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Review Finds Extended Learning Research Limited

Extended and expanded learning programs can have a positive impact on students, particularly those who are low-income or at-risk, but more research is needed to determine what and how significant those effects are, says a new report from the Wallace Foundation. (The foundation provides support for Education Week's coverage of expanded learning time.)

Researchers examined 80 independent evaluations of extended school days, extended school years, and expanded learning opportunity programs. They found that while some evaluations showed promising outcomes, there was a limited base of solid research, particularly randomized, experimental studies, supporting such programs.

However, even with the limited research, attention has been increasing on the use of time or out-of-school interventions to improve outcomes for students, the report says. That's especially the case for the U.S. Department of Education, which has signaled that districts using such interventions may get additional federal funding.

In particular, the report found that it was hard to determine for some initiatives whether it was the additional use of time or other reforms that led to a positive outcome. Also, what specifically was done with the time—quantity and use—was key in determining program effectiveness. Often, though, the reviewed research did not break down the uses that had more of an impact.

"A better understanding of the circumstances under which extended learning time is beneficial is critical, primarily because the findings in the literature indicate that simply adding time is insufficient," the report says. "Understanding the pathways through which the additional time might be useful will be helpful to educators and policymakers interested in implementing these approaches."

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