Grasping the Moment, Building the Movement

This is a guest post by Chris Gabrieli, NCTL's Chairman & Co-Founder.  

As we’ve forged ahead in the effort to expand learning time in those of our nation's schools serving the most disadvantaged students, NCTL has helped build and work with a growing coalition of many other educators, policymakers and thought leaders who share our vision. Like us, they know that more time holds great power, for it can open up new opportunities for learning, for enrichment and for teacher collaboration that will go a long way towards improving schools and increasing student success. 

Yet, as much support as the idea of expanded learning time has generated over the last three to four years, I think even we were surprised at the numbers of folks who signed up to join us in Boston on Tuesday and Wednesday (Oct. 25th and 26th) at our national convening on expanded learning time, which NCTL is presenting with the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Over 500 people from 30 states, including many from far away, such as over 35 from Colorado, nearly 20 from California and 11 from Hawaii, are joining us.

There is no doubt that we have so many attending because they want to hear the extraordinary roster of speakers and panelists, including urban superintendents, high-performing charter leaders, federal and state policymakers, union leaders and many school innovators. Here are just few highlights:
•  School leaders, including:
o  Dave Levin, co-founder of KIPP and head of its NYC schools; 
o  Amrita Sahni, instructional leader of the remarkable turnaround Clarence Edwards Middle School in Boston;
o  Jeff Smith, superintendent of the Balsz Elementary Disrict in Phoenix, the first district in America where all students attend for 200 days a year; 
o  Bill Kurtz, founder of the innovative Denver Schools of Science & Technology;
o  Will Austin, Chief Operating Officer for Uncommon Schools in Boston;
o  Mike Goldstein, founder of MATCH Charter School in Boston; and
o  Mary Labuski, leader of the inspirational Hiatt Elementary school in Worcester, Mass.
•  Policy leaders, like:
o  Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers;
o  Massachusetts Education Secretary Paul Reville;
o  Mike Cohen, CEO of Achieve, the national leader on developing and implementing the Common Core standards; 
o  Carol Johnson, Superintendent, Boston Public Schools;
o  Roy Romer, former Governor of Colorado and Superintendent of Los Angeles schools;
o  Michael Yudin, Acting US Assistant Secretary of Education
o  Mitchell Chester, Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary & Secondary Education 
o  Paul Reville, Massachusetts Secretary of Education
•   Foundation and university leaders, including:
o  Luis Ubiñas, President of the Ford Foundation;
o  Pedro Noguera, Professor, New York University;
o  Kathy McCartney, Dean, Harvard Graduate School of Education; 
o  Paul Grogan, Boston Foundation CEO; and
o  Bob Schwartz, Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education
And to top it off, after a day of rich panel discussion and keynote speeches, over 200 attendees will get on buses and have the wonderful opportunity to observe 19 expanded-time schools in action, so they can get “up close and personal” with administrators, educators and students to learn how more time has strengthened and enriched their overall educational experience.
(For the complete program, check out the conference schedule.) 
But, more than the impressive content that this particular convening offers, I think what is really drawing people to Boston is the notion that we are engaged in something truly revolutionary in American education. For decades, our school calendar has remained fixed with 180 six-and-a-half hour days. Now, however, in every corner of the country, educators and policymakers are standing up to say that in a society that looks very different from when the conventional school calendar took shape and in a nation that needs to advance its schools to keep pace with a highly competitive world, we must re-imagine school and learning time. Just as limiting school schedules limits opportunities, expanding learning time expands them. And, after all, isn’t expanding opportunities what schools are supposed to be about?
I still can find no better statement of our mission than the final line of the report from the National Education Commission on Time and Learning: “If the United States is to grasp the larger education ambitions for which it is reaching, we must strike the shackles of time from our schools.” The convening in Boston this week offers strong evidence that this unshackling is already moving fast and, even more, promises to accelerate.