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Assessing Efforts to Extend Learning Time: A How-to Guide

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Initiatives that add hours to or use time differently within the school day often sound positive, but determining whether programs are truly succeeding can be challenging.

Arguing that standardized test scores alone can't fully capture the impact of extended learning time policies and practices, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform (AISR) at Brown University, with support from the Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access (IDEA) at the University of California, Los Angeles, has developed a set of indicators that districts, schools, and community groups can use to measure their progress and help identify areas for improvement.

The group describes its 24 "more and better learning time" indicators in a new report. (The project was funded by the Ford Foundation, which also supports coverage of more and better learning time in Education Week.)

The indicators measure progress in four areas: creating and sustaining conditions for more and better learning time; ensuring equitable access to and implementation of more and better learning time; preparing students for college, career, and civic life; and scaling up programs.

Under equitable access and implementation, for example, indicators include:

  • Student agency: To what extent do students shape and determine how they spend their in-school and out-of-school time?
  • Access to more time: To what extent is time used to provide students an opportunity to experience a broad range of teaching and learning?
  • Access to better time: To what extent is time used successfully, and how does it provide opportunity for a broad range of teaching and learning?
  • Identifying and minimizing time distractors: To what extent does the school work to minimize the amount of learning time lost during each school day, week, and year?
  • Inclusivity and persistence: To what extent do schools provide all students with the services and support they need to ensure student growth, success, and persistence?

AISR also suggests ways to measure each indicator. To assess "access to better time," for instance, the group suggests looking for evidence of project-based learning, a culturally relevant curriculum, a broader curriculum, and work-based learning opportunities, among other signs. To measure a district's or school's success at minimizing learning time lost, the group suggests looking at school closures; disparities by subgroups in retentions, suspensions, and expulsion rates; transition time within and between classes; and mistakes made in scheduling students.

"This more and better learning time framework .. .reflects the voices of over 50 different organizations in the field who are engaged in implementing more and better learning time models across the country," one of the report's authors, AISR Principal Associate Michelle Renee, said in a video interview about the project on the AISR website.

AISR will launch a website with additional tools and resources related to its extended learning time indicators this fall.

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