Comprehensive Research Summary Demonstrates the Impact of ELT

This is a post by Jennifer Davis, Co-Founder & President of NCTL

An extensive new report from Child Trends commissioned by the Wallace Foundation examining available research on expanded learning time schools and out-of-school time programs has collected comprehensive evidence to support the effectiveness of expanded learning time as a key element in a whole-school reform strategy.  
The breadth and variety of research studies represented in the report is what make the results so powerful.  The literature review included 27 studies of schools with extended school days (ESD) -- 17 of which also included an extended school year (ESY) component; the studies covered 11 distinct models, including a statewide program of public district schools, a district-wide program, charter school models, and magnet schools. The successful schools used the additional time to implement a variety of other school reforms.  Those reforms varied from school to school, yet the positive results were still there, making it even more clear that having the extra time to implement comprehensive reforms is the essential element of success.  Or, as the researchers put it when discussing the comprehensive reforms delivered at the ELT schools:
“…these models’ other programs often differ substantially, and the consistency of positive outcomes across all models suggest that having a longer school day is a key component of these programs’ success.”
At NCTL, we talk about the importance of how time is used in reports like our Time Well Spent:  Eight Powerful Practices of Successful,Expanded-Time Schools, a study of 30 high-performing, high poverty  ELT schools.  We’re making the same argument, that expanded time enables other key reforms, including improving teacher quality and individualizing supports to students based on student data.  While most of the studies included in the Child Trends review focused on the positive academic outcome measures for ESD schools, the schools also got high marks in other areas, including school culture. 
“Studies of ESD programs that examined school climate consistently found that effective ESD programs fostered more student-teacher interaction, and that students in these programs exhibited a strong sense of academic engagement and high rates of attendance.”
The report was also explicit that extended time works for elementary, middle, and high school, finding “no evidence, based on this review, suggesting that the effect of ESD models varies across grade levels.”
A few more quotes from the report’s findings section:
• Findings from research on ESD, ESY [extended school year], and ELO [extended learning opportunity, meaning out-of-school time programming] models suggest that ELT programs may be more advantageous for low-income, low-performing, ethnic minority or otherwise disadvantaged students. Results of this research, in turn, suggest that these programs may hold promise to help narrow persisting achievement gaps. 
• ESD models appear to be most beneficial to students at increased risk of academic failure or dropout. 
But the slim evidence available suggests that extending school time can help raise academic achievement, while out-of-school opportunities can boost "precursors" to achievement, such as educational expectations. - Lucas Held, Director of Communications,  Wallace Foundation
And from its recommendations section:
• Continue to support schools and programs that are serving all students well. Also support efforts designed to lift the quality of schools and programs that serve millions of children and teenagers. [emphasis added]
• Findings from ELO and ESY studies suggest that positive outcomes will not be likely if participation in programs is lagging. By supporting quality, it is likely that participation will improve.  [We agree completely, and note that they found that ESD schools have a strong sense of student engagement and high attendance.]
• Findings from the ESD, ESY, and ELO studies show that program implementation challenges can limit a program’s effectiveness. Therefore, when supporting new programs, providing professional development, training, and coaching support is essential. In addition, senior school leaders should be encouraged to conduct regular observations that will help them to identify deficiencies in programming and to manage performance in real time. 
• When funding ESY and ESD programs, it is important: 
• To have a clear plan for how the additional time will be used and to support ongoing monitoring to help ensure that teachers are supported in implementing new teaching strategies and that students are engaged; and 
• To get buy-in from parents, students, and teachers. It may make sense to hire teachers and staff who are motivated to work in an ESD or ESY program. 
You can see why we’re excited about this report.  When an exhaustive review of dozens of research studies reaches the same conclusion that we’ve reached from our years working in communities with schools, teachers, and principals, we know we’re on the right track.  Expanded Learning Time schools that use time to implement comprehensive school-wide reforms have the power to close the achievement gap and give all children the opportunity to succeed in college, careers, and life.