Last modified: Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Adding school time doesn't always mean adding quality
New CEEP policy brief examines alternative school time structures
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 10, 2007
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- At a time when schools are considering everything from longer school days to longer school years in an effort to address education shortfalls, a new report, "School Time Issues: A Look at the Relationship Between Time and Academic Achievement" from the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at the Indiana University School of Education concludes there's not enough research to determine if alternative scheduling produces positive academic outcomes.
The brief considers several nontraditional school time structures used in Indiana and throughout the country, including block scheduling, trimesters and year-round schooling. Report co-author Terry Spradlin, associate director of education policy at CEEP, said about a third of high schools across the nation in 2001 used some form of block scheduling, many used a trimester system, and some used year-round schedules (21 schools in Indiana).
"There's not a clear body of evidence that says those alternative class schedules are more effective," Spradlin said, although the report does acknowledge that there is recent research indicating adolescents might learn more effectively if the school day started later.
According to Spradlin, schools must carefully consider time changes before implementing them, because that strategy alone will likely not accomplish the goal of improving student learning.
"Do schools expect that they'll have higher student outcomes for that?" he questioned. "If that's their strategy, then that's probably very shortsighted. Really, they need to couple time changes with other school reforms."
In particular, the report recommends that curriculum changes accompany any time shift. Specifically, administrators and teachers must make sure that time allocated for instruction focuses on engaged academic learning, which requires a rigorous and relevant curriculum that students find interesting, Spradlin said. The report cites the latest High School Survey for Student Engagement national survey, issued earlier this year by CEEP, which found that two in three students said they are bored in class every day.
The report also recommends that any change regarding scheduling should be supported by the community, not imposed upon it. Changes in school schedule require adjustments for transportation to and from school as well, meaning school corporations must rearrange bus routes, and parents consequently must maneuver around work schedules.
"So community support is vital," Spradlin said. "If a school district can build support, build awareness of why the change is necessary, then administrators and teachers will likely find a much more supportive parent and family network that will make sure their kids are there on time that they'll realize the benefits of adding the time to the school day or the school year or the changes in the start time of the school day."
Finally, the report concludes that more evaluation of time changes should be done. Evaluation of these models is imperative, the report states, to determine the most efficient and effective use of time to support academic achievement."
The full report may be viewed at http://ceep.indiana.edu/projects/PDF/PB_V5N6_Summer_2007_EPB.pdf.
About the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy: CEEP promotes and supports rigorous program evaluation and policy research primarily, but not exclusively, for education, human services and non-profit organizations. Its research uses both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. To learn more about CEEP, go to http://ceep.indiana.edu.
Media Outlets: the following comments are available as mp3 files on the IU School of Education Web site at http://site.educ.indiana.edu/news/tabid/5663/Default.aspx. Look for the story headline under "Podcasts."
Spradlin says schools must do more than just add time to the day:
"Do they expect that they'll have higher student outcomes for that? If that's their strategy, just by adding more time, that they expect that outcome, then that's probably very shortsighted. Really they need to couple time changes with other school reforms. You know, professional development, teachers need to be trained on how to use that time more effectively. If they add more time they need to ensure that the time is geared toward engaged academic learning time, not necessarily time that they're just in school, but not utilizing the time wisely, but that they're actually receiving instruction; the students are engaged in the learning process."
Without the community backing the change, Spradlin says it will fail:
"Community support is vital. A school district should make a change with an informed community, a community that's behind and supporting the change versus mandating the change and imposing it on families, parents and students. I think if a school district can build support, build awareness of why the change is necessary then the administrators and teachers will likely find a much more supportive parent and family network that will make sure their kids are there on time, that will realize the benefits of adding the time to the school day or the school year, or the changes in the start time of the school day."
Spradlin says the different class schedules just don't have the research that backs up definite success:
"We looked at some variations in class schedules, block scheduling and trimester schedules. Block scheduling...I think more than a third of our high schools in Indiana are on a block schedule presently, so that's nothing new per se, same with trimester scheduling. Many of the year round schools -- and we have 21 year round schools in Indiana but a number of them nationwide -- many of the year round schools use a trimester schedule. That's nothing new, but 'we tried to look at to see whether those types of schedules produce greater academic outcomes for students. And there's not a clear body of evidence that says those alternative class schedules are more effective per se."