School Partnerships

PRESS RELEASE: Joint Committee on Education to Consider Bill on Expanded Learning Time

BOSTON, MASS – September 16, 2015 – The Joint Committee on Education is considering two bills (H. 396 and S. 252) that would expand the learning day at public schools across the Commonwealth. Citizen Schools, a national education nonprofit that partners with public schools in high-need communities to expand the learning day for over 1700 students in Chelsea and Boston – plus 5,000 more in California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina and Texas – has demonstrated that expanded learning time (ELT) programs give public schools the opportunity to re-imagine the school day and provide students with the time, enrichment, and instruction they need to meet today’s high academic standards. WHAT: On Wednesday September 16, 2015, the Executive Director of Citizen Schools Massachusetts will testify before the joint committee to highlight the benefits of ELT and call for an ELT allotment in the Chapter 70 foundation funding formula.

WHERE: State House Room B-1

WHEN: Wednesday September 16, 2015 at 10:00 a.m.

WHO: Pat Kirby, Chief Growth Officer and Massachusetts Executive Director, Citizen Schools

WHY: Children spend only 20 percent of their waking time in classrooms, yet schools are expected to shoulder almost all of the responsibility for educating them. Creating a sustainable funding stream will allow schools and districts to create whole school redesign. As a result, districts can enrich the school curriculum by lending greater time to music and the arts, physical education, and other opportunities for well-rounded learning, such as internships, mentoring, and service learning; and promote partnerships between schools and after-school programs to encourage broader learning opportunities that connect directly to school-day learning.

According to a national third party evaluation study led by Abt Associates, schools with ELT increase student learning by an average of two and three months respectively in ELA and Math.

About Citizen Schools Citizen Schools is a national nonprofit organization that partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities. Citizen Schools mobilizes a team of AmeriCorps educators and volunteer “Citizen Teachers” to teach real-world learning projects and provide academic support in order to help all students discover and achieve their dreams. For more information, please visit


Press Release: James Monroe Elementary to Extend School Day This Fall

Chicago, IL – September 10, 2015 – In collaboration with Chicago Public Schools, Citizen Schools announced today that it has partnered with James Monroe Elementary to provide enhanced opportunities for many middle school students, beginning in the fall. Citizen Schools will provide the academic support and real-world learning projects necessary to set students on a trajectory of college and career success. The national nonprofit runs programs at four other public elementary schools in Chicago and dozens of other schools across the country. The school day will be lengthened by nearly two hours for all 90 students in grade 7, as well as another 70 students in grades 6 and 8, in the 2015-2016 academic year and will extend to 300 middle school students in all three grades within the next 2-3 years.

Citizen Schools partners with public schools to strengthen and expand the learning day for middle school students in low-income communities by mobilizing a team of AmeriCorps educators and volunteers to teach real-world learning projects and provide academic support in English Language Arts and math. AmeriCorps Teaching Fellows lead differentiated instruction with small groups of students, blending learning programming, and homework help. Volunteers from local companies teach hands-on “apprenticeship” projects for 10 weeks each semester, modeling success for the students in different ways and helping them make connections between their current academics and a future career pathway. For example, Google engineers teach robotics and United Airlines pilots teach aerodynamics and aviation operations.

Students also participate in college and career readiness activities including field trips to high schools, colleges, and museums. The importance of college and introductions to diverse career pathways also come through in every apprenticeship lesson and through the relationships with the AmeriCorps Teaching Fellows who are at the school full-time.

“We are very excited to partner with Citizen Schools,” said Ricardo Trujillo, Principal of James Monroe Elementary. “Exposing students to the vast array of career options during the critical middle school years will not only help students prepare for the future but will foster greater engagement in school now.”

“We look forward to partnering closely with James Monroe Elementary and surrounding community as we work together to accelerate student achievement and engagement,” said Erin Linville, interim Executive Director of Citizen Schools Illinois. “We know from our 20 years of work nationally – and three in Chicago - that when students have opportunities to learn from and be mentored by Motorola engineers, MB Financial bankers, Deloitte consultants, and scientists from Adler Planetarium, they most often achieve at higher levels on standardized assessments, grades and attendance. Learning really comes to life.”


This announcement comes at an important time as the opportunity gap continues to widen in many communities. Research shows that by age 12, a child from an affluent family will have received 6,000 more hours of enrichment activities, including academic tutoring and science clubs, than a child from a less affluent family. By connecting students to adults from a variety of professions, they are exposed to careers they might have even known existed previously while building the skills and relationships they need to succeed in high school, college, and a career.

About Citizen Schools

Citizen Schools is a national nonprofit organization that partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities. Citizen Schools mobilizes a team of AmeriCorps educators and volunteer “Citizen Teachers” to teach real-world learning projects and provide academic support in order to help all students discover and achieve their dreams.

For more information, please visit


How to Lengthen the School Day Without Overworking Teachers

We are always happy to see a longer school day featured in the news, such as in today's piece by Scot Lehigh. But too often these articles don’t tell the full story. Lehigh describes Expanded Learning Time in terms of three basic models, each of which are based on different ways of paying teachers for the extra time. However, Lehigh doesn’t consider a fourth model –  partnerships between schools and non-profit organizations, including Citizen Schools, with a proven track record of improving student outcomes without overworking teachers.

8717758801_8463b839a6_bWe agree with Lehigh’s recommendation to focus Expanded Learning Time efforts on low-income students who would most benefit from the added time. There's another way to focus attention strategically: concentrate on middle school. Research shows that middle school is a critical point in education, when students who show early warning signs of dropping out are most likely to become unengaged. By targeting expanded learning efforts in low-income middle schools, districts can make the most impact.

While Expanded Learning Time partnerships still require an investment from the district, schools are able to build capacity and make gains without spreading existing teachers too thin. For example, Citizen Schools mobilizes AmeriCorps members as Teaching Fellows, whose serve two years for a stipend funded by the federal Corporation for National & Community Service. They support teachers during the day, allowing time for collaboration and planning. In the afternoon hours, Teaching Fellows lead classes in math and ELA, focusing on homework and common core standards. They also engage with parents and families intensively (and bilingually), something that schools often lack the capacity to do.

Schools that partner with Citizen Schools, like the Orchard Gardens K-8 School and Edwards Middle School in Boston, have seen significant success with this model. Students who participate in Citizen Schools gain 3.5-5 months of added learning per year, which is greater than or comparable to the highest achieving charter school networks. Students are also seeing long-term success such as a 12 percent point increase in graduation rate.

6522376161_49ecf338e4_o (1)Furthermore, partnering with organizations like Citizen Schools provides schools access to valuable resources such as support from local corporations. Citizen Schools engages the professional community around schools through financial investments as well as bringing volunteers from all types of careers into the classroom to work hands-on with students. This engagement boosts the school’s presence in the community and provides students with real-world experiences and the chance to build new skills.

The result of Expanded Learning Time partnerships is a longer school day that is rich with opportunities for students, and doesn’t place a burden on teachers. Students see significant gains in achievement while exploring college and careers, and schools are able to thrive without breaking the bank.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this post misspelled the surname of columnist Scot Lehigh.


Nine-Hour School Day is the Norm, and a National Model, at Oakland Middle School

In Susan Frey's recent article on EdSource, also picked up by the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, and The Hechinger Report, Citizen Schools' Expanded Learning Time (ELT) partnership with a middle school in Oakland, CA, is highlighted as a model that works. Elmhurst Community Prep's principal, Kilian Betlach, describes his vision to close the opportunity gap for low-income students by bringing a variety of experiences to life. Partnering with Citizen Schools is a powerful alternative to traditional after-school programs, he says, because it allows him to create an integrated longer school day filled with academic support and enrichment like apprenticeships:

Rodzhaney Sledge, dressed in the light-blue school uniform, is new to the school as a 6th grader, but she already understands how the after-school part of the program supports her academic work. For example, she took a class called Tools for Peace, where she learned to meditate. Meditation, she said, has helped calm her so she can focus on academics. She also appreciates the help with her homework she receives for at least an hour each day.


“I don’t understand the students who have problems staying after school until 5 p.m.,” she said. “You can do your homework and don’t have to do it when you get home. You’re free.”


Betlach and community partners – primarily Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit that focuses on providing quality expanded learning programs for middle school students in low-income communities – have cobbled together federal, state, local and private funding to support the unique program...


What makes the expanded school day economically possible is the school’s reliance on AmeriCorps teaching fellows like [Ashur] Bratt. The fellows are funded by the federal government and receive special training from Citizen Schools staff on how to teach in an urban environment. They are involved in both the academic morning program and the after-school classes from 2 to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, helping to provide a seamless transition for students. The schedule also allows the regular academic teachers an hour each afternoon, from 2 to 3 p.m., to work collaboratively and plan.


In exchange, the AmeriCorps fellows will have earned their intern teaching credential at the end of their two years at Elmhurst.


Edgard Vidrio, a sixth grade history teacher who joined the Elmhurst staff this year, said he appreciates the variety of opportunities the program is offering his students...Vidrio says the young, dynamic AmeriCorps teachers develop deep relationships with their students. If a student in his class is upset, he or she will often ask to talk to one of the teaching fellows, Vidrio said...


AmeriCorps teaching fellow Jeannette Aames, who is finishing her second year and hopes to teach high school math in Oakland Unified in the fall, said teaching a math intervention class was her most rewarding experience at Elmhurst. The class of three girls and nine “rowdy boys” could not grasp the concept of negative numbers.


“Direct instruction didn’t work with them,” Aames said, requiring her to develop more hands-on approaches to teach the concept...


The students also get opportunities through Citizen Schools to participate in apprenticeships with “citizen teachers,” any adult from the broader Bay Area community who has a passion, such as robotics or radio reporting, to share with the students. The citizen teachers receive basic training on how to teach from Citizen Schools staff before they begin the after-school class.


The citizen teacher is partnered with an AmeriCorps fellow who assists the teacher with handling classroom management. At the end of the apprenticeship, the students make a presentation (called a “WOW!”) to their parents and business and community leaders, showcasing what they have learned.


In addition, local companies invite students to their offices for apprenticeship experiences. At Pandora, students learned how to make an app.


“It was a video game where you dodge fireballs,” Betlach recalled.


The positive school culture that Frey captures is the result not of a miracle education reform formula, but of a committed collaboration of human beings, caring and working really hard.  The students, AmeriCorps Teaching Fellows, and teachers whose voices fill the story bring that to life better than most research briefs and infographics. We're proud every day to serve alongside Principal Betlach, Mr. Vidrio, and the rest of the ECP community, meditating, dodging fireballs, and dreaming big!

Apply to the AmeriCorps Teaching Fellowship today and you can join next year's team at ECP!

Read the full article on EdSourceOakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, or The Hechinger Report.