A Dramatic Turnaround

For several years, we’ve told the story of the impressive change that has come about at the Edwards Middle School in Boston. Within a few years of adding 300 hours through the Massachusetts Expanded Learning Time Initiative in 2006, this middle school—once on the verge of being closed for its poor performance and declining enrollment—has become one of the top performing middle schools in the city. It also boasts a wide range of enrichment opportunities, including theater arts, step dancing and football, that students participate in for up to two hours every day.

As compelling as our storytelling is, however, nothing can communicate quite as directly and viscerally as film. I’m pleased to report that the Edwards story has now been captured in, I would venture to say, quite dramatic fashion by Edutopia.  Now, I suppose this rendering of the Edwards story shouldn’t be surprising given the source. You see, Edutopia is a project of the George Lucas Educational Foundation, and when your benefactor has produced some of the most beloved films of all time, there is bound to be some penchant for dramatization, even with somewhat process-oriented subjects like school transformation.

From my perspective, what is most exciting about this project is not that the Edwards has gotten its due, however. Rather, it is that Edutopia, a significant player in the philanthropic world of education, has highlighted expanded learning time as one of its key strategies for school improvement. This foundation realizes that if schools hope to integrate technology and promote teacher learning and enable project-based learning, they will need more time than the conventional schedule allows.