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Denver Principal Has School On Class Time Expansion Track

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Rob Beam, principal of Johnson Elementary School (credit: CBS)

Rob Beam, principal of Johnson Elementary School (credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4) – The amount of time students spend in school doesn’t guarantee a difference in student achievement, but one Denver school is already finding that more hours has positive results.

Rob Beam, principal of Johnson Elementary School in Southwest Denver, is excited that his school is one of 16 in the state that will be taking part in a nationwide class time expansion intiative next year. The announcement about the project was made in Washington on Monday by Education Secretary Arne Duncan with Gov. John Hickenlooper in attendance.

RELATED: Students In Colorado, 4, Other States, To Spend More Hours At School

The Colorado Department of Education currently mandates that schools be in session for 1080 hours during a school year. The 16 Colorado schools taking part in the project will now have that time increase to 1440 hours.

The change probably won’t be as dramatic for Johnson Elementary next year as it will be for some other schools. That’s because it has already added an extra hour to each school day this year.

“We were morally compelled because this what kids need to be successful,” Beam told CBS4, referring to the increased hours. “Even before money, if you ask a teacher what don’t have enough of? It’s time. Over and over and over again. So, if you give people what they ask for and show them how to do it well, you should see success.”

Tabitha Jones, a teacher at Johnson, said she could have resisted when she was asked to teach another hour each day. She was among 90 percent of the school’s faculty who were in agreement about the change.

“Not because I want to work more or work harder; our kids need it,” Jones told CBS4.

Approximately 99 percent of children at Johnson qualify for free or reduced lunch. More than half bring English as their second language. It’s a similar situation for many of the other schools that are part of the national program.

While it’s too early to know if the expanded hours are making a difference in achievement, absenteeism among the student body at Johnson is down and referrals have been cut in half.

Beam admits it’s critical to pay attention to how the extra time is being used and to stretch resources properly. That’s why the school began partnering with a neighborhood center for teaching aid.

“And we’re able to give students who need it most very, very specific targeted instruction. It’s 2 to 3 kids to one licensed teacher,” he said.

Denver Publics Schools that are taking part the national initiative include:

Merrill Middle School
Johnson Elementary
Manual High School
Lake International Baccalaureate School
Cole Arts and Science Academy K-8 School
North High School
Grant Beacon Middle School.

“DPS is ahead because we’ve already implemented extended time at several of our schools via our own pilot program. And most of our turnaround and alternative schools are also on extended day/year schedules. We expect the number of DPS schools with extended school day to increase next year,” Kristy Armstrong with DPS said in a statement.

Other Colorado schools that are taking part the national initiative include:

ARVADA (Jeffco Public Schools)

North Arvada Middle School

Godsman Elementary School
Kepner Middle School
Johnson Elementary School

LAFAYETTE (Boulder Valley School District)

Centaurus High School
Angevine Middle School
Pioneer Elementary School (bilingual)
Sanchez International Elementary School

WHEAT RIDGE (Jeffco Public Schools)

Pennington Elementary

WESTMINSTER (Adams County 50 School District)

STEM 3-8 Magnet School

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