Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Monday, March 26, 2007
  Extended Day Hits the NY Times
The NY Times has a short piece on the efforts of other communities, including some in Massachusetts, experimenting with an extended school day. This is the same program that caused so much grief here in North Adams last year.

Anybody who actually followed my commentary on the subject knows that I supported the concept (and still do) and was quoted saying so in the Hill Country Observer during the spring of 2006. In that same article the Chair of the School Committee (a.k.a. Mayor Barrett) was quoted as saying that he was unsure of the program and was reserving judgement. Funny that.

Just a few months later, all hell broke loose when the North Adams Teacher's Association flatly rejected the notion of opening supplemental negotiations to extend their day by a vote of 96 - 5.

Remember those numbers every time someone tries to convince you that the teachers were meaningfully included in the planning of North Adams' proposal. The colossal failure of the proposal was that it was driven from the top and the finished product, while extraordinarily well written, had little to do with the supposed year long meetings on the subject. It was a document based on wishful thinking rather than collaboration.

96 - 5.

The mayor, school committee, city councilors, editorial pages, etc... all excoriated the teachers, in particular the NATA Executive Board, for betraying the children of North Adams by refusing to consider that particular version of the extended day scheme. These attacks were unfair and misleading since the teachers had been trying for months to get the district to scale back the proposal to some sort of pilot program. Time and time again, in my conversations with various teachers from around the district, I heard that teachers were being told that the plan was "all or nothing" by Superintendent Montepare.

96 - 5.

Strangely, as soon as the deadlines for the grant had past and the bare-knuckles-hardball-political scapegoating of the teachers had begun, the powers that be claimed that "everything was on the table" and that pilot programs were being considered.

Given the weight of the evidence, those claims sound like hogwash.

The best evidence of this is a memo sent out by Supt. Montepare which bluntly states that teachers might be laid off if the extended day proposal was not approved. Considering that the funding for extended day was supposed to be above and beyond the existing budget, that led the teachers to two conclusions:

96 - 5

Pay was another major sticking point. Mass 2020's guidelines suggested a hefty pay raise in the neighborhood of 30% for teachers. The North Adams district was offering what they claimed was 14%. (A figure that many teachers who did the math say is inflated.)

Several people went on the record calling the teachers greedy and accusing them of misrepresenting the Mass 2020 pay figures. There were officials involved in the planning claiming that the teachers were completely making-up the 30% figure. So I was a little surprised to find this nugget in the NY Time piece.
In Massachusetts, schools in that state’s pilot program, teachers have received a 30 percent raise for their extra work.
So to all of those in positions of influence who publicly called the various teachers "liars", "criminal", "retard", etc.... you might want to try a more subtle approach when you bring the subject up next time.

96 - 5.

There is still a lot of acrimony in the air about the way that this was handled. While the bully pulpit is an effective place to take on entities such as Time Warner Cable, developers and slumlords, it tends to leave a sour taste in the mouth when the same tactics are used on a group of people who are generally respected members of the community - teachers.

I hope that all involved learned something from this episode.
Indeed, the level of analysis in the local press in regard to extended days - except for your columns - has been rather lacking and more focused on supporting the administration views than the people who work in the schools. When it comes to education in NA, that is par for the course, it's all about name-calling and it's all unnecessarily heated and political. The kids suffer because of this and will continue to until the slate of rhetoric is wiped clean and new ideas are brought into the mix.

I am against extended school days because I already view the days as extended. Very little is spent on effective learning, so much of the day is spent on officiousness and getting through the day. To extend it any longer seems to me a great way for people to pat themselves on the back for "doing something" and putting more blame in the laps of the kids, who strangely still won't learn even with all this extra time. They won't learn because they are still being taught to live up to the standards tests at cost of all knowledge, of any real education. The kids would become further automatons, spewing the bare minimum of intelligent thinking and the school district will take the money and run - as they often do and, sometimes, must do in order to live up to state guidelines.

Personally, I think the whole situation is a mess that has to be torn down and built up new. Patchwork solutions on a broken system have only served to injure it further.
Greg, thanks for catching me up.

Aren't most kids in some kind of extended day already - bussed from school to an after-school program at the Y or daycare provider? I can't see how more time in the current system could possibly improve the situation, but I could see how an entire restructuring that kept the kids out of the afternoon care shuffle, could be beneficial for both the students and their families.
Most kids are in glorified day care settings after the final school bell. The NYTimes article gives a few good example of what *could* happen.

In the first meeting I attended with Supt. Montepare on the subject, he laid out the idea that by expanding the school day a lot of pressure would be relieved in the classroom. The additional time would allow for all parts of the curriculum to be taught at a less hectic pace. There would be more time for individual instruction and even a few more minutes for the kids to play outside at lunch.

The extra extended day time would *not* simply be devoted to drilling for the MCAS.

However, it seems that at the various parent and teacher meetings that were held around the district, Mr. Montepare told whatever group he was speaking with whatever they wanted to hear. He reportedly told parents at Conte who ignorantly demanded that their children no longer have any homework if they had a longer day that the extended day could possibly do that. (There were lots of promises. Lots.)

The fact is that the 3 pm final school bell no longer works in the 21st century. It was designed at a time when kids either went home to "mom" or back to the farm for chores.

While I hate the notion of drawing parallels between the world of work and the realm of schooling, the idea that the typical schedules of both should match up better for no other reason than making childcare accessible and affordable is something to consider.

Personally, I like the idea of a major rethinking of the structures and priorities of public education, both on a meta and micro (local) level.
Ignorantly demanded no homework? Okay, explain that one. It seems like a reasonable request to me, especially considering the current movement against homework.
I understand the movement against against homework, and I don't disagree with those who point to the studies saying that starting homework earlier doesn't help students later in life. But these were Middle School parents, not Elementary School. And the educational aspects were not the point of these parents according to the couple of folks who told me about the incident.

The parents basically said; 'If Billy is going to be at school longer, I don't think he should have to do homework.'

It was more a point of negotiation over work hours than regarding curriculm.

And what I am trying to say is that in no way did the extended day plan call for the elimination of homework, yet Supt. Montepare was reportedly eager to to tell them anything they wanted hear.

Although, I do think that even in a middle school setting, that homework and extended hours are piling it on a bit heavy for a kid. I mean, education shouldn't be about working a kid to exhaustion or teaching them a lesson about "getting used to it" if you know what I mean . . .

On the other hand, Conte has many issues from what I understand, only some of which are educational. Look around at all the 16 year olds pushing strollers . . .
True or false: any change to the status quo in the city's or Commonwealth's public education system is going to be opposed by one or more of:

* The mayor
* The school committee
* The teachers union leaders
* The teachers
* The parents
* The kids
* The intellectuals
* The anti-intellectuals
* Pundits, bloggers, and assorted bloviators

True or false: public education is a political and financial zero-sum game that all revolves as much around elections, money, and job security as it does around educating kids.

True or false: if someone could design a new paradigm that 1) trained children to function in higher society, 2) prepared such children as desired it with the ability to continue on to college, and 3) provided this to any child at the same price per taxpayer as the current system--it would never see the light of day in face of massive opposition by entrenched self-interest.
Ross - please define "higher society"---chbpod
Higher society: that group people who can no longer be claimed as dependents on someone's tax return.

I wasn't talking about training kids to watch public television, eat brie, and buy a Volvo. Just how to get a job, write a check, read a newspaper, calculate a tip, register to vote, why wars happen...that sort of thing. Stand down the Snob Patrol, colonel.
well Ross you lost me "why wars happen"-----that's simple enough and requires no formal education---
WARS HAPPEN----- just like "shit happens" -- hope your plumbing woes are improving---chbpod
Well, OK, I thought it was an example of something that's important for Tomorrow's Leading Citizens to know. Feel free to ignore it as such if you disagree.

Thanks for the kind words about the H20 situation. The guys at A-1 Septic in Clarksburg did a good job for me. There's more to the story, too, which I'll post about after the next phase of the job.
Well let me give you a quickie explanation of why wars happen--- someone has pissed someone else off-- (read country if you like) and that is learned on the playground during recess everyday--no need to incorporate it into the basic curriculum--chbpod
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