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Opportunities for growth, education

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Response to Summer 2013 edition article, “Extra time can help in fight for equity, studies say.”

The most important thing is that children come to school ready to learn. That means they should be well-rested, healthy, and curious. Next, we have to ensure that teachers have the flexibility and support to modify curriculum, instruction, assessment – and policy – to meet children’s needs.

A well-designed afterschool program can build on and enrich wonderful in-school programs. We should want this for all of our children, regardless of income.

However, the debate about the longer school day or year misses the point, especially if we’re using afterschool programs to remedy social or educational inequities. Shouldn’t we be addressing proximity to poverty and/or weak education policy?

We cannot justify afterschool programs (or a longer school day or year) by stating that some children spend “only 20 percent of their total waking hours in school.” This suggests that the rest of our children’s waking hours are wasted. If that’s true, then we have a lot of work to do.

All of life is experience. We’ve got to have neighborhoods that are safe, family-friendly, and close to food choices, recreation, arts programs, libraries, employment, health care, parks, and transportation. All of life should serve as opportunities for children to grow and learn.

Gamal Sherif

The writer is a teacher in the School District of Philadelphia.

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