Over the last few years, policy advances at the federal, state and local levels have accelerated efforts to ensure high-poverty students receive an education that prepares them for success in college, careers and beyond.  This year, leaders across several states have provided new or newly flexible funding to incentivize district and school leaders, particularly in high-poverty communities, to expand school schedules in order to close achievement and opportunity gaps.

The Administration’s FY 2015 budget reaffirms President Obama’s and Secretary Duncan's deep commitment to expanded learning time (ELT) as a key reform strategy to support students from high-poverty communities prepare for the future. The budget would support ELT schools throughout its K-12 programs, including ESEA’s existing School Improvement Grants (SIG) and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) program. 

Last week, I visited a couple of successful expanded learning time schools through NCTL’s “Seeing Is Believing” tour in Massachusetts. The Huntington Elementary School in Brockton, MA was memorable for me, because of their tight knit leadership group and their teacher buy-in. Their school recognized the urgent need to act in order to create necessary positive change.

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.

The National Center on Time & Learning is pleased to announce the release of a Request for Proposals to fund a planning grant to initiate or strengthen STEM education in expanded-time schools

The other day I heard of a fascinating piece of research featured on NPR’s Morning Edition. The show’s social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam reported on a study of Air Force Academy cadets that gives us a little more insight into the phenomenon known as “peer effects,” or how being surrounded by peers of a certain type subtly influences one’s own behavior. Admittedly, the research falls a bit outside of NCTL’s “wheelhouse”, but it, nonetheless, reminded me why I do the work I do.

Today, we co-sponsor Arts Advocacy Day with Americans for the Arts with a vision to make sure every child in the United States has access to a hiqh-quality arts education. Grassroots advocates from across the country are meeting in Washington, DC with their members of Congress in support of issues like arts education policy, the charitable tax deduction, and funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.

One of the things that has always fascinated me about the 1960s in America (and in some other Western European countries) is not simply that these years represent an era of upheaval, of a ready resistance to tradition and an aggressive questioning of those in authority, but that those at the forefront of this change were remarkably self-aware of the tectonic shifts in culture that were taking place. 

Last spring, I visited Elizabeth, New Jersey to conduct some research on one of the few districts in the country that has expanded school time for all its schools (30 total) and students (about 24,000). Imagine: 24 K – 8 and six high schools with a school day of over eight hours. When you’ve been in this field as long as I have, finding a district that is clearly outside the mainstream in terms of its school structure makes you stand up and take notice. 

Over 65,000 students are now in 132 expanded-time schools across 29 communities in Massachusetts. Once a reform in just a few schools in the Commonwealth, expanding learning time has now become a proven strategy in both district and charter schools. The state's schools join over 1,500 schools across the country that have expanded their school calendars with more and better learning time.