Education

School day gets longer for some Durham students

Posted September 7, 2011

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— A new program aimed at helping to improve low-performing schools started Wednesday at Neal Middle School in Durham.

Durham Public Schools is investing approximately $400,000 over the next three years to collaborate with the Boston-based volunteer group Citizens Schools to extend the school day from seven hours to nearly 10 to help improve learning for the school's sixth-grade students.

Maya Bugg, the Citizens Schools organizer at Neal Middle, says the mandatory program uses hands-on learning to reach students, gives them time to get one-on-one help with their homework and allows them to learn about college options and take on apprenticeships focused on science, technology and math.

"We are hoping to see scores go up," Bugg said. "We are hoping to see students who are engaged and excited about learning."

Sheronda Witter is one of 18 Citizens Schools volunteer instructors working with 284 Neal students beyond the normal school day to help improve those scores.

Durham middle school extends day for some students Durham middle school extends day for some students

"We have fun. We do all these academic things, but we do it in a fun way so it's not like, 'I have been sitting in class all day, and now I have to sit in class more.'"

Citizens Schools started in 1995 to help middle schools improve student achievement. Today, there are more than 31 schools participating in the program in Durham, Charlotte and 15 other cities in seven states.

Durham school system administrators say the program has seen great success on similar initiatives, seeing average annual gains in proficiency of nine percentage points in math and seven points in English on standardized tests.

In North Carolina, the program launched in 2006 and is expected to work with 550 students in 2011-2012. The group partnered with Durham schools beginning in 2008.

12 Comments

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  • jackflash123 Sep 8, 5:53 p.m.

    My kids are districted to Neal. My oldest would be in 6th grade there next year. We have friends in the community who love this program b/c both parents work and it's essentially free babysitting. I'm sure many of those students get something out of the program, but the free babysitting is what I've heard parents rave about.

    I would love to embrace the neighborhood school (something more often avoided in Durham than in Wake), but my oldest doesn't need the academic support, the social outlet, and our family values our time together more than that. Even if we got an exemption from this mandatory program, it would be unacceptable for her to be at Neal b/c she'd be one of the only kids who wasn't participating. I want to support the community, but my kids won't be guinea pigs.

    This is really sad. It's the institutionalizing of young people. It's the welfare state.

  • staceylea72 Sep 8, 11:12 a.m.

    I think parents take little responsibility for their children's education and put it all on the teachers and school systems. It does take a village to raise a child. It is a different generation of parents that are raising children today. Parents, we still need to take part and be a little more involved at home AND in the schools!

  • davido Sep 8, 9:33 a.m.

    "The education system is just like the government. It has been wastefull, mismanaged and now, another program at the taxpayers expense. It is amazing that all these people are saying the old ststem was so bad but it got them where they are today." -kermit60

    So kermit, where are we today? Have you been living under a rock, or is the jobs outlook not quite so rosy as it could be? Firstly, this is a volunteer group, so the cost is really very low. Let's face it, the parents of many of these kids are disengaged. I spent my evening helping my son through his homework (maybe more than I should sometimes, but..). The lower performing kids have no comparable support at home, and this program will do a great job getting them closer to grade level. Honestly, we HAVE to get them thinking about college in middle school and their future in general. By HS it is already too late.

  • oneday8035 Sep 8, 9:09 a.m.

    My son went to Neal and it is a pretty sad place. Most of the students spent more time watching their backs than studying. He was in the gifted program so they were in a wing by themselves and shielded a little. There was little or no parental involvement at Neal. The first PTA meeting that I went to only had less than a dozen parents show up. After my son's elementary school (which was not Oak Grove that feeds Neal) with standing room only at PTA meetings, I was outraged. Neal needs all the help it can get although I think the help should include the parents. This is just additional they don't have to deal with their kids.

  • fayncmike Sep 8, 9:08 a.m.

    "No one in middle school cares about college ..who thinks about that while in 6th-8th grade?
    abrcromben"

    Lots of them do. I knew I wanted to be an engineer and even knew I wanted to go to University of Michigan. Of course where I come from education was a priority. not an after thought as it is here.

  • fayncmike Sep 8, 9:06 a.m.

    "Nice. Now we need all-year-around schools.
    frankbarney90"

    I don't know if even that would bring American kids education levels up to the standards of the rest of the developed world's kids.

  • kermit60 Sep 8, 8:55 a.m.

    The education system is just like the government. It has been wastefull, mismanaged and now, another program at the taxpayers expense. It is amazing that all these people are saying the old ststem was so bad but it got them where they are today. Maybe they are not as smart as they claim to be.

  • abrcromben Sep 8, 8:40 a.m.

    No one in middle school cares about college ..who thinks about that while in 6th-8th grade?

  • storchheim Sep 7, 7:50 p.m.

    $242 per student to teach them about college options? If they want to go, let them learn. We did that ourselves and there wasn't any Internet to look everything up for us.

  • com_mon_sents Sep 7, 7:18 p.m.

    What are the parents doing? What is the role of a "parent" this day and time. Seems everything this day and time..is all on the TEACHERS and the School systems.

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