10/16/2012 12:36 pm ET Updated Dec 16, 2012

Longer School Days: Do They Improve Student Performance?

Do longer school days improve student performance?

The question is being debated at schools across the country as educators and parents look for new ways to boost student performance. Some educators who have implemented longer days say it is making a difference.

Chrystina Russell, the principal of Global Tech Prep Middle School in East Harlem, NY, joined HuffPost Live Monday to share her school's story. Global Tech Prep extended its school day three years ago. Students are now staying at school until 6 p.m. The program is a joint partnership with the organization Citizen Schools and has students interacting with local business professionals to explore various career paths. Russell said the program has taught her students an important set of "soft skills" like how to communicate and prepare presentations.

Eric Schwarz, co-founder and CEO of Citizen Schools, said his program is successful because it offers children an experience that is different from what they have in class earlier in the day. Schwarz said by making unique afterschool experiences available to all students, it helps lessen the opportunity gap for low-income students.

Xian Barrett, a high school teacher in Chicago, said it's critical that these programs be implemented effectively. Chicago hired additional teachers this year to extend the school day, but Barrett feels that the extra time hasn't given students new opportunities and that instead afterschool programs that already existed are suffering.

Ursula Helminski, a vice president at The Afterschool Alliance, echoed those sentiments. She said the bottom line is that adding time to the day isn't enough. It's critical for districts to come up with a strong plan for how that time is spent.

Watch the full conversation below: