How time is used in school is vitally important in the education of today’s children, and it was given the spotlight at a CAP event on September 30. In her opening address, Cynthia G. Brown, the Center for American Progress’s Vice President of Education Policy, noted that expanded learning time in education has seen an increase in “momentum” at all levels of government, and that “schools across the country are eager to increase learning time.” She cited “new flexibility under the No Child Left Behind Act” as providing an avenue for them to do so. States granted waivers will be released from certain requirements of No Child Left Behind in exchange for taking on certain reforms, one of which includes increasing learning time.
In his keynote address, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that more time is needed for both students and teachers, and for both academics and extracurricular activities. Students need time, he said, in order to “compete on a level playing field with their counterparts across the globe.”
CAP co-hosted the event with the National Center on Time and Learning. The event highlighted a report by NCTL Vice President Claire Kaplan and NCTL Manager of Effective Practices Roy Chan, “Time Well Spent: Eight Powerful Practices of Successful, Expanded-Time Schools.”
“What this report helps to demonstrate in very concrete ways,” Duncan said, “is that this [expanded learning time] isn’t just a good idea theoretically—it’s getting results.”
NCTL Chairman Chris Gabrieli outlined the report, which details the eight best practices used by successful expanded-time schools. It includes empirical data from both charter and traditional district schools across the United States—data that show expanded time can have a positive effect on students’ educational experience and achievement. Gabrieli said that “time is a resource—it’s not a strategy,” and that it, along with resources like money, must be used “well” in order to achieve change.
With more time, he said, students can achieve better “academic outcomes,” but they can also come to realize their full potential and begin to think about learning in a new way. He talked about Stanford psychologist’s Carol Dweck’s “mindset” theory, and how, with additional time, students can go from “a fixed mindset”—that abilities are unchangeable—to “a growth mindset”—that they can achieve things through effort.
More time used well, he said, will let schools “break away from a kind of factory model of doing the same thing for every kid and hoping it works for enough of them, to deeply individualizing the education for children and adults.” Children can get specific “academic supports,” as well as explore and succeed in activities “outside the traditional curriculum” that interest them, and adults can learn how they can succeed in their jobs.
A panel discussion followed Gabrieli’s presentation. Moderated by Brown, the panel included Duncan and Kaplan, as well as John King, the New York commissioner of education, and Jennifer Davis, president of NCTL.
Kaplan talked about how the schools in the study didn’t take any time for granted. Teachers focus on “engaged learning” by putting effort and time into their lesson plans, to maximize every minute. In some schools teachers are observed by “instructional leaders,” so they can receive feedback on how to best connect with students to ensure time is used well.
Brown asked King about the sustainability of expanded-time initiatives, due to teacher “burnout.” To prevent this, King suggested teachers take time to realize the full impact they have on their students, and that they be given time to focus on “the practice of teaching.” He spoke of his positive experience with this as the director of two high-performing charter schools, and also about his experience with bringing in community members, such as artists, to teach enrichment classes.
Overall, the panelists agreed that when used well and combined with other strategies, more time can improve student achievement.
For more on this event, see its event page.