standardized testing have a decades long history of failing to adequately show the effectiveness of teaching since it fails to measure creativity, critical thinking, and so many other intangibles outside of regirgitating information that has been drilled over and over. Teaching the test is another wide-spread unfortunate consequence of focusing on tests. A short time learning about finland's education sytem will open your eyes.
Jason Morris January 09, 2013 at 08:39 PM
So, wasn't this supposed to be a public forum to take input from the community? Could you please update this with what suggestions or concerns the people brought up Dirk?
Regina Nicholson January 10, 2013 at 07:14 PM
I guess I missed this "public forum". were there any parents present and did they or were they invited to speak or add any input into the conversation?
Dirk Langeveld January 10, 2013 at 07:25 PM
The audience included several people who are involved in school partnerships, local churches, etc. as well as some parents. Unfortunately, I was only able to stay for the initial speakers because this took place on the same evening as a City Council meeting (organizers were aware of this but needed to schedule the meeting for the same night since they were meeting with other officials on the pilot program the next day). The Board of Education has also started holding roundtable conversations with parents at 5:30 p.m. prior to Board of Education meetings, including one tonight.
Mongi Dhaouadi January 12, 2013 at 04:10 PM
There are several issues with this forum. The "partners" invited are the usual institutions and organizations that schools have been dealing with for years. There was no effort to bring to the table new community partners that can offer new ideas and represent the diverse city we live in. ISAAC middle school was not invited or even notified of this meeting even though it is a successful school that BDJM could benefit from the way they use afterschool programs to raise academic achievement. During this forum many schools shared what after school programs and activities they are doing now, but failed to tell us (using data) if these activities are helping close the achievement gap. Furthermore, there was no group discussion or Q/A session not even feedback from the "partners" on how they think their role should be in this program and more importantly how are they going to sustain these programs after the money dries up. This forum raised more questions than it tried to answer. When New Parent Advocate members asked why parents were not invited, we were told that this was not meant for them. So let's wait and see when they are going to let us know if they need our input.

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