Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll and Superintendent Stephen Russell, along with 20 other Gateway City leaders, signed a letter yesterday urging the Legislature to support increased funding for expanded learning time in Massachusetts schools.
The letter was sent to Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo as part of an ongoing dialogue with local legislators to promote extended learning time and raise student performance.
“As city and school leaders of Gateway Cities in the Commonwealth, we know that the students in our cities are not keeping up with some of their peers in higher-income communities,” the letter stated. “We also know that parents, educators, community leaders, and business leaders are concerned about how young at-risk students spend their afternoon hours.”
Gateway Cities are areas that have a population count between 35,000 and 250,000, have a median household income below the state average of $65,981, and have an educational attainment rate of a bachelor’s degree or above.
Salem became a Gateway City earlier this year.
“I’d like to think it’s going to lend some support to the efforts that are underway across all the gateway cities to increase the amount of time that we’re working with kids,” Russell said. “And also the amount of time that teachers have available from developing activities and preparation time.”
The extended learning time program, which is spearheaded by the National Center on Time and Learning (NCTL), was introduced to the city at a community meeting in January. It aims to improve student achievement and enable a well-rounded education through remodeling school schedules and ultimately extending the school day.
On March 28 supervisors from the NCTL will work with Salem administrators on developing an assessment tool to see how the Salem school system is using time, Russell said. That assessment will be made by April 10.
“It’s not just about more time, but it’s how we use it,” Russell said. “When the house budget comes out within the next month we will see funding included to support the idea of more time. That would be my hope as we move forward to promote the idea of this initiative.”