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Expanded Learning, More Questions, More Debate

A teacher from Nevada recently emailed me to ask about where he could find more information to help him decide whether his school's proposal to change its calendar, specifically to reduce the time off in the summer and reallocate the breaks throughout the year, was a good idea.

"Some teachers are concerned about these changes (for a number of reasons), but I was trying to read any research on the subject before forming my own opinion," he said.

The teacher's email highlighted the growing attention on re-examining the traditional school calendar of 180, six and a half-hour days, with more than two months of summer vacation. Touted by the Obama administration as a school turnaround strategy, the concept of adding time to school or restructuring the way time is spent has been a tool for some schools to help close the achievement gap for low-performing students.

Yet, his email also reflected some of the questions this growing attention to expanded learning, summer learning, and extended learning opportunities raises. While some schools have seen an impact on student performance, do others know enough to shift to newer school models or adopt new programs and see success? What are the challenges and barriers? What models should they look to for guidance?

Today, I have an article out that looks at some of these questions. Check it out here.

And as you may remember, there have been some debates on the legislation front over funding for expanded learning and out-of-school programs, particularly the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. The recent Elementary and Secondary Education bill introduced by the Senate HELP committee had some advocates worried that the future of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program was cloudy. But in the markup session for ESEA last week, an amendment proposed by Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, based on some of the recommendations for the Collaborative for Building After-School Systems, was added, which has appeased some of this concern.

The bill changes, based on the recommendations, include: no federal preference given to which type of programming (after-school, ELT, summer) is funded; stronger community-partnerships requirements; allowing both district and nonprofits to be the lead fiscal agent; and the opportunity to test out new extended learning models using the funds.

According to Jessica Donner, CBASS director, the amendment was great progress, but the coalition still hopes more progress is made moving forward, particularly around clarifying the definition of ELT.

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