expanded learning time

Utilizing Blended Learning to Close Opportunity and Achievement Gaps: Lessons from Citizen Schools Digital Courseware Pilot

Utilizing Blended Learning to Close Opportunity and Achievement Gaps: Lessons from Citizen Schools Digital Courseware Pilot

In the 2016-17 school year, Citizen Schools completed the second year of our initiative to pilot and evaluate digital courseware across our national network to learn more about how best to integrate technology into Expanded Learning Time (ELT) for middle school students.

Citizen Schools Calls on Presidential Candidates to Reduce Opportunity Gap

National Non-Profit Organizes 11 National Groups Asking Candidates to Commit to Improving Middle School Education FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Boston, MA—February 29, 2016— National non-profit Citizen Schools, as part of its participation in the Expanded Learning Middle School Initiative, is calling on all candidates for President of the United States to adopt a policy platform which helps reduce the opportunity gap that exists in low-income, urban schools where students receive 6,000 fewer instructional hours than their more affluent counterparts.

“Upper-income families have tripled their investment in their children’s education in a generation—amounting to a gap of 6,000 hours of extra learning by 6th grade. Lower-income children count on public schools, even though most students only spend 20 percent of their waking hours in the classroom. We want to expand learning opportunities for low-income students, with a special focus on the critical, but often neglected, middle school years,” said Emily McCann, CEO of Citizen Schools.

A letter (click here to download) on behalf of the organizations which comprise the Expanded Learning Middle School Initiative has been sent to each presidential candidate focusing on four major policy strategies:

  1. Leverage human capital: Hiring teachers costs money that many districts simply don’t have. This is why school systems need to examine designs which utilize community partnerships with non-profits like Citizen Schools, businesses, and national service programs like AmeriCorps and VISTA, which offer expanded learning opportunities at minimal cost to the district.
  2. Focus on middle school: These are critical years for a child and a time when they need to be more fully engaged and shown a path to success in high school and beyond.
  3. Encourage public-private partnerships to grow high-quality expanded learning and mentorship opportunities, with a particular focus in the STEM fields.
  4. Support investing in what works: Commit to continuous improvement programs to ensure that the money which is invested in education can provide for the greatest outcomes for all children.

The letter is endorsed by eleven regional and national non-profit organizations that serve hundreds of thousands of middle school students across the nation. These organizations have come together to ensure these important education issues are part of the public policy debate.

Media Contact: Matt Ellis, Ellis Strategies, Inc. matt@ellisstrategies.com | 617-777-3776

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 http://www.citizenschools.org/

###

Citizen Schools Applauds Sen. Elizabeth Warren for Passing of New Federal Education Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE BOSTON, Mass—December 9, 2015— Citizen Schools, which partners with public schools to provide academic support and hands-on learning for middle school students in high-need communities in seven states, applauds U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for her efforts to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act, which rewrites No Child Left Behind. The legislation, approved by the Senate Wednesday, provides a new opportunity to improve education in America through greater adoption of expanded learning time in public schools, says Steven M. Rothstein, chief executive of Citizen Schools.

The Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives on December 2, 2015, with strong bipartisan support. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law before the end of the year. Senator Warren sits on the Senate Health, Education, Pensions, and Labor Committee and played a key role in supporting expanded learning time throughout the process.

"This is the biggest commitment the federal government has ever made to expanded learning time. This is a historic milestone for underserved students and a strong statement from a bipartisan group of legislators. It will be an important step to reduce the opportunity gap that has grown over the years,” said Rothstein.

Citizen Schools commends the U.S. Congress for producing legislation that keeps important accountability components for closing the achievement and opportunity gap for low-income and historically underrepresented students, but does away with one-size fits-all federal requirements.

In particular, the organization applauds Congress for the inclusion of Expanded Learning Time in several areas of the legislation—most notably, within the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, the only federal program dedicated solely to delivering after-school, before school, expanded day, and summer services for low-income students.

“Preserving targeted programs like 21st CCLC, as well as targeted funds for school improvement and innovation, will benefit millions of students across the country,” said Rothstein. “We commend the Congress for its efforts to increase STEM learning opportunities and to promote evidence-based practices in K-12 education.”

Media contact: Matt Ellis Ellis Strategies, Inc. matt@ellisstrategies.com | 617.278.6560

Citizen Schools Applauds Passing of New Federal Education Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE BOSTON, Mass—December 9, 2015—U.S. Senate passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which rewrites No Child Left Behind, provides a new opportunity to improve education in America through greater adoption of expanded learning time in public schools, says Steven M. Rothstein, chief executive of Citizen Schools which partners with public schools to provide academic support and hands-on learning for 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th graders in high-need communities in seven states.

The legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives on December 2, 2015, with strong bipartisan support. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law before the end of the year. "This is the biggest commitment the federal government has ever made to expanded learning time.

This is a historic milestone for underserved students and a strong statement from a bipartisan group of legislators. It will be an important step to reduce the opportunity gap that has grown over the years,” said Rothstein.

Citizen Schools commends the U.S. Congress for producing legislation that keeps important accountability components for closing the achievement and opportunity gap for low-income and historically underrepresented students, but does away with one-size fits-all federal requirements.

In particular, the organization applauds Congress for the inclusion of Expanded Learning Time in several areas of the legislation—most notably, within the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, the only federal program dedicated solely to delivering after-school, before school, expanded day, and summer services for low-income students.

“Preserving targeted programs like 21st CCLC, as well as targeted funds for school improvement and innovation, will benefit millions of students across the country,” said Rothstein. “We commend the Congress for its efforts to increase STEM learning opportunities and to promote evidence-based practices in K-12 education.”

Media contact: Matt Ellis Ellis Strategies, Inc. matt@ellisstrategies.com | 617.278.6560

A Toolkit for Change - Meet in the Middle: Expanded Learning Summit

Over six months ago, 250 guests from 11 states and 16 cities nationwide came together for Meet in the Middle: Expanded Learning Summit where we laid out an important mission -- make expanded learning opportunities the new normal for all students, especially during the critical middle school years. Some KEY TAKEAWAYS include:

  • High-quality expanded learning can help raise student achievement through engagement and mentoring during the critical middle school years, a leading indicator of success in college and beyond.
  • Many districts and schools could get close to funding extended learning time (ELT) under more flexible policy conditions, but funds are often still tight and uncertain year to year. Hence, increased local, state and federal funds that are concentrated for student need would give schools and districts the ability to make ELT a sustainable reality.
  • By 2022, our economy will require more than nine million STEM professionals; currently, we're producing fewer than 300,000 college graduates to fill these jobs. Hence, it is critical to partner with STEM professionals to share their experience and teach students how to apply their academic learning in STEM to real life situations in order to inspire and ignite their interests.
  • States like Massachusetts, New York, and North Carolina--among others--have supported expanded learning in their budgets or through legislation to provide high-quality expanded learning opportunities.

RESOURCES

View the summit sessions online to learn more  about a wide variety of topics such as:

In addition, all reports, handouts, and PowerPoint presentations can also be found HERE.

CALL TO ACTION

We encourage you to remain an active part of the national discussion for expanded learning, here are a few things you can do to make ELT the new normal for all students:

This work is far from finished, and we encourage you to continue to TAKE ACTION by:

  1. Sharing Your Story -- LinkedIn is running a #ThankYourMentor Campaign. Please take a few minutes to #ThankYourMentor today!
  2. Volunteering --Join one of our convening partner organizations or find an expanded learning or mentor program near you using sites like mentoring.org, volunteermatch.org, US2020, and Million Women Mentors.
  3. Advocating -- take two clicks and two minutes to respond to this ACTION ALERT on legislation in the U.S. Congress.

POLICY & LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Since the summit, Citizen Schools and others in the expanded learning field have been actively involved in advocacy and policy development at the federal and state level to support expanded learning time programs.

ESEA Reauthorization -- The U.S. House and Senate passed respective bills to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) earlier this year. Each chamber has appointed members to a conference committee to decide on a final version of the bill to be signed into law by President Obama. The Senate bill, Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), which passed with strong bipartisan support, preserves federal programs critical to expanded learning and STEM.  In addition, the bill provides enough flexibility within the program to support states, districts, schools, and community partners that provide high-quality expanded learning time. In September 2015, Citizen Schools, along with the National Center on Time & Learning and the Afterschool Alliance, sent a letter to education committee leaders with signatures from 671 organizations across all 50 states calling on Congress to adopt the Title IV language in S.1177 in a final reauthorization bill. Please click on the links to view the letter and press release. Congress is expected to vote on a final bill before the end of the year.

Budget & Appropriations--On November 2, 2015, President Obama signed the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015” into law to raise the debt limit and set the federal budget for the next two years.  The deal extends the debt ceiling to March 2017 and raises the budget caps set by the 2011 budget agreement. The bill increases spending caps for defense and nondefense discretionary spending by a combined $80 billion over fiscal years 2016 and 2017. Nonetheless, each congressional appropriations subcommittee must reset their allocations for specific programs in order to pass an omnibus bill for the President to sign into law. We urge Congress to restore cuts to federal programs that support expanded learning, such as the 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) program that provides targeted funds for expanded day and out-of-school time programs, and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that administers the AmeriCorps program. Moreover, we are urging Congress to avoid using the appropriations process to create new restrictions, known as a “policy rider”, on the 21st CCLC program that would set back the progress being made on the authorization side. In particular, we oppose the current provision in the FY16 House Labor-HHS Appropriations bill that would prohibit states and districts from using expanded learning time as part of their 21st CCLC programs. This policy rider would be particularly harmful to states, districts, and schools that have already incorporated expanded learning time into their 21st CCLC programs.

Career & Technical Education (CTE) -- In October 2015, the US Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee solicited recommendations and proposed legislative changes to the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006. Citizen Schools recommends the Perkins Act be more inclusive of middle school grades, including offering enough flexibility in the law to allow state and local entities to leverage federal CTE funds for middle school CTE-related coursework and learning activities. Currently, the funding is targeted for activities at the secondary and post-secondary level, which in some states includes seventh and eighth grade, but usually not sixth grade.

Title II and Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) -- Citizen Schools, along with several Summit convening partners, were part of a group of 9 organizations that collectively produced a memo to the White House’s Domestic Policy Council on the use of ESEA Title II and the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) dollars to support expanded learning programs. We are now working with staff at the US Department of Education on non-regulatory guidance and proactive letter to states highlighting and encouraging the use of Title II and TIF funds for expanded learning.

Texas -- In September 2015, Citizen Schools submitted proposed interim charges to the Texas Senate requesting that the Texas Legislature examine opportunities and make recommendations about evidence based models that can be used by Texas public school districts and charter schools, including but not limited to postsecondary education and career counseling in middle school, for addressing implementation of high school endorsements. The Senate Interim Charges were released in October and include a reference to address training support for counselors and advising courses for middle school students. We are continuing to advocate for the importance of high-quality mentoring and learning opportunities for middle school students in Texas.

North Carolina -- In July 2014, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a budget that included $5 million for “Competitive Grants to Improve After-School Services”. This is targeted funding carved out of state funds already appropriated for school services to at-risk youth. The Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the State Education Agency, was then charged with designing and executing the grant program, including prioritizing programs that integrate clear academic content in STEM learning opportunities or reading development and proficiency instruction. In 2015, the NC final budget included an additional $1M in grant funds for a total of $6M.

PARTNERSHIPS & COALITION BUILDING

White House Announcement -- Expanded Learning Middle School Initiative -- Twenty education-based organizations from across the nation are investing a collective $620 million to create the Expanded Learning Middle School Initiative and enhance learning for 1.3 million 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th graders over the next five years. Steven Rothstein delivered the announcement on behalf of the group at the White House Next Gen High School Summit, a national conversation on transforming high schools to better serve 21st century high school students. Click HERE for the official White House fact sheet, which includes a blurb on the middle school announcement (page 10). Click HERE for the press release Citizen Schools released on behalf of the group

While we have made and seen tremendous gains since the Meet in the Middle: Expanded Learning Summit, there is still a long way to go. We hope you continue to feel inspired and empowered by the Summit and encourage you to continue engaging with each other, with policymakers, and with your communities. Again, please see the call to action for specific steps to take.

Creating a Personal Brand with Brenda Williams, the Citizen Teacher of the Month

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_QRa-JE4c8 Providing students, particularly at the middle school level, with exposure to different professions and direction for thinking about their future is critical to preparing them for success in school and beyond. This is Brenda Williams’ goal every semester when she teaches “My Guided Personal Story” to male students at Carter G. Woodson Elementary School in Chicago, IL. With 25 years of experience as a business strategist, Brenda knows what it takes to create a compelling personal brand.

She teaches students to be the CEOs of their lives. “My Guided Personal Story (myGPS) provides a structure for the students to think about their talents, values, and dreams to ultimately tell an interesting story about themselves and who they are. The story effectively communicates who they are and where they want to be in five years,” said Brenda.

This month we celebrate Brenda as the Citizen Teacher of the Month for her passionate effort to prepare students for a successful future.

Meet Brenda...

How did you create My Guided Personal Story?

“Being a strategic planner is all about projecting a vision. I want to make sure students have something they created on their own, to remind themselves of the great young men they want to be and think about the paths they need to take to get there. It helps them to create a vision for an inspired future and think about the steps necessary to further their dreams.

Your brand begins in your mind. It’s not easy because many kids face challenges on a daily basis. They need a place in their heart and mind where they can go that says ‘I see the rainbow. I see a promising future for myself.’”

How have you seen the apprenticeship impact students?

“It’s introspective, immersive, and highly expressive. They have to use language they don’t necessarily use everyday. I work to get them a place where they can talk about themselves comfortably. We talk about how it’s okay to be vulnerable. We’ve been able to find out a lot about their lives and find out why they are the way they are.

I make them stand in their truth by getting them to describe themselves and their interests. If you want people to believe you, you have to stand strong in your truth and make people see you for who you are.

They talk to their family and friends about vision boards they create for a personal commercial. The commercial focuses on the statement: ‘This is who I am, this is what I stand for. This is my dream and this is what I want to be.’ They can keep it on their phones and easily go back to remind themselves during difficult situations.

What’s one of your favorite “aha” or “wow” moments?

“When I came back from my Citizen Teacher training, one of my former students ran up to me and said ‘I got my report card! You have to see it! I’m talking A’s and B’s. I got myself together Miss Brenda, I got myself together this time. myGPS helped me do this.’ I felt very, very fulfilled thinking about this. If you can get at least one student to move the needle that is success.

My second favorite moment is when I was starting my new course. It went from eight boys to 18 boys. The word got out and I thought it would be difficult, but three students even repeated the class. I’m not a pushover and thought they would find the apprenticeship difficult because of it. One of the students asked, ‘Miss Brenda, can I stand up and tell everyone how myGPS has changed my life?’ He stood up and did more than I could ever do for a class. He did a testimony for myGPS. It was one of those moments where I’m thinking ‘He’s got it. He gets it.’”

What advice do you have for other volunteers?

“Teaching middle school students is a lot more difficult than dealing with corporate executives. Success is defined differently. If we get one or two students to the next level in the lesson, that’s success. You have to adjust your communication to make sure you’re speaking to them at their level.

It’s not easy. This is the most challenging and rewarding thing I’ve done. I got out there to be a contributor in hopes of moving the needle and I found out how hard it is. It made me a lot more empathetic and gave me a greater understanding. Utilizing tools and suggestions from Citizen Schools’ campus staff helped me reach the students more effectively and manage their classroom behavior, which can be challenging at times.”

Why should people volunteer to teach students?

“It helps kids understand why it’s important to go to school. There are a lot of interesting careers that they had never heard of before my class. By teaching them we are opening their worlds to different roles and are fortifying their experience with what goes on in the real-world. That kind of exposure is important. Many people are looking for ways to give back but spend a lot of time working or having hobbies that are really important to them. They don’t often realize that giving back can be sharing our experiences, knowledge, and passions with kids.

Kids are the future, and people who want to cultivate and shape the future should be involved with kids. If you need structure, Citizen Schools will give you that. I think it’s a wonderful way to contribute to the future of our society in way that makes you feel good.”

PRESS RELEASE: Walmart Grant Sparks Positive Outcomes in Adolescent Literacy

Media contact: Denise Olson, denise_olson@wgbh.org 617-300-3995

Report Shows Gains in Adolescent Literacy

Walmart Foundation grant prompts results in six programs for disadvantaged students

BOSTON, Massachusetts (May 19, 2015) – A report released today by WGBH Boston and five other organizations found significant increases in educational outcomes in literacy, based on programs they implemented with middle school students across the country.

Titled Telling Our Stories, the report (http://middleschoolsuccess.net/) profiles each organization’s research-driven solution to bridging gaps in adolescent literacy and improving education outcomes for disadvantaged students. The organizations are: BELL, Citizen Schools, City Year, Innovations in Civic Participation, National Summer Learning Association, and WGBH Boston.

The work of the six organizations was funded by a $33 million adolescent literacy grant from the Walmart (NYSE: WMT) Foundation.

"Walmart is dedicated to strengthening the communities it serves around the world. The Walmart Foundation grants profiled here have benefited thousands of students in the most disadvantaged schools in the country,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, CEO, Walmart Foundation. “These initiatives offer a rich collection of data-driven outcomes and best practices for leveling the educational playing field for all of our nation's students."

The Walmart Foundation selected the six organizations because of their successful track records in directly improving literacy outcomes for high-needs students, and each organization’s ability to build a program that would be scalable and sustainable over time. Each organization’s adolescent literacy program showed significant measurable increases in academic outcomes for participating students:

  • Four months of gains in math and two months of gains in literacy skills for BELL summer scholars in six weeks.
  • English Language arts proficiency in grades served by Citizen Schools extended learning time increased by an average of 4.2 points, and math proficiency increased by 6.2 points each year.
  • A full letter grade improvement in English language arts for 39% of sixth through ninth graders working with City Year in the 2012-2013 school year.
  • Expansion of Innovations in Civic Participation programs to over 600 at-risk students in seven communities.
  • An average gain in math of 4.1 months by NSLA Summer Advantage USA scholars in Chicago and Indianapolis, and an advancement rate of 94% to top college preparatory schools by scholars in Washington D.C.’s Higher Achievement Program.
  • An 8% increase in vocabulary for 300 students after completing just five WGBH-developed literacy lessons that were funded with the grant.

About BELL

BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) is a national non-profit organization that partners with schools and community organizations to expand learning time in the summer and after school.  BELL's mission is to transform the academic achievements, self-confidence, and life trajectories of children living in under-resourced, urban communities.  More info at www.experiencebell.org.

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 http://www.citizenschools.org/.

About City Year

City Year is dedicated to helping students and schools succeed. Diverse teams of City Year AmeriCorps members serve full-time in high-poverty urban schools, providing high-impact student, classroom, and school-wide support to help students stay in school and on track to graduate from high school, ready for college and career success.

A proud member of the AmeriCorps national service network, City Year is made possible by support from the Corporation for National and Community Service, school district partnerships, and private philanthropy from corporations, foundations and individuals.

Learn more at www.cityyear.org.

About Innovations in Civic Participation

Innovations in Civic Participation (ICP) is a global leader in the field of Youth Civic Engagement. ICP believes that well-structured youth service programs can provide innovative solutions to social and environmental issues, while helping young people develop skills for future employment and active citizenship. ICP carries out its mission through three main activities: 1) Incubating innovative models for youth service programs; 2) Assisting governmental and civil society organizations with the development of youth service programs and policies; and 3) Conducting research and serving as a source of information on youth civic engagement, especially national youth service and service-learning. Learn more at http://www.icicp.org/

About The National Summer Learning Association

The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) is the only national nonprofit exclusively focused on closing the achievement gap by increasing access to high-quality summer learning opportunities. NSLA recognizes and disseminates what works, offers expertise and support for programs and communities, and advocates for summer learning as a solution for equity and excellence in education. NSLA’s work is driven by the belief that all children and youth deserve high-quality summer learning experiences that will help them succeed in college, career, and life. For more information, visit www.summerlearning.org.

About WGBH

WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the Web, including Frontline, Nova, American Experience, Masterpiece, Antiques Roadshow, Arthur, Curious George and more than a dozen other prime-time, lifestyle, and children’s series. WGBH also is a major supplier of programming for public radio, and oversees Public Radio International (PRI). As a leader in educational multimedia for the classroom, WGBH supplies content to PBS LearningMedia, a national broadband service for teachers and students. WGBH also is a pioneer in technologies and services that make media accessible to those with hearing or visual impairments. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors. More info at www.wgbh.org.

A capital victory

post-summit-email-header-v2 (1)
post-summit-email-header-v2 (1)

Guest Post by CEO Steven Rothstein

I wish you could have been with me last week in our nation’s capital. I am so inspired by so many of the students, principals, corporate partners, and others who joined us there.

On Monday, we had a special briefing on key education and STEM issues at the White House. On Tuesday, we organized, with the partnership of many other groups and organizations, the first-ever Expanded Learning Summit: Meeting In The Middle. Many joined in person and hundreds more participated in the conversation via live stream or social media. Then on Wednesday, we continued the advocacy and momentum and brought students, educators, corporate partners and our team to Capitol Hill for meetings with 36 Democratic and Republican members in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on key education issues.

The summit was the first time a group of this scale – including more than 55 distinguished speakers and panelists – has convened to discuss how expanded learning can help close the opportunity gap for our nation’s young people. We had a range of thought leaders and policy makers participate, including our chairman, Dr. Larry Summers; the Mayor of Washington D.C.; Wendy Spencer; the Deputy Mayor of New York; a representative from the George Bush Center, and literally dozens of the “best and the brightest” in our field.

We were honored to receive a special message from President Obama himself. “Events like this summit,” he wrote, “bring together those of us working on the front lines to make better use of educational time… If our next generation is going to meet the challenges of this century, they will need more time in the classroom.”

We are deeply grateful to all of those who participated in the summit, and to the many supporters and convenors who made this event possible. They are all highlighted on our event website. We are committed to the thousands of children whom we serve, and to growing the field of expanded learning. We believe that last week’s activities were critical in advancing this agenda.

As we recognize our 20 years of service, the Expanded Learning Summit highlights how much more there is to do in our next phase. In the coming days, we’ll continue to share opportunities to engage with these important ideas, including archived video from all summit sessions.

Yours in service,

Steven-Signature.jpg

CEO, Citizen Schools

P.S. We welcome your support to help more students across the country build the skills, access, and beliefs required for them to thrive as students and succeed as adults.

Donate..png

Student Ideas Take Shape in 3D Printing Apprenticeship

When he was attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chris Haid and his friends spent what little spare time they had tinkering and building what would become the world’s first fully automated 3D printer. Years later, he is bringing this technology into middle school classrooms in Boston through a 3D printing apprenticeship with the company he co-founded, NVBOTS. 13928389447_9e35dfedab_z

Chris is the Chief Operating Officer of NVBOTs, handling daily operations, customer service, and ensuring manufacturing meets demand. He has broken his routine once a week for four semesters to volunteer as a Citizen Teacher. His goal is to teach middle school students how to design and build with a 3D printer.

Chris is helping to extend NVBOTS' impact with the installation of an NVPro 3D printer at McCormack Middle School in Dorchester, Massachusetts. The printer is stimulating creativity and providing hands-on learning for many students. It is “one of many” that will be installed in Boston middle schools through the company’s partnership with Citizen Schools.

We recognize Chris as the March Citizen Teacher of the Month for his dedication to teaching students and increasing student access to the state-of-the-art 3D printers!

Meet Chris…

What apprenticeships have you taught?

I teach an Introduction to 3D Printing Apprenticeship. We teach the students how to go through the design process. We help them decide what they want to create and sketch out what they want to design and print. Once we get them through the design process, we teach them how to 3D print the parts. They get to take it home the following week.

This is my fourth time around. We’ve done two classes per semester a couple times around.

Do you have a favorite WOW! moment? Did anything surprise you about the students?

I get to see them go home and come back the next week only to tell me that they got so interested in this 3D printing design that they went home and looked up new part designs. They’re coming up with new ideas on their own. That’s one of the biggest things for me.

Chris Haid keeps souvenirs of his apprenticeships on his desk.

Some students don’t see the path to get to higher education. That’s how a lot of students start off in the beginning of the class. They say “before I was uncertain about 3D printing and how to design everything.” And now they want to go to college for 3D printing.

That’s really heartwarming. Just seeing the kids get excited about engineering. They’re not constrained in life and they have every ability to create things and bring their own ideas to life. Our apprenticeship shows them they can do that and it’s not that hard. There’s failing but at the end of the day it’s about taking something in your mind and making it into reality.

Why do you think students should engage in hands-on learning?

I think all students have an idea of something they want to create, but they’re often constrained. They don’t have all of the necessary tools at their disposal, but once they see that they have the ability to make something,knowing that they can create those designs gives them confidence.

A student of Chris Haid's shows off 3D printed objects as he explains how they are made.

What advice do you have for new Citizen Teachers?

Get to know your students. Teach something you’re passionate about. Try to build a personal connection with the students and get to know them while still maintaining your role as teacher. That really help to keep the  students engaged.

Why should people volunteer to teach students?

I believe it’s the most important thing to do. The students will be living in the future we’re building and it’s important to arm them with the tools and abilities they need to make a difference.

One day I brought in a prosthetic hand and said, “I designed it but it could be better. This is an application of the tools I’m teaching you right now. That’s why we’re doing this, so we can help each other and make the world a better place.”

Learn more about volunteering with Citizen Schools here!

A Teacher's Perspective on the Expanded Learning Day

Female student smiling in front of lockersAmy Bednar is a teacher at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina. Here is her take on how Expanded Learning Time and Citizen Schools are impacting her school community.  How long have you been involved in the education field?

This is only my second year as a teacher at MLK. However, I have been involved in the field from a young age - always reading with elementary children, working at summer camps, working as a peer tutor in college, and volunteering with after-school programs.

What brought you to the education field?

I have always wanted to be a teacher. In every autobiography I wrote for school growing up, I wrote that I would be teaching (and illustrated myself beautifully of course!). My little brothers had to sit through countless "lessons" with me, and I loved going to work with my dad to use the copy machine. My mom is also a teacher, so I guess that rubbed off pretty well! I was always the girl who loved going to school. I am naturally curious, so everything interested me. I also had awesome teachers who went above and beyond to ensure we had what we needed to be successful. I went into teaching to instill this love of learning onto the next generation and to be as influential and inspirational to my students as my teachers were (and still are) to me. Plus, I get to continue doing what I love to do!

What are your views on expanded learning time?

As a teacher, I absolutely love it. I appreciate how Citizen Schools supports us in reinforcing important topics after school. We only have 90 minutes per day to teach, which sounds like a lot, but it most definitely is not! The students are able to get the extra attention that they need after school in a smaller class setting and expand their knowledge with extension activities. Citizen Schools also reinforces important middle school habits such as the importance of completing homework, how to develop study skills, how to set and achieve goals, and how to use an agenda. I love how the program emphasizes the same values that we hold in the first shift, so our students are really getting what they need to be successful.

How do you see the Citizen Schools program impacting your students?

The biggest impact that I see Citizen Schools having on my students is giving them the confidence they need to be successful and happy in class. However, they are not only improving their academic skills and developing study habits. They are also given opportunities to engage in activities that they would not have time to do during the regular school day, such as apprenticeships. The WOW! event is my absolute favorite night of each semester. During these events, I see my students visibly light up while presenting everything that they have learned and experienced. My students speak with such passion because they are interested in what they chose to pursue. Their preparation is evident and I can see the pride on their faces. This confidence follows them into the classroom and helps them see that they can accomplish what they put their minds to do.

Welcome Back to School!

5815617808_a53421e9c6_oWe're going back to school! AmeriCorps members, aspiring teachers, and Citizen Teachers are venturing into another year of expanded learning to provide more enriching experiences to students across the country with the support of our great partners.

Our collaboration is ready to impact the lives of 5,098 students at 29 public middle schools in seven states. We are launching many new school partnerships this year including Quail Hollow Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina, Chancellor Avenue Elementary School in Newark, New Jersey, and William Monroe Trotter Innovation School in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Our California region expanded to Greenleaf Elementary School in Oakland and William Sheppard Middle School in San Jose. We also opened two new school partnerships, in Chicago, Illinois, Carter School of Excellence and Chase Elementary School. Welcome to the Citizen Schools community!

Thanks to a generous increase in support from AmeriCorps, 261 Teaching Fellows are serving in the longer school day, the highest number of Teaching Fellows since the organization was founded in 1995. After weeks of training, the Teaching Fellows are beginning to meet with new and returning students and are eager to start the year with success.

“Coming back as a second year Teaching Fellow, I feel like I am more prepared for the classroom and to best support students. I’m really excited because I know what’s ahead of me this year. I know how many exciting milestones there are for my students and also myself.” said Eric Saindon, a Teaching Fellow serving his second year in Massachusetts.

11242144483_ff6c89a366_o (1)Citizen Teachers are gearing up to head back to school too. They are completing their training and are getting ready to open young minds to fascinating projects and career pathways. Volunteers will teach apprenticeship courses in 14 diverse categories including marketing, cooking, robotics, gardening, sports management, engineering, and many more.

NASA Citizen Teacher Dr. Baraquiel Reyna shared heartwarming insight into the power of volunteering in Houston. “A 6th Grade female student walked up to me after answering some review questions and with bewilderment in her eyes she said, ‘Dr. Reyna, I didn't know that I could be good at science!’ I was on Cloud 9 for the next two weeks (and still to this day) thinking about that afternoon.”

Every day, our school partners, AmeriCorps Teaching Fellows, aspiring educators, and community volunteers make a difference to middle school students across the nation. The expanded learning day is utilized to help students discover their dreams and achieve more than they ever thought could happen. Lives can change when strong partnerships engage each day with passionate dedication and we couldn't do it without your support. We hope you have a great year and welcome back to school!

"Do the teachers like you?"

Written by Eric Schwarz, Founding CEO of Citizen Schools and author of The Opportunity Equation, launching Sept. 2

Of all the questions I get about Citizen Schools, perhaps the most frequent is: “Do the teachers like you?” Many questioners seem conditioned to expect the worst of public school teachers and assume that a second shift of educators, offering different approaches and taking less or no pay, will inspire resentment from the full-time teachers who lead classes for a majority of the day.

Generally, however, America’s teachers have embraced Citizen Schools and embraced an expanded learning day and citizen power in their schools. While a few teachers may react defensively and hide behind the closed door of their classrooms, the best teachers welcome any help they can get. Teachers’ unions as well have generally embraced Citizen Schools. As stated earlier, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten visited the Edwards ELT [Expanded Learning Time] campus and declared it in a New York Times column, “one of the most impressive schools I have seen in America.” The Boston Teachers Union has gone so far as to explicitly advocate for a nine-plus-hour learning day for all students, with the extra time delivered either by teachers receiving extra pay or by outside programs like Citizen Schools. 

This is the opening of chapter 12 of The Opportunity Equation, my new book that launches in five days. I'm an after-school guy and an expanded learning time guy who believes that extra learning time beyond the traditional school day -- and delivered mostly by folks who aren't certified teachers -- is the unheralded key to lifting up educational opportunity in America. But expanded learning time and Citizen Schools get their power from lifting up and supporting teachers, not trashing them, as too often seems to be the fashion. As the book describes:

Allowing teachers time for pull-out tutoring, giving students extra academic practice time, and engaging parents in their child’s learning are all important ways that Citizen Schools supports teachers. But the most important way we support teachers is by motivating students to try harder in school. By exposing students to exciting real-world projects, Citizen Schools helps make traditional school subjects become more relevant and enticing. All of a sudden a topic sentence becomes a key skill to win a mock trial, not just another academic standard on a long list that needs to be mastered. A student becomes motivated to learn the Pythagorean theorem because it helps unlock the secret of programming a video game.

If you are a teacher now or aspire to be one, I hope you will check out my book and talk about it with colleagues as you continue searching for ways to build your craft and a new paradigm for schooling. If you are a parent, please consider buying the book for your school's library or for a favorite teacher or mentor.

If you are interested in purchasing The Opportunity Equation, you can buy the book from one of six major retailers here.

Students Take Part in Building Their City

The We Build This City apprenticeship team Have you ever been told “You have the power to change something. Where will you start?” Students can spend years living in the same city and community without knowing how they can play a part in improving their surroundings. A young person may recognize a problem in their neighborhood, but solutions may seem out of reach. Enter Deborah Schulze, a public school teacher with city planning training.

Deborah is a Citizen Teacher at Louise A. Spencer Elementary School in Newark, NJ, though she is a teacher at another school. Once a week last fall, Deborah came to the school to teach the apprenticeship "We Build This City," supported by AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow, Kayla Crooms. In the apprenticeship, students focused on transforming neighborhoods through about city planning and the power of community in Newark.

In their initial planning process, students suggested they develop a vacant lot near the school into a park. The vacant lot attracted crime to the area, despite the school being so close. The group thought that a park would add more value and create a relaxing space for residents.

The team poses by the vacant lot they plan to renovate.

With Deborah's city planning experience, the students learned how to compile a proposal, draft a letter to the mayor, and strategize techniques for achieving their goal. The project gave students a new purpose. They weren’t working for a grade, but for their community.

“After learning the history of Newark and exploring what it takes to build a healthy community, they developed a ‘can do’ attitude and started to ask themselves ‘What can I do to help?’,” said Kayla.

In the spring, the students were given the opportunity to pitch their idea at City Hall. After proudly presenting the proposal, the Deputy Mayor of Economic Development, Dan Jennings, invited the students to join the planning board for the redevelopment of the lot.

Kayla recalled that exciting afternoon with the planning board:

“The girls were invited back to give their input to the city planning board. Along with Deputy Mayor Muniz and Director Jennings, the girls sat down with Ms. Gin Dawson of the Michael's Development Company to go over the vision for the upcoming project.

 

Ms. Dawson provided students with the building plans for the new senior housing development currently being build in the farthest lot, the plans for the large community park as well as a small green area in the courtyard of the senior building. She explained as part of the plan, there will be a community center located on the first floor where families from the community would have partial access.

 

During the discussion, Deputy Mayor Muniz suggested using the community center as a way for the students at Louise A. Spencer to give back and take ownership of their community. The girls came up with the idea of creating a club at school that would partner with the building manager to maintain and beautify the grounds, organize fundraisers, and hold events for the senior citizens.

 

In addition to the students' long-term involvement, the girls were invited to speak about their project and cut the ribbon next spring at the ribbon cutting ceremony. On campus, we are looking forward to bringing our ideas to Principal Pellegrine to organize a club with the mission to keep Newark beautiful!”

Given the tools and support, students can be empowered to have a role in improving their community and taking charge of its future.

“They discovered their voice and their ability to advocate,” said Deborah. “It’s a new beginning.”

North Carolina Students WOW! the Crowds

A Neal Middle School student shows offs his golf swing What happens when middle school students present to a group of adults on topics like the physics behind a golf swing, how to invest  in the stock market, or how to launch a rocket? Chances are, they won’t just be impressed, but they will say “WOW!” From top executives of major companies to parents and teachers, the adults that fill the room at the culminating WOW! events are consistently blown away by what students have learned with volunteer “Citizen Teachers” over the course of a semester in Citizen Schools.

This spring things were no different at three schools in North Carolina...

Students from Citizen Schools’ three North Carolina partner schools in Durham and Charlotte presented what they learned throughout the semester to over 800 guests including a member of Senator Richard Burr’s office. They might have been a little nervous, but it didn’t show. With confidence, they demonstrated how a robot operates, how a computer works, and their design for an air quality sensor that will be used in the community.

After the Lowe’s Grove WOW!, one parent commented, “Our son has received more educational and real life experience than we could have imagined…[He] was able to meet various professionals in different industries from biologists to electrical engineers ... We believe this will help him diversify his outlook on what field he would like to pursue in college."

The true “WOW!” moments are when students wow themselves, like when Angie and Tyresse from Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Charlotte shared  essays they wrote on their hopes and goals for the future:

Angie, a Martin Luther King, Jr. 6th grader, speaks at the school's WOW!

“When I grow up I want to be a crime scene investigator. I know I will impact the world in so many different ways. All the children in the world will be someone when they grow up,” said 6th grader Angie.

"My dream is to become a psychologist and help people who have a disorder. I believe those who are Autistic are born with a gift. Autistic people will show the world that they are smart, genius people who can do anything in the world," said 7th grader Tyresse.

And just like that, an aspiring  crime scene investigator and psychologist are on their way to making a difference in their communities.

These are just a few of the many moments that keep volunteers coming back to work with middle school students in North Carolina, and across the country. Sign up to volunteer this semester and see for yourself, that all students are capable of amazing you.

 

 

Expanded Learning Time Panel Discusses How Community Partners Can Make an Impact for Students

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TVyBqLSHjk "Extended learning may be the only reason some young people come to school." - Jonathan Brice, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, US Department of Education.

On May 19, the Center for American Progress (CAP) hosted a panel, All Hands on Deck: How Expanded Learning Time Schools and Community Partnerships Work Together to Improve Outcomes for Students, to discuss how expanded learning time (ELT) and community partnerships can create a positive impact for students and schools.

The event featured remarks from Carmel Martin, Executive Vice President of Policy at CAP, and Jonathan Brice, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, US Department of Education. The panel was moderated by Jennifer Davis, Co-Founder and President of the National Center of Time and Learning, and included Eric Schwarz, Co-Founder and CEO of Citizen Schools, Megan Bird, Managing Director of Program for Citizen Schools Massachusetts, Chris Caruso, ExpandED Schools Senior Vice President, and Kerri Ayn Seow,  Third Grade Teacher, Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School.

The panelists discussed how community organizations, such as Citizen Schools, have partnered closely with schools and their administration to make an impact for students, teachers, and the community at large with an expanded day. The additional hours allow for more time for academics, more enriching activities, and more time for teacher collaboration and planning.

"ELT gives me the chance to teach what I wasn't able to during class and the extra activities enrich my lessons," Kerri Ayn Seow.

Read more about the event here.

 

 

Sheryl Sandberg Leans In to Video Chat with Bronx 6th Graders

The global phenomenon that is Lean In has recently expanded to reach younger and younger audiences. A second edition of the blockbuster book, Lean In For Graduates, adds material directed to recent grads starting their careers. And, as the Ban Bossy campaign demonstrated earlier this year, the message of leadership and ending bias toward women resonates with school-age girls too. Lean In WOW blog post photo 5

That has proven true for a group of 13 sixth graders at Bronx Writing Academy, who signed up for a “Lean In – Girl Power” apprenticeship as part of their expanded learning day. Under the guidance of volunteers from Facebook, they studied issues that women face and used the book as a jumping-off point.

After ten weeks of eye-opening conversations and mentoring, they had an unusual opportunity to share their solutions with a symbol of female empowerment: Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg herself!

Facebook strategist and lead volunteer Kirstin Frazell brought her students to Facebook’s New York office for their final presentation, and turned on the projector to reveal Sandberg via video conference in Palo Alto. Sandberg listened to the thoughtful and passionate reports from each student, and applauded them for tuning in to inequities even as they start envisioning their careers.

"I'm so glad that you are spending time thinking about this,” she said. “The world’s still not equal. It’s still not equal based on gender, it’s not equal based on race. We don’t give the same opportunities to everyone.”

The afternoon video chat was the culmination of a semester-long volunteer project that Frazell and fellow Facebook volunteers Eunice Jin, Katherine Thomas and Emma Zaretsky embarked on through Citizen Schools, which partners with Bronx Writing Academy and 31 other middle schools across the country to provide apprenticeships in a variety of subjects.

The team of Facebook volunteers traveled to the Bronx once a week to teach these students a course they designed with AmeriCorps member Maddie Oliver, who is serving a two-year Teaching Fellowship with Citizen Schools. "I was so excited with how involved the girls got, and how passionate they got about women's issues at their age,” said Frazell. “I wish I had had that."

Their curriculum gave the students the opportunity to study four issues that women face: the gender pay gap, the media's presentation of women and lack of female role models, stereotypes, and gender policing. Each girl kept a journal, and their final project was to present an issue, share how it affects her, and propose a solution to address it.  The audience included their peers, teachers, and Facebook employees—including Facebook’s famous COO.

Lean In WOW blog post photo 1

"We have to teach our girls that they can reach as high as humanly possible,” quoted Ebony, one of Frazell’s apprentices. "Beyoncé said that, because we cannot let young girls get held back by stereotyping. This matters to me because boys tell me I can’t play basketball because I’m a girl. This makes me feel useless and like I can’t do what boys can do. This is wrong because that’s hurtful and I need to know I can accomplish anything."

Iesha’s presentation emphasized hope. "I believe that equality is possible,” she read.” Men and women are being treated differently, and we can change that. The gender pay gap matters to me because when I get older and become a teacher, I want to be paid the same, as well as treated the same, as the men in my job."

"The most important thing that needs to happen is a great education,” Sandberg told the group. “So for all of you in Citizen Schools, the most important thing we can do to prepare you for your future is to make sure you have a great education, great teachers, and opportunities to do projects like this."

The Facebook volunteers not only provided their students with a chance to learn about the discrimination that they will likely face as they pursue their goals. They also embodied one of the solutions, by serving as successful female mentors themselves. Frazell, Jin, Thomas, Zarestky, and Sandberg are living examples of what female empowerment looks like in the modern workplace.

“You build these lasting relationships with the students and they start to see you as mentors, not just teachers,” reflected Frazell. “I think that’s really important as they’re going through their educational journey.”

Crain's New York Business: Bringing Charter Innovations To Traditional Schools

The charter school revolution of the last few decades has transformed the conversation about education reform in America's large cities, including New York. Data suggests that simply organizing a school through a charter agreement does not guarantee greater student achievement. But some charter schools have used their flexibility to test innovations that seem to make a measurable difference. 8719556047_0705f56835_bAnd as Citizen Schools' New York Executive Director Kathrine Mott writes in an op-ed in Crain's New York Business, the public school system overall should look to what high-performing charters have done in deciding what resources to invest in.

One such variable is the length of the school day....

"Charter schools and traditional public schools alike have implemented this approach in New York City," she writes. "We are already seeing evidence that this can improve academic outcomes."

With the right investment from policy makers, public schools can implement the innovations that work. Schools that have formed partnerships with non-profits like Citizen Schools, for instance, have been able to extend their learning time by several hours each day, and--more importantly--enable students to improve at rates comparable to the highest performing charter schools.

"There is a heated debate in New York City about how public resources are allotted to charter schools," she writes. "Regardless of where one stands on this issue, we can find common ground when it comes to bringing some of the innovative aspects of charter schools into the city's public schools. A good place to start is with a longer school day."

Read the full op-ed, A Charter Lesson To Lift Public Schools, at Crain's New York.

Citizen Schools' Champions Advocate for Expanded Learning and AmeriCorps in Washington D.C.

Working as a non-profit partner to public schools across the country, Citizen Schools sees the many ways that public policies affect children, families, and teachers. So as a way of making a systemic impact on education beyond the handful of districts where we serve, we pull together a group of diverse stakeholders from a variety of cities and spend a day in Washington, D.C., meeting as many of our elected representatives as we can.

On Thursday, April 10, after an inspiring day meeting one another and taking a crash course in lobbying, 25 Citizen Schools leaders, seven middle school students, one school principal, and 14 representatives from corporate partners, such as Fidelity Investments, whose employees volunteer as Citizen Teachers descended on Capitol Hill.

Throughout the day the state teams met with congressional offices to discuss the impact of Citizen Schools in their districts and the success of Citizen Schools’ students. Their goal: to urge legislators to support expanded learning time (ELT), which helps public schools provide the academic and enrichment that middle schools in low-income communities need, and AmeriCorps, whose service members make expanded learning programs possible.

Left to right: Schmid Elementary School 8th grader Darnell and Principal Ron Simmons speak with Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton

This year, the fifth advocacy day that Citizen Schools has organized, teams from the seven states where Citizen Schools operates (California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Texas) hustled through the hallways of the Senate and House Office Buildings, meeting in a total of 38 different offices.

The Illinois group included Rona Simmons, principal of Citizen Schools partner Schmid Elementary in Chicago, IL. She brought along a Chicago 8th grade student, Darnell, who was not only a first-time visitor to Washington D.C., but also a first-time air traveler.

He and his fellow students soon went from sightseers to advocates, sharing their personal experiences with expanded learning time provided by Citizen Schools. In a meeting with Senator Edward Markey’s (MA) office, a Boston 8th grader named Jonathan expressed his interest in becoming a lawyer and opening his own law firm someday. Senator Markey’s Senior Advisor, John Phillips, was so impressed with Jonathan that he asked him if he would be interested in a summer internship at their Boston office.

Left to right: Citizen Schools Massachusetts Executive Director Tom Birmingham, Boston 8th grader Jonathan, and Senator Markey's representative

Jonathan took diligent notes during the luncheon keynote address by Jim Shelton, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.

“We don’t often see innovation in education,” said Shelton. “This is where expanded learning time comes in. Doing the same thing during the longer day is not the way to get breakthroughs. That’s where organizations like Citizen Schools come in. This is a model that has started to see results, proving that it is better than the status quo.”

The assembled Citizen Schools staff and partners also had the chance to hear remarks from Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA). Senator Warren was introduced by Yosef, a 6th grader from Chelsea, MA. Yosef shared what he learned in a Citizen Schools “apprenticeship” class on financial literacy that was inspired by the 50/30/20 framework from Senator Warren’s book All Your Worth. He learned about future career paths and how students can budget their potential incomes, and shared with Senator Warren, his plan to save for college to achieve his goal of becoming a teacher.

Senator Elizabeth Warren and Chelsea, MA 6th grader Yosef

The Senator was impressed. “Citizen Schools is doing great work in Massachusetts and across the country complementing the learning that happens in the traditional school day,” she said. “High-quality expanded learning time helps students succeed in school and outside the classroom, and innovative programs like Citizen Schools can play an important role as part of addressing our nation’s educational challenges.”

The group of Citizen Schools champions spoke from many points of view--some as business-people, some as educators, some as ordinary constituents who know what their communities need. They hoped to convey to their representatives that their interests converge in public school classrooms, where the next generation of citizens are building the skills and beliefs they’ll need to lead and thrive. The meetings were most compelling when the students shared their experiences, discovering their dreams, and the paths to achieving them in schools that expanded their access to opportunities.

Those opportunities can be further enabled through good educational policy, and that’s why we took the message to the Hill. But one impact we’re sure of: with the support of Senator Warren, Deputy Secretary Shelton, and many congressional offices and leaders, we ended our time on the Hill with renewed excitement and passion for the work we lead and the students we serve.

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.