The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind or NCLB, is the federal government’s most comprehensive education law.
ESEA authorizes the vast majority of the federal government’s K-12 education programs, including the substantial formula grant programs that go to every state. The purpose of ESEA is to improve academic achievement for the nation’s most disadvantaged students and schools; to meet that goal, the reauthorized law should incentivize states and districts to invest in expanded time in school as a key strategy to raise student achievement and close achievement gaps.
There is building bipartisan agreement to provide greater flexibility and support for states, districts, and schools that choose comprehensive school reforms including expanded-time. To ensure that scarce federal resources are used with the greatest educational impact, NCTL supports these key principles for supporting expanded-time schools as Congress considers reauthorizing ESEA:
- Add flexibility to the 21st Century Community Learning Center program. The 21st Century program should be maintained as a stand-alone grant program and must be made flexible enough to allow local communities to choose expanded-time schools, afterschool and summer programs, or a mix of these options. Partnerships between schools and community organizations have always strengthened these programs, and any individual program should be evaluated based on its quality and the educational value it provides for students, not who provides the service.
- Strengthen the School Improvement Grant (SIG) Program. Congress should maintain and strengthen the SIG program, ensuring that it continues to be targeted to the lowest-performing schools. Through improvements made in appropriations bills and federal regulations, the SIG program now includes ELT by requiring “increased learning time” (ILT) as a part of school turnaround and transformation grants, by allowing for it as a whole-school reform in the new State-determined model, and by increasing the grant length from three to five years, while encouraging a planning year. These improvements should be institutionalized in a reauthorized ESEA. Congress should also incentivize districts to use the planning year by making clear that the five-year limitation is for implementation of the school reform model, so that using a planning year does not force a district to forego the fifth year of implementation.
- Allow Supplemental Educational Services Funding to be used for ELT. Under NCLB, when a school fails to make sufficient progress on raising student test scores for more than two years in a row, it has to offer its students the option of transferring to a higher-performing school in the district or supplemental educational services (SES) (e.g. tutoring outside of school) , both interventions that only benefit some of the school’s students. ESEA Flexibility Waivers, however, give districts in 43 waiver states, plus D.C. and Puerto Rico the flexibility to design whole-school reforms using funds previously restricted to SES and student transfers to help turn around struggling schools for all students. The funds would be much better spent on the redesign and expansion of school time that high-quality ELT models offer. The change would allow meaningful school reform that improves and expands the entire school day for all students, not just tinkering with a limited number of out-of-school hours for a select few students. ESEA reauthorization should maintain the requirement that a portion of a district’s Title I funds be used for school improvement at the lowest-performing schools and codify the flexibility the waivers created.
- Allow Title II Funding to be used for Professional Development During the School Day. A reauthorized ESEA should ensure that Title II funding can be effectively used to support high-quality, job-embedded teacher collaboration, planning, and professional development time that is integrated into the structure of the school day. Allowable uses of funds should include the costs incurred by providing students with additional learning opportunities during the time that teachers are out of the classroom for covered activities during an expanded school day.