ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR
r More time to cover the curriculum.
"I'm always hearing from teachers that there's not enough time," Superintendent Claudia Bach said. "We really need more time to do the academic things, not just extra curricular."
The extra time allotted with ELT would allow teachers to expand current lessons, introduce special projects, provide new enrichment and have time for more teacher workshops and development, supporters say.
"If you look at the curriculum, you say, 'Oh my gosh, how can a teacher possibly get this done?' ELT will allow us to do so much more, for all our kids," said Brad Heim, a High Plain Elementary parent. "There's always room for improvement, and we have the luxury of being out front and being able to decide how we want to do it."
r Provide students global, 21st century skills.
"Andover's looking at 21st century skills like cultural awareness, communication skills. For Andover, it's making education all it can be ... The big vision is that the world is changing, education is changing, and how can the schools meet the needs of the children and society?" said Lisa Glickstein, grant coordinator for the district. "Kids are doing reading and math that we didn't do at their age.
But Glickstein added, "Parents are justifiably concerned ... We're still figuring out if this grant program is right for Andover."
r State money is growing.
Although ELT grants guarantee money for only one year, school districts can reapply year after year, and preference is given to districts that have ELT programs, Glickstein said.
ELT funding has increased substantially in the three years it's been offered by the state, Heim said. What started as $500,000 has increased to $13 million this year, and Gov. Deval Patrick and Sen. Edward Kennedy are in favor of ELT, he said.
"With such tremendous support from our Legislature, even in these economic time, (ELT funding) is being increased," Heim said. "It's being funded because it works."
r Lift Andover students to be on par with students around the world.
In a recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, American 12th-graders came in dead last among industrialized nations, Bach said.
r Flexibility in approach.
Potentially, students could count private lessons and enrichment programs done at home toward the extra hour and 40 minutes in an expanded school day.
"Each school would have to make their own plan" involving parents, said Bach, but the model would allow a student taking an hourlong piano lesson at 7 p.m. to opt-out of an hour earlier in the extended school day.
r If it ain't broke, why fix it?
Andover is already one of the top districts in the state. In the past, ELT grants have helped underperforming districts such as Boston and Worcester with low state test scores and high dropout rates, problems Andover does not have.
r Only one year of funding guaranteed.
"As the political atmosphere changes, there's no promise of long-term funding," said Karen Lu, a High Plain Elementary parent. "Realistically, we cannot support this kind of budget long term, and it's almost practially a certainty that funding would be dropped eventually."
Lisa Glickstein, grant coordinator for Andover, said, "It is a legitiamate concern that the grant will go away. There really is no way that the town budget would be able to support that amount of time in a long-term way."
r Takes time away from families.
Bancroft Elementary mother Dawn Kalinowski, who also teaches at Pentucket Regional High School, believes ELT could eliminate the positive effect of parental involvement.
"We may be taking away the very thing that makes Andover such a great district," she said.
She switched careers from engineering to teaching to have more time with her kids. Being able to put her kids on the bus in the morning is priceless, she said.
Also, Andover parents, including herself, provide very specific extracurricular activities and lessons tailored to their children. School districts can't provide something each youth likes.
r No specific goal or concrete plan.
If there were a specific problem for ELT to address, such as improving fourth-grade math, said Caroline Ren Jackson, a Bancroft parent, the initiative would make more sense for Andover.
"So far, it's very hypothetical. Everyone would love to see a foreign language added, see the curriculum improved or have piano lessons paid for by the school system. But how do you determine what is best for the majority of Andover?" she said.