Prioritizing More Learning Time

The president’s proposed investment in expanded learning time is a wise investment. More school time, alone, is insufficient.

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The Obama administration proposes to reform the $1.16 billion 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which currently restricts the use of funds to activities that take place during nonschool hours, including afterschool time. The reformed program would instead “focus funding on models that redesign and extend the school day, week, or year to provide additional time for students to engage in academic activities, additional time for enrichment activities, and time for educators to collaborate and improve instruction.”

The president’s proposed investment in expanded learning time is a wise investment. More school time, alone, is insufficient. But more time used well—in combination with a comprehensive reform strategy that includes improved access to effective teachers and school leaders, a robust accountability system, and an engaging curriculum aligned to standards and assessments—is a necessary component of our nation’s strategy to turn around the most troubled high-poverty schools. Expanded learning time initiatives have demonstrated great promise in improving academic outcomes among students who are most likely to fall behind, such as English language learners.

Community partnerships are a priority in expanded learning time schools, as they have been in many CCLC-funded programs. Many schools with an expanded school calendar have partnered with community-based organizations, arts and cultural groups, and other such organizations to deliver enrichment opportunities that support students’ academic learning and broaden their opportunities and skills.

In fact, the increased time and redesigned calendar has elevated the role of community providers in many expanded learning time schools by allowing them to become active partners within the school. For example, community partners in ELT schools co-teach classes with regular full-time teachers, serve as a source of professional development to teachers on issues that they have expertise, and often participate in a school’s leadership and management structure.

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