The Time Gap

At NCTL, we make the case that students from disadvantaged backgrounds need more time in school to make up for their general lack of time in productive learning environments outside of school as compared to their more affluent peers.  Not long ago, TASC (the familiar name of The After-School Corporation) actually quantified this differential and found that the gap totaled a stunning 6,000 hours by the time students reached sixth grade.

This fact alone highlights the necessity of our core mission to expand school time for children from low-income communities, but there is also the flip side of our work. That is, not only do they need more time to make up for lost learning time outside of school hours, but the educators in those schools need to be sure that such time is used productively and with a continual, laser-like focus on optimizing learning time.

New research from a group in Los Angeles illuminates how time spent in school also has a socioeconomic class bias. The researchers found through surveys of teachers in 193 California schools that students in high schools serving a predominantly low-income population actually spent less time learning within the same allotted schedules than middle-class high school students. The greater losses in higher-poverty schools stem from, among other things, a greater number of disruptions during class, more days spent testing, and loss of class time due to unqualified substitute teachers. One of the researchers on the study, Nicole Mirra, a postdoctoral student at UCLA, puts the matter succinctly: "This is not narrowly an issue of teachers and students at an individual level. This is about high-poverty schools lacking the resources to respond to broader social conditions."  She’s right: providing these schools more time and tools to better use that time is more essential than ever.