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Meet the Mayoral Candidates: Should Boston's school day be extended?

Posted by Joanna Weiss  July 11, 2013 06:25 AM

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Should Boston Public Schools have longer days? The question often comes up in discussions about improving city schools. Some say extended school time -- for instruction or enrichment -- is a key reason Boston's charter schools outperform its traditional schools on test scores. But some advocates warn that longer days are no panacea. And extended days have been notoriously hard to implement: A proposal to stretch the day by 45 minutes was a major sticking point in last year's teacher contract negotiations, and the School Department eventually dropped the demand.

This week, we asked Boston's mayoral candidates if they'd work to extend the school day in Boston -- and if so, how. Here's what they said. Add your thoughts to the comments, or tweet at the hashtag #bosmayor.

Charlotte Golar Richie, @Charlotte4Mayor
Former state representative

Charlotte Golar Richie .jpgYes. We want a longer school day and a longer school year! Kids in Boston don't have to go home to tend to the crops, as my students did in Kenya! We need our students at school, making sure they understand the lessons of the day, and receiving any help they need w/homework. Longer school days will provide students with opportunities to improve their math and reading comprehension skills, as well as their test-taking skills, so they'll be prepared for the MCAS. Also, we want our students in enrichment programs: art, music and athletics; and we want them to learn a second language. Finally, a longer school day would afford older students with the chance to plan for and apply to college and other post-secondary school programs.

Dan Conley, @DanFConley
Suffolk District Attorney

DanConley.jpgIt should be extended. Obviously, achieving a breakthrough with the Boston Teacher's Union would be desirable and something I will strive for, but short of that there are other ways to extend the school day. Lifting the charter school cap will give parents more options to choose from public charter schools that typically offer longer school days. By extending turnaround powers to level 3 schools, which comprise nearly half the schools in the system, those schools would also have the ability to extend their school days. Partnering with area non-profits that offer important educational enrichment opportunities like arts and music is another way of creatively extending school days for parents and children. Ultimately, we need a system that gives genuine autonomy to schools so that parents, principals and teachers are working together and making meaningful decisions about their children's education.

John Connolly, @JohnRConnolly
Boston City Councilor

johnconnolly.jpgYes. Currently, Boston's school day is one of the shortest in the nation. As a former teacher and current BPS parent, I believe that we must lengthen the school day to guarantee every student regular art, science, music, and physical education. As Chair of the City Council’s Education Committee, I held hearings on the Boston Teachers Union contract where families and students called for extending the school day. When the contract did not include a single additional minute of instruction, I was the only Councilor who voted against it. As mayor, I will negotiate a contract that extends the school day and pays our teachers well. During BPS budget reviews, I advocated for creative partnerships to extend learning time. We must use every strategy available to us, including Innovation status and partnerships with organizations like Citizen Schools, City Year, and local universities, to get our kids the education they deserve.

Felix Arroyo, @FelixArroyo
Boston City Councilor

Felix G Arroyo.jpgAll of our children deserve a first class education because they are first class students. We must invest in our public schools, ensure that our curriculum is reflective of today's world, and provide our teachers with the resources they need so that they can focus on teaching and our students can focus on learning. I believe that school should be extended for all of our students so they have access to arts, theatre, music and dance as well as physical education and sports. Extended learning time will help us make sure every child has access to a quality education.

Mike Ross, @MikeforBoston
Boston City Councilor

Bill Walczak, @BillWalczak
Community leader

BillWalczak.jpgThe school day must be extended for Boston Public School students, though extended time must be used appropriately to ensure its effectiveness in achieving greater success for students. At Codman Academy, extended school time allows for students to participate in arts, programming, and expeditionary learning activities, leading to stronger performance. Every graduate of Codman Academy has gone on to attend a 4-year college or university. In order to accomplish this, we need a mayor with experience negotiating with unions, which I have. We also need a mayor who can bring people together to accomplish difficult tasks. There is no doubt that the teacher's union, lawmakers, parents, and the school committee all have the best interest of students in mind. Everybody wants to be part of a success story and I’m confident that there is common ground to be found that allows us extended learning time in our public schools.

John Barros, @JohnFBarros
Former school board member

johnbarros.jpgWe need a citywide learning system in Boston which extends the school day, but also extends learning opportunities outside of schools that equally focuses on academic proficiency as well as socio-emotional development, arts, music and character building. We extend learning time through greater scheduling flexibility that stagger the work day for teachers and building school-community partnerships with non-profits, businesses, and higher learning institutions to create shared accountability and goals.

Marty Walsh, @Marty_Walsh
State Representative

martywalsh.jpgThe claim has been made that Boston has the shortest school day in the country. This is not correct. The day for Boston elementary schools is 6.5 hours, the Massachusetts state average. The national average is 6.7 hours, 12 minutes more than our elementary schools. Our middle and high schools have a 20 minute longer day, above the national average. However, we can all agree that more instruction time is better. And this issue must be addressed right away. As Mayor, I would pledge to immediately work with the superintendent and BTU to revisit the contract that failed to result in a longer day. There needs to be academic and non-academic after-school programs to provide wrap-around services for all our students. There are some solutions like City Year, Bell Foundation and arts programs that are great options. This issue is critical to our children's ability to compete. Therefore, we have an obligation to go back to the table with the union and reach agreement about the length of the day.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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About Boston.comment

weiss.jpegBoston.comment is an exchange for ideas about Boston and beyond, brought to you by the Boston Globe editorial page and edited by Globe columnist Joanna Weiss. We're the sponsor of's #LabDebates and the creator of the Choose Your Own Adventure mayoral game.

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