School kids in five states will be spending at least 300 more hours learning next school year, as calendars are expanded for certain schools in those states. Education leaders in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee are taking this step because a growing body of research indicates that more time at school improves student achievement, and this is particularly critical for low-income students.
Yet, while these five states are giving students more time to learn and providing the funding to do so, Georgia is giving its students and schools less of both.
By adding time to the school day, more days to the school year or both, teachers can provide more effective learning experiences. They can incorporate more hands-on activities where students act as investigators and develop a deeper understanding of the subjects they are studying. Teachers can spend more time on challenging topics and more time with individual students to ensure that they don’t fall behind. Schools can return art, music and other enrichment classes to the curriculum and offer additional help to struggling students. They can also give teachers more time to work together to deepen their knowledge about the most effective ways to help students learn. All of these things have been linked to improving student learning.
In Georgia, we’re doing the opposite. A decade of budget cuts have led districts across the state to slash the number of days students are in school, according to GBPI’s recent survey of district leaders. District leaders here aren’t able to focus on after-school tutoring programs that provide one-on-one instruction to students or enrichment programs in foreign languages or computer engineering. Instead, they’re forced to spend their time looking for ways to avoid cutting more days from the school year, and their options aren’t great. Many districts are reducing student support services like programs for both struggling and gifted students, eliminating electives and athletics, cutting funds for transportation and technology, or increasing class sizes.
More time in the classroom improves student learning and keeps kids on track to graduate. Georgia’s lawmakers must restore the funds needed to keep schools open at least 180 days each year. And for schools and districts with large numbers of low-income students, they should support additional classroom time. It’s an investment in our kids’ future and in Georgia’s.