It is not often that one gets the opportunity to capture in one place all one knows about a particular topic. (Certainly, in these blog posts, I often feel like space allows for only “scratching the surface” type discussions.) Recently, however, the Journal of Applied Research on Children, an all online journal, offered us the opportunity to submit an article for publication that would, in about 10,000 words, try to summarize all that we know about expanded learning time. I’m pleased to say that this week, in their latest issue, the Journal included an article I wrote that tries to do just that.
Now, I’m exaggerating, of course. There is much information that I could not include in the article, but I did take seriously the idea that I had the opportunity to explain to folks who had never heard of the movement to expand learning time in public schools—or at least might not have given it much thought—some of the basic structures and forces at work that define its essential challenges and opportunities. As such, the article addresses four questions:
1. Why do educators and education thought leaders find the current standard American school calendar insufficient to meet students’ educational needs, especially those from high-poverty communities?
2. When educators perceive this need, how do they go about implementing a day and/or year that not only is longer but that also leverages the nontraditional schedule to offer a higher quality education?
3. Does the act of expanding time bring improvements in student achievement as intended?
4. What are the possibilities for more schools to implement similar educational models that rest on a longer day and/or year?
I also made some effort within the body of the article to describe and explain why it is that adding time to the schedule is not, in and of itself, an automatic means to make a school thrive. As I note in addressing the third question, just as the research is fairly clear that providing additional learning time to individual students is likely to generate more learning (i.e., of the kind that can be measured on tests), the research also highlights how adding time to an entire school is a much more complicated matter to assess.
I was honored, too, that Mike Feinberg, co-founder of the KIPP network of schools, responded to my article. In his commentary
, he re-inforced the idea that time—and much more time than the conventional schedule has—is a key leverage point for student success. As he explains,
More time in school is by no means a silver bullet for education. It takes hard work, and much more than a few extra hours in the week, to create a model that helps students make learning gains. But if we consider both the risks and the benefits, and focus on developing more extended time programs that take all the factors … into account, we can bring real success to more of this country’s most underserved students.
I do hope that his message (and mine) will lead more people to understand why the time for a total re-make of the traditional American school day and year has come and, then, to join us in championing for its spread.