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Longer school day? How five states are trying to change education.

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The 11 districts taking part in the initiative will have a year to plan. Their plans will all be different, but backers of the program expect them to adhere to some basic principles and hope that the new schedules will involve a rethinking of what’s possible. 

For example, teachers might start staggered schedules. Schools might explore both traditional and computer-mediated learning. Students might get more time for internships or project-based opportunities. Teachers should gain time for collaboration and planning. 

The models for this program “are quite different from what you’ve seen historically,” says Jennifer Davis, president and cofounder of the National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL), which is a part of the effort.

Traditional “after-school” community programs will no longer necessarily be after school, she notes.

Some of the additional time may be more personalized academic time, but some will also be enrichment opportunities like music, art, robotics, or sports, adds Jeannie Oakes, director of educational opportunity and scholarship programs at the Ford Foundation.

She and others also emphasize a safety component: for many students, the most dangerous hours of the day are between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., when kids are out of school, don’t have good programming, and parents are busy at work.

NCTL and the Ford Foundation are providing money and technical expertise to the districts, and both the federal and state governments are also providing funds. But those involved say they hope the plans can be cost-efficient, providing a model for how students in traditional public schools and from low-income neighborhoods can get access to the sort of enrichment opportunities that many middle-class and affluent students routinely get. 

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