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Expanded Learning Organization Names Former Treasury Secretary to Board

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By guest blogger Alyssa Morones

Lawrence H. Summers, a former U.S. Treasury Secretary and top economic adviser to two presidents, will serve as chair of the nonprofit Citizen Schools, the organization announced recently.

Citizens Schools, located in Boston,  partners with middle school students from low-income backgrounds to expand the learning day, with the goal of increasing their learning time by over 400 hours per student each year. Working with 24 schools in seven states across the nation, from Massachusetts to California, the organization's model is aimed at closing the opportunity gap. It opened its first expanded learning time program in 2006 in Charlestown neighborhood of Boston.

The organization provides opportunities for apprenticeships and academic support for students by connecting them to community, company, government, and philanthropic resources. It mobilizes a team of "citizen teachers," including educators and volunteers, to provide students with real-world learning projects.

Eric Schwarz, Co-Founder and CEO of Citizen Schools, in announcing Summers' position, said the former government official would bring a "deep understanding of education and its connection to economic growth and fairness."

In a speech after the announcement, Summers cited statistics showing that children from wealthy households receive approximately 6,000 more hours of learning activity outside of school than low-income students, according to the Boston Globe.

"That is why we don't have equal opportunity in America," said Summers. "We are not delivering for kids who don't get those 6,000 hours. We have got to do better in education."

Summers, an economist, served as Treasury Secretary during Bill Clinton's presidential administration, and was the director of the White House National Economic Council under President Obama, a post in which he helped frame the government's response to the severe recession. In the interim, he served as president of Harvard University, a tenure that was occasionally marked by controversy.

A growing number of organizations are taking an interest in extending the learning day. The Ford Foundation launched its TIME Collaborative in 2012 to help high-poverty schools develop expanded learning time models. The collaborative, which currently serves 9,000 students, will reach 13,000 more of them next year. 

Meanwhile, New York City mayor-elect Bill de Blasio's plans for education include a major expansion of after-school programs for middle school students.

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