Thoughts on Extended Learning Time
We’ve been hearing a lot recently about how we, as a nation, need to increase the amount of time our students are in school. How our school calendar is based on an agrarian economy that no longer exists and hindering our competitiveness in the information-age. How students in the nations that outperform us on international assessments have a longer school year and/or spend more time in class each day. How one thing we can learn from high-performing high-poverty charter schools is the importance of increasing the amount of time that students in poverty spend in school. Students in those schools tend to have both days, a longer school year and school on Saturdays.
No real argument here. I personally agree that it's time to revisit an academic calendar designed in an era that no longer exists.
But consider what John Merrow said in a recent blog post:
“With the awful truth that 6,000 kids drop out every school day staring them in the face, wouldn’t someone question the wisdom of extending both the school day and the school year? I mean, what are these dropouts leaving behind? ...
People on the stage moaned about the antiquated (agrarian) calendar and the fact that schools still look and act as they did 50 or 75 years ago—and then suggested that what our kids need are more hours and days of this!”
Yet again, we may be taking a promising idea, and killing it with simplicity. Simply increasing the seat time of our students isn’t going to solve anything. Because Merrow's right. We know that more than a third of our students are not actively engaged. Increasing learning time won't change that.
That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t extend learning time. But we can’t just extend learning time.
Fortunately, there are places that have done this well that we can use as models. For example, Boston's Clarence Edwards Middle School. Once one of the lowest-performing middle schools in Boston, it is now one of the highest. A key factor is its turnaround was extended learning time. But it didn't just add more class time. It redesigned how it used all time.
So yes, the school increased instructional time for all core subjects. It also implemented "Academic Leagues”--four hours each week in which students are grouped into “leagues” based on their most pressing academic needs. And grade-level meetings for teachers two to three times a week. It now offers robust enrichment activities, including electives ranging from environmental science to Latin dancing, thanks not only to additional time but also the efforts of community partners who help provide the resources necessary for those activities, including on occasion instructors for them.
This school didn’t just get more time and do more of the same. The time was just a starting point for a new vision of learning. And because they've viewed it as such, they've had great success. Hopefully those considering increasing learning time will take a similar tact.
Click here to browse dozens of Public School Insights interviews with extraordinary education advocates, including:
- 2013 Digital Principal Ryan Imbriale
- Best Selling Author Dan Ariely
- Family Engagement Expert Dr. Maria C. Paredes
The views expressed in this website's interviews do not necessarily represent those of the Learning First Alliance or its members.
Excellence is the Standard
At Pierce County High School in rural southeast Georgia, the graduation rate has gone up 31% in seven years. Teachers describe their collaboration as the unifying factor that drives the school’s improvement. Learn more...
- Transforming Learning
- The EDifier
- School Board News Today
- Legal Clips
- Learning Forward’s PD Watch
- NAESP's Principals' Office
- NASSP's Principal's Policy Blog
- The Principal Difference
- ASCA Scene
- PDK Blog
- Always Something
- NSPRA: Social School Public Relations
- AACTE's President's Perspective
- AASA's The Leading Edge
- AASA Connects (formerly AASA's School Street)
- NEA Today
- Angles on Education
- Lily's Blackboard
- PTA's One Voice
- ISTE Connects
What Else We're Reading
- Advancing the Teaching Profession
- The Answer Sheet
- Edutopia's Blogs
- Politics K-12
- U.S. Department of Education Blog
- John Wilson Unleashed
- The Core Knowledge Blog
- This Week in Education
- Inside School Research
- Teacher Leadership Today
- On the Shoulders of Giants
- Teacher in a Strange Land
- Teach Moore
- The Tempered Radical
- The Educated Reporter
- Taking Note
- Character Education Partnership Blog
- Why I Teach