The Opportunity of an Expanded School Day

What could you do with 300 hours of extra time? In five states – Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Colorado, and Tennessee - select school districts decided to add 300 hours of time to the school day and year. At Citizen Schools, we see the benefits of a longer school day every day, but there are many ways that schools can add time. Barnett Berry, the founder and president of the Center for Teaching Quality, and Rick Hess, the Director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, recently reflected on the potential change that expanded learning time (ELT) can have on students, schools, and communities if it is utilized in strategic ways. Hess and Barnett, believe, “ELT offers a window of opportunity to break the bonds of antiquated policies, calcified school organizations, and time-honored yet artless teaching roles.”

How can we use the opportunity of a longer school day to rethink the way students learn and are taught? Hess and Barnett call out four keys elements.

  • Re-engineer the role of the teacher: At Citizen Schools our teachers look a little different than what you might be used to. We engage hundreds of young educators who have joined the ranks of AmeriCorps and lead "teams" of students in the afternoon hours. They guide students and "Citizen Teachers" through hands-on learning projects on topics beyond the basics such as robotics, crime scene investigation and electrical engineering.
  • Rethink K-12, higher education, and community-based-organization resources: At Citizen Schools we think it's possible to re-imagine the learning day for middle school students. Middle school is a critical time in a child's life and by bringing in community partners such as Bank of America, Fidelity, and Cognizant, we try to take the best of what American cities have to offer and bring them in the classroom.
  • Reallocate resources to fuel innovation: In classrooms across the country Citizen Schools students are experiencing moments of discovery. Thanks to resources from i3 and Catalyst, we have the ability to use the extra school time to promote innovation and spark a passion for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
  • Reframe accountability to focus on the spread of teaching expertise: Citizen Schools relies on the expertise of all kinds of teachers-- those highly trained in behavior management and classroom instruction and those from areas outside of schools. By bringing traditional teachers and professionals from all sorts of careers together, our students are getting opportunities they otherwise wouldn't.

Tiffany Cooper Gueye, CEO of Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL), has her own take on what can make expanded school time successful for students, teachers, and schools. “Time has to be high quality for it to be effective. It has to reach the students who need it most -- those who are struggling academically and who lack educational opportunities and support outside of the school. And, it has to be sustainable.”

At Citizen Schools, we see the need for these elements and necessities in our daily work during a longer school day. By working with children in low-income communities, we strive to bring opportunities and resources to students who may not have received them otherwise. Our program redefines what it means to be an educator during after school hours with AmeriCorps Teaching Fellows, who provide academic mentoring and career coaching, and Citizen Teachers, professionals who volunteer their time to teach something they are passionate about.

We hope that this is only the beginning of an extended school day for the students who need additional resources and quality experiences most.