Expanding Learning Time Gains Momentum

Eric Schwarz is the CEO and Co-Founder of Citizen Schools.

On Wednesday, January 16, education was top of mind in Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's State of the State address--highlighting the incredible turnaround success at the Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School. From Boston, to Chicago, to Santa Fe, to New York (where Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced a new expanded learning time [ELT] initiative in his State of the State address) the country is increasingly focused on ELT as a strategy to improve learning and drive change in education.

This could be great or not so great.

One one hand, ELT could just be more of the same practices that aren’t working. Adding more time but using it unwisely could potentially soak up the few available “extra” dollars in education to pay tired teachers to work additional hours at the end of an already challenging day.

On the other hand, ELT could be what we see at the best Citizen Schools partnership sites:  a driver of big academic and enrichment gains and a new platform to advance other important goals — like blended learning and parent and community engagement.

As ELT gains momentum across the country, I am reminded of these three articles which reflect our vision to help tip the balance toward the second of these two visions coming true:

1. Schools Need a Second Shift, The Boston Globe

“Expanded learning time can be brought to scale in Boston without requiring Boston teachers to work beyond their current 6 or 6.5 hour work day. The better and more affordable solution is to mobilize a second shift of young educators who are fresh in the afternoon, don’t have to worry about grading papers, and aren’t pressed for time with family obligations.”

(NOTE: when someone says teachers "work" six or seven hours they are referring to the official "on the clock" schedule when students are also in the building, and are not including additional hours grading and giving feedback on student work, planning lessons, collaborating with colleagues, buying supplies, etc)

2. Expanded Learning Time to Narrow the Achievement Gap, Education Week

“Participants in the {ELT} summit described three core arguments for expanded learning time. First, they said, ELT offers more time for academic practice—a no-shortcuts strategy for improving academic performance. Second, it offers the opportunity to provide a more well-rounded education, with opportunities for adding arts and sports, college exploration, and project-based apprenticeships taught by professionals. Third, we heard from a number of participants, including Massachusetts Secretary of Education S. Paul Reville and author Frederick M. Hess, that ELT can serve as an R&D lab for new learning and teaching models that can lead to what Reville called ‘a new delivery model for education.’”

3. Expanded Learning Time as an Avenue to Change, Education Week

“Proponents of ELT hope that educators can tap the additional time needed to help drive student achievement while doing far more to inspire and engage students. They hold out the promise of doing so both within and outside brick-and-mortar school buildings and beyond the traditional 8:00 a.m.-to-2:30 p.m. school day. A recent research report, commissioned by the Wallace Foundation, suggests that ELT can make a difference for student achievement, but only if done thoughtfully and well.”

In recent news, Citizen Schools New York Executive Director Nitzan Pelman had the exciting opportunity to continue the conversation on ELT in two articles further explaining the Citizen Schools vision:

  1. How to Lengthen the School Day Without Breaking the Bank,” New York Daily News
  2. On Longer School Day: ‘Second Shift’ Works Best,” SchoolBook

I hope you enjoy these articles and are inspired to learn more about the importance of ELT as a transformative strategy for increased student achievement.