Spreading the Model

You’ll forgive me for another post about what is happening in Boston with regard to expanded time, but, since there is a lot going on, it is difficult to avoid. As I wrote a few months ago, Boston Public Schools was awarded a prestigious Investing in Innovation Grant (i3) from the U.S. Department of Education to replicate the successful expanded-time school improvement model that has been in place at the Clarence Edwards School. What probably made the model so compelling to the federal government was that the Edwards has seen a marked rise in proficiency across the board, and also has been able to build in the kind of engaging enrichment activities that make school fun and help to close opportunity gaps. Having about 100 more minutes per day than other district middle schools has enabled the Edwards to improve academics, teaching and enrichment at once.

The terms of the grant, called the Turnaround Increased Learning Time (TILT) Project, would be to fund two additional middle schools in Boston to adopt the practices and structures that have worked so effectively at the Edwards. Last night, Boston Public Schools (BPS) Superintendent Carol R. Johnson announced that the Irving Middle School in Roslindale and the McCormack Middle School in Dorchester have been selected this year. 
Of the nearly $3.5 million expected cost over three years, 85 percent ($2.9M) is covered by federal funds.  The remaining 15 percent is made possible by private funders including the Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation, EdVestors, Clipper Ship Foundation, Inc., Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Jessie B. Cox CLT – Cox Family Fund, The Boston Foundation, and the Barr Foundation. It is truly encouraging to see the philanthropic community line up to support this effort that promises to bring dramatic transformation to these two schools. We’re also pleased that Massachusetts 2020, NCTL’s state affiliate, will have the opportunity to provide technical assistance to the two schools and they undertake the steep challenges that come about with this kind of substantial school change. 
And expanded-time is not only spreading in Boston. We received word that the Denver School Board has approved the establishment of two new West Generation Academy schools. The schools will provide a 200-day year and 8-hour day for all students grades 6 – 12 without increasing the districts costs. Put differently, every sixth grader who graduates from West Generation will benefit from nearly three years of extra school time.

Now, I know that it is easy to be skeptical about these turnaround efforts – certainly there are times when I have that inclination myself. But, then, you see examples like the Edwards and Orchard Gardens in Boston or Kuss Middle School in Fall River and they re-kindle the hope that positive, deep change is possible. That hope then becomes full-fledged joy when you hear students talk about how the transformed school changed their own lives. It is these stories that push us forward, so that more and more children get to experience the fulfillment of learning in a good school.