education reform | July 19, 2011

Pedro Noguera: Longer School Years May Bridge the Achievement Gap

An important voice for healthy public education, Pedro Noguera has a plan for making public schools better—especially ones in poor neighborhoods: make the school year longer. It's a plan no kid wants to hear, but, according to Noguera's recent New York Times Op-Ed, “differences in learning time and in access to enrichment activities that support child development contribute to the disparities in academic outcomes.”

To level the playing field with upper and middle-class kids, who often supplement learning with parent-paid activities like summer schools and camps, public schools need to look to charter school models, where more funds are opened up for extended school years. Noguera says this requires shifting the rules a bit, eliminating compliance regulations on spending public cash, and adapting teacher schedules. Done right, it works. He cites schools in New Jersey, where changes have resulted in a school day running to 4:30 pm, thereby allowing time for more math, literacy education, and relevant extracurricular activities. Unsurprisingly, proficiency scores are up significantly.

The plan is typical of what audiences expect to hear from Noguera: rational, well-supported arguments for narrowing the achievement gap between well-off and poor students. Noguera's broader work examines how schools are influenced by social and economic conditions in the urban environment. His engaging keynotes discuss racial inequality and the role of diversity. They highlight factors that promote student achievement, and they delve into the challenges schools face in providing safe, academically rewarding environments. A realistic, hopeful speaker, Noguera shows us the hurdles we face in providing equal education, and he unveils the solutions that are already working to help overcome them.

Read more about education reform speaker Pedro Noguera

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