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Debate on Federal Funding for Expanded Learning Time

Jodi Grant, executive director of the Afterschool Alliance, expresses her concerns on expanded learning time on The Washington Post's "The Answer Sheet" blog this week, based on some recent research.

Grant discusses a study released by the Government Accountability Office, which found 26 states using SIG grants said they would likely not continue their expanded learning efforts when the SIG grants that supported them ran dry.

She also talks about the Education Sector report I blogged about previously, and the issues it raises on using added time most effectively to improve student outcomes.

According to Grant, ELT is often "expensive, challenging, and may not be sustainable."

"The need for significant planning, combined with the need to position increased learning time as part of comprehensive reform, calls into question the use of three- to five-year discretionary-grant programs like SIG and 21st CCLC to implement a longer school day," Grant writes. "Fortunately, there are alternatives to increasing learning time for all students that are easier to implement, less costly, and therefore more likely to be sustained—and they have shown strong results."

She says these other options are after-school and summer programs, which were originally the sole recipients of 21st CCLC funding.

Also on the expanded learning time end, the Washington-based Center for American Progress released an issue brief this week that assesses the 11 states on the ELT components of the plans they submitted as part of waiver applications from No Child Left Behind. (All 11 states were granted waivers in the first round, and 26 others have applied in the second.)

The brief says the majority of states did not think carefully how they would use expanded learning time as a strategy, and most did not make it a priority. My colleague Alyson Klein wrote about the brief in her blog here.

According to CAP, while Massachusetts was a standout (the state has had a history of considerable ELT support), Colorado, New Mexico, and Tennessee "lacked strategic thinking" for how to implement ELT. The others—Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Oklahoma&$151:were "committed but missing details."

CAP has a few recommendations to guide states that pursue ELT as an intervention or turnaround strategy in low-performing schools.

"Every part of successful schedule redesign is deliberate. It starts with a focus on clear instructional goals and use of data to determine how the additional time should be used to best meet the needs of students and teachers," the brief says. "Thus it is vital that states use their new waiver authority to help districts and schools plan how they will add time and redesign the school calendar.

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