CAP Releases Critical Report on Closing the Educational Achievement Gap with Additional Learning Time
WASHINGTON, DC – The Center for American Progress today released a case study featuring Massachusetts’ bold new education initiative to close the achievement gap and improve student performance through a longer school day. At a conference for education leaders to discuss the study, Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) encouraged schools across the country to use the lessons and advice in the report, The Massachusetts Expanded Learning Time to Support Student Success Initiative, as a model for expanding the school day and providing students more resources for learning.
“When it comes to education reform, Massachusetts has a long history and a pioneering spirit. The extended learning initiative in Massachusetts can serve as a model for the nation on how to provide students with the extra time and opportunities they need to master 21st Century skills in a new, global economy,” said Senator Kennedy. “The federal government should lend support to these efforts so we can ensure that students have the time they need to master challenging subjects and new opportunities for enrichment — including art and music. I commend Mass2020 and the Center for American Progress for their work on this important initiative.”
The vast majority of schools today still operate on a system designed by the country’s agrarian forefathers to accommodate farming schedules. In addition, high stakes testing has forced many schools to sacrifice time once dedicated to enrichment, artistic, cultural and physical education classes in order to concentrate more on math and English/Language Arts. In many schools, time allotted to science and social studies has also been greatly reduced. As a result, American schools are lagging behind those in most industrialized nations and even some developing countries. For example, in China students spend 30% more time in school.
The CAP case study recounts how Massachusetts 2020, an education nonprofit, and the Massachusetts Department of Education Massachusetts have addressed this education problem unlike any other state in the nation by becoming the first and only state to undertake a systemic initiative to significantly expand learning time for its public school students.
“This is a watershed moment in education. Massachusetts has tackled one of the most difficult issues in this country – changing the time-honored but outdated school calendar,” said John Podesta, president and chief executive officer, Center for American Progress. “Many have long said that it can’t be done; that all the stakeholders will never agree, but Massachusetts has proven them wrong and has found a system for providing many of the resources our schoolchildren need to not only meet high stakes testing goals but also flourish through enrichment studies that are known to keep kids engaged and enrolled.”
The report recounts how Massachusetts 2020 partnered with legislative leaders to successfully secure $6.5 million in the state’s budget to expand the school day by 30 percent (about two hours) in 10 schools in five districts in the fall of 2006.
The case study provides policymakers and advocates with critical information and early key lessons on expanded learning time, including the need to provide administrators, teachers, union leaders, parents and school partners with adequate time for planning the expanded the schedule as well as the need for continuous engagement and communication to all stakeholder groups.
For communities, states, policymakers and philanthropies seeking to improve educational outcomes for their students, the report sheds light on these important lessons:
• How to redesign the schedule and educational program of schools adding significantly more learning time in order to increase student achievement;
• How to accelerate change in public systems;
• How to engage public policy leaders in innovative reform;
• How to involve teachers and unions from the start of the planning process;
• How to build capacity in low-performing schools; and
• How to leverage partnerships between schools, community groups and non-profits on behalf of students’ learning and development.
The case study also provides recommendations for state and federal policy makers and philanthropists and highlights of the curriculum and schedule developed by the 10 traditional Massachusetts public schools to best utilize the additional time for learning.
“Administrators and teachers have been extremely strategic and creative in developing a new school day that engages students and doesn’t just tack on time to the end of the day,” said Chris Gabrieli, co-founder and chairman, Massachusetts 2020. “When I go into these schools now, I don’t see more ‘drill and kill’ or stretched out lectures. Instead, teachers are engaging students in projects that allow them to learn new lessons and use their newly acquired knowledge in real life applications. I also see kids practicing musical instruments, participating in a rock climbing experience and then writing about it, swimming, and fully engaging in enriching activities that broaden their educational experiences.”