Raymond Education Campus in Petworth was the first D.C. public school to try out the extended school year.
A long-standing challenge in education is the dreaded “summer slide,” where children — especially those from low income families — lose some of the academic gains they made during the school year while they’re on vacation.
Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) says he visited Cooke Elementary recently, where he said the principal told him this was a “huge problem.”
“They tested their students when they left. They were at 68-69 percent proficiency in reading, and when they came back it was dropping down to 30 percent," Grosso says.
That school is one of 11 schools that will open in the fall with an extended school year: 200 days of instruction instead of 180.
There will also be eight optional days where students who are struggling can come in to get their needs met. Teachers at these schools will be on an 11 month contract, instead of 10 months.
Chancellor Kaya Henderson says this is not an experiment. “There is very clear evidence that providing students with more instructional opportunities, more time for enrichment, particularly students who are the neediest, that leads to better outcomes.”
Except for one, all of the 10 schools implementing an extended school year for the first time are from Wards 7 and 8. Henderson says schools were chosen based on whether leadership and the school community wanted extended days as well as those that would benefit from it.
Principal Natalie Hubbard from Raymond Education Campus, brought up the idea two years ago. Her school served as a pilot this year for the extended year calendar. She says there was more academic instruction, but there was also a trip to New York, including a Broadway show. And in February, there will be an overnight camping trip, skiing and visits to museums in D.C.
She says she’s confident they will do better academically as well. “In reviewing our students' work, they have seen significant difference in their writing, they’re able to write from their experiences.”
Henderson says 96 percent of students are coming to school on days that are optional, where they can get extra academic coaching. It will cost $500,000 more at each school to extend the school year. The initiative doesn’t need council approval, nor does it need a union vote.
More than 40 schools in D.C.’s traditional public school system already have extended days.