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Nine-hour day is the norm – and a national model – at an Oakland middle school

On a recent Thursday afternoon in Ashur Bratt’s class in Oakland, about 20 middle school students stood tall on chairs and tables and flung their arms out from their sides, looking very pleased with themselves.

“How do you feel?” Bratt asked as students raised their arms, competing to be called on. “Ecstatic!” one boy answered. It turns out, Bratt told his class, if you expand your body for a couple of minutes, it helps you feel better and think bigger.

Thinking bigger is part of the culture at Elmhurst Community Prep, a middle school in East Oakland that has expanded the school day to 5 p.m. with a variety of after-school offerings, such as Bratt’s class on building self-confidence. Students can choose robotics, music or dance. They can make collages, dissect fetal pigs or create apps. They visit well-known companies such as Google and Pandora.

“We’re not just cookies and basketballs,” said Principal Kilian Betlach, who keeps tabs on his students as he roams the halls with a baseball bat (“It’s a prop”) and a sense of humor. “We have a real moral imperative to provide kids from low-income backgrounds with the services and opportunities that middle-class kids get. We don’t do just hard academics. We offer access and opportunities.”

Read the full story on EdSource California.

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