The “Kernels of a National Movement”

At an event today in Washington, DC, NCTL and the Ford Foundation, together with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, and a host of other education officials from five states, announced the formation of the TIME Collaborative. This new multi-year initiative seeks to develop high-quality and sustainable models of expanded learning time in over 40 schools across five states (Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Tennessee).  

For those of us (like me) who have been championing for many years the benefits of expanding learning time for children in high-poverty communities, today’s announcement is a pinnacle moment. In a very concrete way, the TIME Collaborative transforms the pilot project that we launched seven years ago in one state (the Massachusetts Expanded Learning Time Initiative) from a one-off into a harbinger. Now, schools in an additional four states (not to mention more schools in Massachusetts) will be able to bring the opportunities that come with more learning time to thousands of more children.  
As I watched the event today (we will have a video up shortly!), I was struck by a couple of messages that kept popping up. For one, speaker after speaker intoned in one way or another about how more learning time was simply necessary to close opportunity and achievement gaps. “It’s not rocket science” to have a longer school day, asserted one audience member. And as the Connecticut Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor noted, his state underwent many contentious policy discussions over the last year as Connecticut crafted an ambitious education reform package. Yet, through it all, each and every constituency—from parents to unions to superintendents—was firm on the idea that those children coming from disadvantaged backgrounds absolutely needed more learning time to achieve at high levels.
The second message that, frankly, gave me goosebumps to hear was Secretary Duncan’s response to an audience question about whether he thinks there will be a national movement to expand time. Without mixing words, the Secretary suggested that the TIME Collaborative is the “kernel of a national movement.” “We still have a long way to go,” he explained, “but we are starting now.”