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Eight Practices Set the Best Expanded Learning Schools Apart

Eight strategies set apart high-performing expanded learning time schools from their peers, says a new report from the National Center on Time & Learning.

"Time Well Spent: Eight Powerful Practices of Successful, Expanded-Time Schools," will be officially released at a Center for American Progress event Friday in Washington, with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as the keynote speaker. John King, New York commissioner of education, and NCTL staff including President Jennifer Davis, will discuss their thoughts on the increasing need for schools to lengthen their calendars to help close the achievement gap for low-performing students.

The NCTL's new report profiles 30 expanded learning time schools across the country in 11 states and large cities like New York, Chicago, Boston, New Orleans, and Philadelphia that serve large percentages of low-income kids. All the schools examined in the report have used various expanded-time models and seen improvements in students, staff, and the schools overall. These schools, some of which are charters, shared similar characteristics in how they used the increased time, summarized in eight practices:

  1. Making every minute count or maximizing added time;
  2. Prioritizing increased hours that are tailored to the school and their students;
  3. Individualizing the added time for each student based on diverse needs;
  4. Building a positive school culture of high expectations and mutual accountability;
  5. Providing new experiences for students that make their education more well-rounded;
  6. Preparing students for the future by encouraging college readiness and career goals;
  7. Strengthening instruction by providing increased time for teacher professional development; and
  8. Evaluating how well goals are met by assessing and analyzing data.

Seven of the schools highlighted are in Massachusetts, which is the only state to date to set up a funding stream for expanded learning time schools. In 2005, the Massachusetts education department, with the support of Mass 2020, implemented an expanded learning time initiative that to date supports 19 schools. These efforts were formative in the establishment of NCTL itself.

But today, according to the report, an increasing number of schools around the country are in the process of expanding their school days and years, and some have used federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) funding as a means to do so. Additionally, there are efforts under way to use federal funding to enable more states and districts to shift to longer school calendars.

NCTL estimates there are currently 1,000 expanded learning time schools nationwide, but not all of them have seen the same results that the schools profiled in the report have, it says.

"Clearly, more time in school does not guarantee improved learning outcomes for every individual child or even for students in the aggregate. As with any initiative or change effort, the quality of the implementation matters," the report says.

"More time is not the only reform needed for struggling schools; expanded time acts as a catalyst, or accelerator, to a series of other reforms as well. Indeed, it is the interaction of more time with other sound practices that leads to meaningful impact."

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