PROVIDENCE -- School superintendents and other educators say a study that linked the length of the school day with student performance is flawed.
The Education Partnership, a business-based education policy group, conducted the study after Education Commissioner Peter McWalters proposed extending the school day to 7 1/2 hours. The plan sparked an outcry from educators who argued it was the wrong approach to boosting achievement.
By looking at the length of the teacher's day plus the length of the school year, the group found that teachers in six districts -- Chariho, East Providence, Johnston, Newport, North Providence, and Portsmouth -- work the equivalent of at least two weeks less than their Barrington counterparts, which the report set as the gold standard.
Of the six districts, only high school and middle school students in Portsmouth are considered high performing by the state Department of Education.
Providence, with the largest student population of any Rhode Island district, was also included in the survey. According to the group, its teachers are in school 1.4 weeks less than Barrington's.
Data on the length of the school day and the school year were drawn from the state Department of Education. Common planning time, professional training, and student advisories were included.
Tim Duffy, executive director of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, questioned the findings.
The report, Duffy told The Providence Journal, does not explain why Portsmouth, with one of the shortest "teacher years," has some of the strongest student performance in the state.
He said the survey did not consider other important factors that directly affect student performance: poverty, single-parent families, and the educational attainment of parents.
Also, Duffy said, "the whole thing is flawed because it doesn't reflect the amount of time spent on instruction. . . . The fact that students in some schools may be warehoused for 6.5 hours doesn't reflect the quality of instruction."
Barrington and Portsmouth are white, affluent, educated communities. Johnston and North Providence are urban ring communities with mostly working-class families. Providence is unlike any other district because of its size, poverty, and the huge number of immigrants entering the school system. Barrington was chosen as the benchmark because it is one of three districts with high-performing high schools. It also has one of the longest school years -- 187 days -- and one of the longer school days -- six hours and 45 minutes.