Forget longer school day, educator says

Photo courtesy Danielle Sammarone Danielle Sammarone
Photo courtesy Danielle Sammarone
Danielle Sammarone


Local educator Danielle R. Sammarone is committed to improving performance outcomes for her students – but she’s not convinced that a longer school day is the way to that goal.

A fifth-grade science and math teacher at Jefferson School, Sammarone said she came to that conclusion after completing two years of research leading to a successful defense of her Seton Hall University Ed.D. dissertation in educational management, administration and policy about a year ago.

In recognition of her newly published work, she received the Morphet Outstanding Dissertation Award at the annual National Council of Educational Administration held Aug. 3-7 in Arlington, Va.

For the record, her thesis was: “The Influence of the Length of the School Day on the Percentage of Proficient and Advanced Proficient Scores on the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJASK) for Grades 6, 7 and 8.”

Coincidentally, at the time she entered the doctoral program, the concept of a lengthening the school day – especially among urban school districts – “became a hot topic of the education world, despite the lack of quantitative statistical research to back up the initiative,” Sammarone said.

So – with help from her Seton Hall advisor, Professor Christopher Tienken, she set out to explore whether there was “statistically significant” evidence to support the theory that the more time a student spends in school, the better chance he/she has of improving his/her academic performance on state tests.

After collecting students’ scores on the 2010-2011 NJASK test from more than 600 public schools for each grade level and subject in the Garden State (charter, vocational and magnet schools were excluded from her study), Sammarone said she aimed to determine what variables actually made a difference in student test scores in New Jersey for grades six, seven and eight.

She said that her statistical findings support the conclusion that socio-economic status (as reflected among schools with large populations of students on free-or-reduced lunch) and attendance are the strongest predictors of performance on state tests and not the length of the school day.

Sammarone said the study’s results provides policy makers and administrators with information and data that can be utilized to create effective policy regarding the length of the school day, save on state and district resources and alter the structure of schools to increase student achievement.

As a prospective school administrator, Sammarone said her goal would be “to promote and use data-driven research to formulate policy to benefit school children.”

Even as an adolescent growing up in Blairstown, Sammarone said she always had an affinity for younger children and the feeling was reciprocal. When serving as a counselor for the YMCA Day Camp in Hardwick, she recalled that, “kids always flocked to me.”

Initially, she figured she could best help kids as a pediatrician so, she enrolled at Monmouth University as a pre-med. But after doing some volunteer work with kids, Sammarone switched her major to elementary education.

“My parents told me that, ‘instead of saving lives, I could build lives,’ ’’ she said.

She got her degree in 2007 and a year after that, she landed a job in Lyndhurst, teaching fourth- and fifthgrade math and science at Columbus School and was later assigned to Jefferson, where she has remained. At the same time, she resumed her own education, acquiring a master’s degree in special education from Montclair University in 2009.

Then, as she put it, “the education bug bit me again and I started on my doctorate at Seton Hall.”

“I still have a passion for lifelong learning,” Sammarone said. “We’re there for the kids and, as a future administrator, I want to make a difference.”

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