New York is poised to take an important step to improve student achievement by expanding learning time for students attending high-poverty, low-performing schools. Recent district- and state-level investments in expanded learning time—a promising strategy to close achievement and opportunity gaps—will give students more time to learn core academics but not at the expense of extracurricular activities such as music, art, and sports. Expanded learning time also provides teachers with more time for collaboration, planning, and professional development. What’s more, New York’s strong history of working with community partners will help support schools that decide to significantly lengthen the school day. Other school districts and states that are interested in boosting student performance, closing achievement gaps, and expanding enrichment opportunities should follow New York’s example and consider a significant investment in expanded learning time.
In 2011, in exchange for exemption from certain No Child Left Behind Act, or NCLB, requirements, the U.S. Department of Education, or DOE, invited states to submit plans to implement education reforms, set high standards for all students, and close achievement gaps. Known as Elementary and Secondary Education Act flexibility, or ESEA flexibility, this program requires states to outline interventions in the state’s lowest-performing schools—called priority and focus schools—in order to receive the NCLB exemptions. In doing so, states must ensure that the interventions are aligned with the seven turnaround principles established by DOE to improve the academic achievement of students in priority schools. One of these turnaround principles asks states to “redesign the school day, week, or year to include additional time for student learning and teacher collaboration.”
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