There has been plenty of publicity today about a new “public/private partnership” that is going to add “up to” 300 hours in a school year for 20,000 students in a number of districts.

In a bit of what I would suggest is hyperbole, The New York Times included this from a funder who is contributing $3 million a year for three years:

In a statement, Luis Ubiñas, the president of the Ford Foundation, said the initiative was not “about adding time and doing more of the same. It’s about creating a learning day that suits the needs of our children, the realities of working parents and the commitment of our teachers. It’s a total school makeover.”

The school where I teach has a great after-school enrichment program involving many hundreds of our students, so I’m all for those kinds of programs. I’m not sure how many of the schools in this big new effort are going to focus on enrichment and not “drill and kill,” but I suspect hope that no matter what happens it will be at least a little bit of a net benefit to their students.

But, come on, let’s be realistic. The number of hours that students spend in our schools is not the problem, since most studies show that U.S. students already spend more time there than their international counterparts. And plenty of other studies have shown that extending the day or school year here is not a panacea.

As long as schools and teachers are evaluated by scores on standardized tests, as long as we continue to ignore working with and helping families out of poverty as a school improvement strategy, and as long as teachers are not viewed as full partners in determining the kinds of instructional strategies that should be used in their classrooms, extending the school day a little offers the real threat of being like calling into talk radio — making some people feel like they’re doing something of value without really making much of a difference.