Choosing More Time for Students: the What, Why, and How of Expanded Learning

Christina Hentges

Elena Rocha
Center for American Progress
August 2007

To assume that extended learning time (ELT) is a panacea for class divides and achievement gaps is attractive. As this report's author notes, wealthier kids have access to learning opportunities outside school, such as private lessons and online courses, which could just as easily benefit poor kids if included in the school day. ELT could even benefit teachers, as longer school days may include time for professional development. These thoughts are inspiring, until Rocha considers current models of ELT and what it takes to implement them. The Achievable Dream Academy in Newport News, Virginia, closed its achievement gaps after implementing ELT. But the school had extra money from local businesses, fundraisers, and the U.S. Department of Education. Rocha also determines that parental support and involvement is important for ELT to work well. The author never adequately answers this question, though: Would quantity equal quality? Rocha notes that strong data are required to evaluate which parts of ELT do and don't work. But she doesn't further discuss the lack of appropriate data tracking and accountability systems. Overall, the paper touts the more-obvious benefits of ELT, but it offers little substantive advice about how to garner high quality results from extra school time. Only at the end of the paper does Rocha note the drawbacks of ELT--it must be "well-implemented," she writes, which is a tall order for schools that can barely keep it together from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Check out the report here.

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