MERIDEN — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy took time Wednesday at Casimir Pulaski School to look at projects by students having 100 minutes added to each school day.
Malloy, who has dedicated $500 million of the state’s budget to education since taking office, talked about “bridging the gap” between urban and rural school districts and how extended day is important to achieving that goal.
“During these very difficult economic times, I put $500 million into education for the state of Connecticut, which means that people aren’t being laid off and innovative programs like this can be brought to the state today,” he said. “The biggest bang for your buck is universal pre-kindergarten. The next biggest bang is extended day education. We’re literally adding weeks, 100 minutes at a time.”
Malloy watched students show off their skills making bracelets, wearing safari hats to show how they’re traveling the world in class, climbing a rock wall, using iPads in education, learning languages such as Italian, French and Spanish, playing musical instruments and putting together special projects.
He tasted the snacks students get before and after the regular school day.
Malloy said extended day programs are particularly important in urban environments, where studies have shown a tremendous gap between the success of urban school students and those in rural districts.
“Education is the great equalizer. We want to maximize every kid’s potential,” he said. “This makes for a longer, stronger school day.”
Students at Pulaski said they liked the longer day because they got to experiment with things for which they normally didn’t have time.
“I like how it gives us more time to play and learn things,” said fourth-grader Sara Gonzalez, who said she starts school at 7 a.m. and gets done at 3:20 p.m.
“I like to learn about different things that we don’t get to learn about usually,” said fourth-grader Laura Smith, who was dressed in a safari hat from her “trip” around the world.
Jennifer Davis, president of the National Center of Time and Learning, said she thinks extended days give students more of a chance for success.
“This is improving life chances for those students most at risk,” she said. “Here in Meriden, we’ve been shown how collaboration is possible when children are at the center of a united vision.”
And, there was quite a bit of collaboration at Pulaski Wednesday, as representatives from various community groups showed off their roles in helping students with fitness and nutrition.
Ford Foundation president Darren Walker said the nation’s second largest philanthropic organization fully supports extended day programs nationwide
“There’s something called the 30 million word gap. By age 4, these students hear 30 million words fewer than affluent students. And, the gap widens and brings all sorts of inequalities,” he said. “The education system often creates the dream gap, the imagination gap. Their sense about what is possible is limited.”
More than 9,000 students in five states in 16 school districts have expanded days, according to the National Center for Time & Learning.
The states include Connecticut, New York, Colorado, Massachusetts and Tennessee.
Planning is underway for another 13,000 students to take part in the program in those states for the next school year.