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Expanded Learning, Philadelphia Style

The challenges and potential benefits of using expanded learning time as a strategy for school reform are the focus of the latest issue of the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, an independent news publication that advocates for education reform in that city.

While the articles focus on the issues and challenges Philadelphia K-12 schools have faced, they are set within the broader context of recurring themes of ELT implementation efforts nationally.

Many of the struggles the district has faced are tied to finances. In its third year of budget cuts, proposals for upcoming reductions to district programs and services are significant, the Notebook says. Summer programs, for example, have declined and now only serve 2,000 of the district's 137,500 total students now that the federal stimulus funding used to support them ran dry and the district doesn't have the money to fill in the holes. Securing resources to provide high-quality programs remains a struggle at both the district administration level and within the individual community organizations they partner with to provide services.

Still, there are some bright spots, the publication reports. Currently, the Philadelphia district has a three-year project underway (with support of foundation dollars) to improve its coordination of out-of-school offerings by making better use of data on students (attendance, performance), providing more accessible information to parents, and ensuring consistent quality is provided at the "big mash of programs" that currently serve 40,000 K-12 students and their families.

Several other stories in the issue look at how low-income students can garner the greatest benefit from expanded learning time, the rising interest in the community school model, and how principals play a key role in acquiring the partnerships and private dollars typically needed to enhance offerings at schools.

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