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New Expanded Learning Time Schools Open Doors

The first schools implementing expanded learning time schedules as part of the TIME Collaborative, an effort to have more schools nationwide add at least 300 hours to the school year, are now testing the waters of longer days for the first time.

Five states—Connecticut, Massachusetts, Tennessee, New York, and Colorado— joined the collaborative, spearheaded by the National Center on Time & Learning and the Ford Foundation, in December. (The Ford Foundation underwrites coverage of more and better learning time in Education Week.)

This school year, the states are starting expansion efforts at select schools; decisions are made locally on how best to use and add time to the year. Other districts will try out the new school schedule next year.

While some states, like Connecticut, are newcomers to expanded learning, in states like Massachusetts, the new ELT schools will join others in the state that already had longer school years than the national average. In Connecticut, three districts implementing an ELT model varied in approach, but said partnerships with community providers like the well-known Mystic Aquarium and a local science center were helpful to keep costs low and keep teachers from teaching long hours.

In other ELT news, a recent Baltimore Sun editorial came out in support of city schools expanding the school year.

"At a time when the once-rapid gains registered by Baltimore City students on state standardized tests have slowed or stagnated, the city urgently needs to look at new ways to maintain the momentum for school reform," the piece says. "Whoever becomes the next city schools chief will have to figure out how to get the system moving again, and he or she could do worse than look at new ways to expand the instructional day at more city schools."

In a follow-up letter to the editor, Jonathon Rondeau, president and CEO of the Family League of Baltimore, discusses the city's current efforts to expand the day through The After-School Corporation ExpandED initiative.

But while U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (and the current administration) has come out in support of expanded learning time as a school reform strategy, he recently commented on National Public Radio's "Diane Rehm Show" with guest host Susan Page, that schools could stand to start their days later, especially for sleepy teenagers. His comments were a follow up to a statement he made on Twitter last month about later start times potentially helping students perform better.

"I think it's incumbent upon education leaders to not run school systems that work good for buses but that work good for students," the secretary said, noting that bus schedules and other logistics often dictate what time school begins, but that research shows teenagers often need to sleep later.

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