Eager schoolchildren participate in classroom activities. (Courtesy of DCPS)
Eager schoolchildren participate in classroom activities. (Courtesy of DCPS)

In an attempt to curb summer learning loss, more than 4,000 students in District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) received more time in the classroom this year.

Starting with the pilot program at Raymond Education Campus in 2015, the ‘Extended Year’ program branched out to 10 additional schools primarily in Wards 7 and 8.

“By combating summer learning loss and giving students more time to learn and explore, Extended Year schools are showing what it means to give all Washingtonians — beginning with our youngest residents — a fair shot at success,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser. “I am proud of the students participating in our Extended Year programs and I am grateful for all the educators and families who are making these extra days a success.”

With Extended Year, students receive 200 days of learning, or one month of extra instruction. School officials estimate that students who attend an Extended Year school starting in kindergarten gain an additional year of learning by the time they reach the eighth grade.

“DC Public Schools is thankful for Mayor Bowser’s investment in Extended Year schools. Additional time in school means our students experience more instructional and enrichment opportunities in everything from math and English language arts to world language and music,” said Antwan Wilson, DCPS chancellor.

But one member of the State Board of Education who represents Ward 8 believes that extra time in school brings with it some collateral damage.

“I think parents have run into some difficulties from what I’ve heard having one child out of school and one child in, or two in school and one out of school,” Markus Batchelor said. “It’s just a hassle. From the feedback I’ve heard, how parents envisioned planning their summers and their child care were thrown off.”

Batchelor said the intent of Extended Year remains to give teachers more opportunity to enrich their students doing things they normally wish they had more time to do.

“The feedback is mixed from teachers,” he said. “I think they wish that they had been brought in on this plan earlier. It obviously puts an extra obligation on teachers who feel like they didn’t have a choice to work those extra four weeks.”

Batchelor contended that for teachers, those extra 20 days in the classroom gives them less time to plan and less time to rest.

“This was our first year so some of that is growing pains and some of that we’ll have to take a closer look at and try to rectify,” he said.

By design, the 11 schools participating such as Garfield Elementary School, Hart Middle School, Hendley Elementary School, Kelly Miller Middle School and Randle Highlands Elementary School can be found in either Wards 7 or 8.

Research suggests that time away from school during the summer contributes to the achievement gap.

Students from low-income families often lose more than two months of reading achievement during the summer while their middle-class peers continue making gains, DCPS said in a statement while making the case for Extended Year.

“Many of our low-performing schools are east of the river and in Ward 8 in particular and so that’s why we got a large amount of Extended Year schools,” Batchelor said.

Students at Extended Year schools return Monday, Aug. 14 — one week before most return to school on Aug. 21.

“The intent was to pilot the program not in any given sections of the city but at schools that had the hardest time in academic achievement, giving students who were the furthest behind more time to learn and more time in the classroom,” he said. “I think we have to do a better job at engaging our stakeholders at the school and community levels. My hope is that it’s growing pains, but if it’s not we need to figure out what the best fix is.”

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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