A national education expert, in Iowa Wednesday, told a task force that new research shows more time in the classroom is boosting student achievement in some schools. The Instructional Time Task Force is studying whether Iowa kids should have a longer school day or school year.

Jennifer Davis, with the National Center on Time and Learning, says more classroom hours can improve student performance. She notices most schools that expand instructional hours are lengthening the school day – not the school year – for a variety of reasons.

The primary reason is cost. “And teachers and families find a longer day matches better with their work schedules,” Davis said. But, longer days or years may not work in all communities. Mary Hillman, with Perry Public schools, said lengthening the school day in rural areas will result in some very long days for kids riding the bus.

“Riding on the bus for that length of time could be an issue. Hopefully there will be some data on what other districts have done,” Hillman said. Davis agreed there are still a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to adding classroom time.

“There is not a lot of research that looks at the difference between expanding the school year versus expanding the school day,” Davis said. “If you were to ask the question what’s the ideal amount of time kids should be in school, there isn’t research to answer those bigger, complicated questions.”

A Department of Education official told the task force that expanding the Iowa school year by one day statewide would cost almost $9-million just for salaries and benefits for teachers. The task force is due to deliver recommendations to next year’s legislature.