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A multi-city reporting project will look at expanding learning time

By Paul Socolar on Apr 5, 2013 03:22 PM

In conjunction with partner education news organizations in other cities, the Notebook is launching a year-long reporting project to write about the issue of expanding learning time.

We will join Catalyst-Chicago, EdNews Colorado,  GothamSchools, and EdSource Today (which covers California) in this collaboration, supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation, which has made “more and better learning time” a priority in its philanthropy.

Expanding learning time for students, especially those in low-income communities, has emerged as a major reform initiative. Some argue that additional time that is wisely used can be a key lever for educational equity.

In addition to reporting on developments in their own localities, the five news organizations will take advantage of this collaboration to produce a cross-city report that compares and contrasts policies and practices.

Philadelphia schools have seen District-run afterschool and summer school programs gutted by budget cuts in recent years. But there are tens of thousands of youth participating in other structured afterschool programs. An ambitious, city-led collaboration has been working to address fragmentation, gather data on participation and service gaps, and offer professional development to improve program quality.

The Notebook will be exploring these and other issues locally; expanding learning time will be the focus of our upcoming summer edition.

We also welcome guest commentaries on the topic -- about strategies and obstacles to providing more and better structured learning opportunities for Philadelphia youth. Contact us at

Here are some of the ways the issue has played out in other cities:

  • In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently succeeded in lengthening the school day and year, which has been among the shortest in the nation.
  • In Denver, School Superintendent Tom Boasberg has made a concerted effort to run pilot expanded-learning-time programs in district schools, especially in middle schools.
  • In both Los Angeles and Oakland, the school districts have instituted “community schools” initiatives and are turning to outside partners to provide afterschool learning activities and health and social services that engage students beyond the regular school day.
  • Schools in New York City are experimenting with a “community hub” model, adding to other expanded-learning-time efforts by city schools and outside partners.

We will be republishing relevant stories from these cities. We welcome your comments and suggestions on how to make the most of this cross-city collaboration.


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Comments (5)

Submitted by tom-104 on April 8, 2013 9:36 am
What is wrong with this picture? Right above this article is the article "9th grade is still where most fall off track". Is keeping students in school more hours of the day really the solution to the school crisis when so many of them drop out already starting in 9th grade? It is incredible that people like Rahm Emmanuel tout this as a solution when they and the rest of the political class have created the school crisis by under funding and under staffing schools. These same people say class size doesn't matter. Lengthening the school day is just a red herring to distract attention from the fact that public schools not only are not being supported, but are being abandoned for private profit interests.
Submitted by Paul Socolar on April 8, 2013 10:00 am

Tom-104 - The focus of the Notebook's reporting  and this project is not on how to lengthen the school day. It is on how to deliver more and better structured learning opportunities to students, either in school or out of school - particularly for the neediest students. The equity dimensions of this issue are clear, for example, when you look at the research on summer learning loss. There's lots of evidence that low-income students are at a disadvantage year-round in time spent in structured learning opportunities.

We will be critically examining various efforts and strategies being used to address this problem. A demand by a mayor or district leader to lengthen the school day with no additional spending is not necessarily an effective strategy to deliver more and better learning opportunities ... and there's plenty to discuss about that from the Chicago experience. The Notebook and our partner publications are not going into this project with any assumptions about the best way to address the issue, and we certainly are not assuming that it is an issue that can be addressed without devoting resources to it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 9, 2013 8:54 am
Rahm Emmanuel's pushing for a longer school day had more to do with union-busting than improved opportunities for students. I think it is more important to look at school district practices during the day before we expand the school day. For example, let's get rid of all test prep classes and put electives back. Really, why do kids have to wait until after school, which many of them can't attend? And they will only get if if funding gets to their school for it.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 9, 2013 8:05 am
I have a book-load of points to make about this issue, but as a preliminary point may I just say this; There is no scientifically based study which shows that more time in school equates to higher academic achievement in either the short term or the long term. Children and adults can only stand so much time in classrooms per day and per school year. After an optimal point -- it is counterproductive. That is why, I have a renewed respect for the wisdom of our forefathers, who made the school classroom day seven hours and the school year a little more than nine months. Extra curricular activities and alternative learning experiences for children during summer months provide so much more for students in the totality of their cognitive and socio-emotional growth. So does spending more time independently reading and doing homework have a more positive affect on student intellectual growth. The purpose of life is not to spend it in classrooms and be able to take standardized tests. A purpose of life is arguably to gain knowledge, experience and wisdom which will enhance our lives and make it meaningful and productive. All of that can just not be taught or learned in a classroom.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 9, 2013 9:26 pm
Hey Rich You are right that more is not better, it is often worse. In the 16 years I taught middle school, the day got increasingly longer, but the quality diminished. The lunch period went from 45 minutes to 35 to its current 30. After 1999, my students no longer had recess. Electives got pushed aside for double Math and Reading periods and test prep classes. Then came Corrective REading and Math, the less said about that the better. It still makes my stomach hurt just thinking about it. Let's take a look at how we can make the time we have now more productive and more enjoyable--and less stressful--for the students. Let's look at putting creativity back into teaching and learning. That can only happen when we stop abusing our children with more and more testing. Lisa

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