The two Southeast Washington middle schools are less than a mile apart. The real distance that separates them is the number of hours their students spend in class each week.
At Johnson Middle School, the day is 61/2 hours, 8:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Students at AIM Academy, a KIPP charter school, stay for nine hours, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 71/2 hours on Friday. That doesn't count the mandatory 15 days of summer school and numerous four-hour Saturday sessions. In all, AIM kids spend 40 percent more time in class than their D.C. public school peers.
Longer school days are expensive and complicated to execute, requiring buy-in from teachers, parents, after-school programs and child-care providers. And the evidence that extended schedules actually improve academic performance is mixed at best.
But new support for a school calendar that breaks the traditional 61/2-hour, 180-day mold may force the District to give the idea more serious consideration. President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have called for longer days and shorter summer breaks. And school districts across the country are experimenting with extended days, especially as a way to help low-income students. Last month, D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) introduced legislation that would add 30 minutes to the public school schedule.
One unanswered question is whether a longer day leads to more learning. The most extensive ongoing experiment has yielded mixed results. Creators of the Massachusetts Expanded Learning Time Initiative, which involves 22 public schools across the state, say the additional 300 hours a year have given students a richer academic experience and provided more time for teachers to plan and collaborate. They report that the schools are in higher demand among parents.
But an independent evaluation found that, with the exception of higher science scores for fifth-graders, there were no statistically significant differences between schools on expanded schedules and those with conventional days.
"ELT seems to have had no significant effect on a whole range of student outcomes, including [standardized test] scores, attendance, participation in out-of-school activities . . . or level of engagement in school," said Elena Silva, a senior policy analyst at Education Sector, a Washington think tank.
They keep using KIPP schools, which have 9 hour days and a few Saturdays a month on the school schedule, as a model for Rheeform.
And the KIPP people say they are "passionate" about the longer school days.
Yet there is NO evidence that longer school days do what Rheeformers claim they are doing.
So why add extra time to the day and year?
Might the added time and days not be about academic outcomes at all?
Might they be a social control mechanism?
I have said for a long time now that the Rheeformers - all funded by corporate sources - are looking to socialize students to grow up to be compliant corporate employees willing to work longer and harder for less money than their parents.
That's one of the primary motivations of the Rheeform movement.
Given the evidence that extended time and days does not have any significant effect on academic outcomes, what other reason can the Rheeformers have than wanting to get people used to a 60 hour/6 day work week?