- Beginning in the 2018-19 school year, the Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools will extend the school year into July at two elementary schools serving a high proportion of students from low-income families, The Washington Post reports.
- The plan is a response to changing demographics in the state’s largest school district, where enrollment has grown more racially diverse and 55,000 of the district’s 159,000 students live in low-income households. The extended year would spread to additional schools if it is considered successful at the two initial sites.
- In neighboring District of Columbia Public Schools, 13 schools now have an extended school year, which costs the district an extra $5 million a year, The Post reports.
There has been a push in recent years to extend the school day and increase summer learning options to improve student performance and reduce achievement gaps, but extending the school year at specific schools is a more novel approach. While Montgomery County's plan illustrates the philosophy that schools have different needs, some experts stress that simply adding more of the same kind of instruction is less effective than using the additional time to create more engaging learning opportunities.
In a 2012 article for The Washington Post, Jodi Grant, executive director for the Afterschool Alliance, an advocacy organization, noted that high-quality after-school and summer programs have already been shown to improve academic outcomes and provide students with new learning experiences. Even if community organizations provide the extended learning options, cooperation between classroom teachers and after-school and summer program providers can ensure that those additional learning activities are in line with the curriculum and address the areas where students need the most help.
Finding sustainable funding for extended days or years is another challenge facing administrators. The Chicago Public Schools, for example, extended the school day and the school year, but struggled to pay teachers and other staff members to successfully provide art, music and recess time.
A 2014 report from the National Center on Time and Learning and the Wallace Foundation on financing expanded learning time highlighted some lessons learned in five schools. The additional hours or days can be an opportunity to recruit staff members that can become future classroom teachers, and expanded learning options can attract families from other schools, which can increase a school’s budget.