Boston Public Schools has taken an important step toward improving student learning. Mayor Marty Walsh announced Friday that with BPS and the Boston Teachers Union, he negotiated a new plan to add 40 minutes to the school day for elementary, K-8, and middle school students. Teachers will be paid a $4,464 stipend to cover the additional time, and schools will have flexibility to determine how best to use the extra minutes, though some time is guaranteed for additional teacher professional development and planning. This proposal will be up for a vote by teachers on January 14.
This proposal represents an exciting opportunity for BPS to use its people and time in even more effective ways. Last year, ERS had the privilege of working with BPS and the Center for Collaborative Education on The Path Forward, a report that examined the state of school autonomy in BPS. The report found that the average “autonomous” school (i.e., one of several types of schools that receive greater flexibility from central office mandates) has 190 extra teacher hours per year—the equivalent of an extra hour of student learning or teacher collaboration every day, or three more weeks of professional development for teachers. Boston-area Commonwealth charters (a type of charter school funded and approved entirely by the state) offer students at least 30 percent more time in school, which can “put BPS at a disadvantage in…meeting the needs of students from low-income families” (p. 19). Our report recommended that BPS collaborate with the Boston Teachers Union to enable all schools to increase learning time and to use it more flexibly to best meet student and school needs.
We applaud the work of advocates who have been pushing for extended learning time in Massachusetts and BPS for a long time and are heartened to see one of the recommendations from The Path Forward already on its way to implementation.