I am a firm believer in using every hour of the day. As distinctly mortal entities, we humans can't afford to waste time. Yet much time is wasted in school, especially in the upper grades. Every class change, students have to traverse the school, go to their lockers, get new books, talk to friends, and text message their fingers off. Then it takes then at least five minutes to settle into class after the bell rings. An additional five to ten minutes are lost at the end of class watching the clock and waiting for the closing bell. This must end. In a typical seven period day, assuming a minimum of ten scheduled minutes between classes, this eats up two hours time. If a the day is only 6.5 hours long, you have already lost a third of it. Add in lunch, assemblies, and other miscellaneous idling and it is no wonder teachers have no time to teach.
It looks like more and more schools are coming up with a simple solution to this time debacle. They are adding back those hours to the end of the day. Rather than go home mid-afternoon, a throwback to the days when students helped tend the farm, some students now work a full eight hour day, just like their parents.
I see little to no downside to this. Students have another two hours to learn the skills they will need. Teachers have another two hours to mold young minds. Critics will say that the new schedule eliminates much extra-curricular time, but those extra activities can now easily be worked into the formal day. There will be more time for all the "extras" that are being cut from the budget. Field trips, art and music classes, etc. Socially, this prepares the students for the oft cited "real world." It also saves money for parents. No more day care. Your kids get home the same time you do.
This is a step in the right direction. If we are going to keep up with the students in developing nations like China and India, we have to work both harder and smarter.