Center for American Progress

High School Reform and Extended Learning Time: Out-of-the-Box Strategies
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High School Reform and Extended Learning Time: Out-of-the-Box Strategies

Studies show that schools which engage their students for a longer time have higher rates of achievement.

Studies show that many of the American high schools succeeding in raising student achievement, particularly for students entering below grade level, have expanded the length of their school day or school year. The Center for American Progress released a report and held an event yesterday to discuss the need for increased attention to arguments for extended learning time in high school reform debates.

The panel consisted of Daniel Gohl, Principal of McKinley Technology High School; Hilary Pennington, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Co-Founder and Vice Chair of Jobs for the Future; Gene Pinkard, Principal at Maya Angelou Charter School; and Cynthia Brown, Director of Education Policy at the Center for American Progress.

Hilary Pennington, author of the report released yesterday, Expanding Learning Time in High Schools, said that expanding learning time will be a key step towards improving America’s schools. Longer school days and years give students more time to learn, and therefore better equips them to survive in the “knowledge-based economy.”

Extended learning time is not a solution in itself, Pennington explained. Schools must also place more emphasis on technology and extracurricular activities, which are vital to students’ broader development.

Gene Pinkard’s school, the Maya Angelou Charter School, serves as an example of such expanded learning time. Maya Angelou’s school day lasts ten hours, which allows it to offer tutoring, mental health services, dinner, internships, and a broad array of extracurricular activities. “There is no way to help students without these supports,” Pickard said.

Daniel Gohl spoke about McKinley Technology High School. Like Maya Angelou, McKinley’s school day is longer. The school provides services like off-site internships and the opportunity to take college classes. McKinley’s academic program is technology intensive. “It important to prepare students for the knowledge-based economy” with learning opportunities like these, says Gohl.

The panelists clearly believed that American schools can adopt extended learning times. Though Gohl and Pinkard noted that financial costs can be a barrier to the needed reforms, they suggested that problems could be countered by using outside groups or contractors to deliver school services. They also suggested that funds could be raised from private donors if public sources or assistance are unavailable.

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