News and Tribune

April 5, 2014

TIME KEEPS ON TICKING: Greater Clark’s extra 45 minutes a day isn’t so bad, students and teachers say

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE — Grant Patterson says the geography stations are fun in his second-grade class, even if doing them means staying an extra 45 minutes at school.

“We feel it a little bit more, but it’s not that bad because it’s helping us get ready for our state test and we’ll get more time for our summer break,” Patterson said. “We’re learning more, so that’ll make us get better grades on our ISTEP test.”

Greater Clark County Schools’ first week of extended school days wrapped up Friday. To make up for five days lost to heavy snow, the district opted to tack on nearly an hour to the school day for about a month.

At W.E. Wilson Elementary School, teachers and students said the kids sometimes seem a little more tired, but getting the extra time in before the next round of ISTEP+ testing begins makes more sense than eating farther into summer recess.

While other school corporations in Clark and Floyd counties opted to use one of their weeks for spring break to make up days, Chrissie Lawerence, second-grade teacher, said that wasn’t possible for Greater Clark.

“Greater Clark did not have that option because we had intersession at the beginning,” Lawerence said. “I feel like intersession is a valuable tool. I think that was a misconception among parents and others.”

The district’s intersession program allows students who need extra help with courses to get additional instruction, or in some cases, let kids take an enrichment class for fun.

The extra time for Greater Clark was encouraged for use on extended English and math instruction, but each school has the ability to determine how to do that.

Jessica Langdon, fifth-grade teacher, said staff and students have barely noticed a change because the time is filled up in different ways.

“We’re so well-planned and have so much to do during the day to get ready for our state testing, that we added that 20 to 25 minutes to our reading block and to our math block, so all we did was shift our schedule,” Langdon said. “Our kids are resilient — we tell them that the schedule is changing and I feel like my fifth-graders have adjusted well.”

But they’re not impervious to the change. Sara Porter, a reading intervention teacher and parent at the school, said some of the kids are a little more tired by the time the day ends.

“I think the children are so resilient, including mine, that I really don’t see much difference,” Porter said. “But as a parent, I can see the level of exhaustion go up in the mornings and the evenings.”

Sophie Rousseau, a fifth-grader at the school, said even though she’s there for an extra 45 minutes, she gets the chance to finish assignments before getting home.

“Ms. Langdon lets us do our homework at the end of the day, so it’s not like we have to go home and have an extra 45 minutes of learning where I have to do more work,” Rousseau said. “But I don’t feel like it’s really that big of a difference.”

Though part of the intent was to get extra instruction in before testing begins, not all students are subjected to statewide exams at the end of the school year. Lawerence’s kids and others from kindergarten through second grade don’t take ISTEP. But she said they still have something to gain from staying in class longer.

“I don’t feel like it’s as big of an adjustment as I even thought it would be for the younger kids,” Lawerence said. “They’re exhausted by the time we leave, but that’s not necessarily a negative or a positive for the younger babies, but third through fifth grade, I think that time is extremely valuable before our state testing in May.”