More than 100 education and civic leaders from a wide variety of backgrounds launched a national coalition today to encourage an educational shift that could change the way American children learn. The mission of the coalition is simple: to inspire and motivate communities across the country to add more learning time to a redesigned school day and year, enabling children everywhere—especially in disadvantaged schools—to get the education they need to succeed.
Expanded learning time is an approach that is taking hold in low-income communities in many cities nationwide—including Chicago, Boston, Charlotte, Houston, Denver, New York City and Newark. These efforts have inspired a diverse group of more than 100 nationally known educators, policy experts and public officials to form the Time to Succeed Coalition. Each has pledged to champion a new calendar in American education, one no longer based on a 19th-century farm and factory society. They are leading a drive to turn successful ad hoc efforts into a nationally transformative movement.
Approximately 1,000 schools serving 460,000 students have adopted expanded learning time, adding hours to the day or days to the school year, while also redesigning how they deliver instruction. The coalition’s aim is to catalyze the movement to double the number of students in schools with expanded schedules over the next two years.
Empirical evidence bears out the experiences of these schools and districts. Exhaustive research by Harvard University economist Roland Fryer has found that more learning time is one of the factors most closely correlated to improved student achievement.
More than $4.5 billion in federal resources has been made available by the Obama administration and Congress to support expanding learning time. At the state and local levels, governors and mayors are making expanded learning time a priority.
Former Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee and Mayor Cory Booker of Newark are founding signatories of the coalition, which is co-chaired by Chris Gabrieli, co-founder and chairman of the National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL), andLuis A. Ubiñas, president of the Ford Foundation.
“We no longer structure our lives the way we did a century ago; why should we structure our schools that way?” Ubiñas asked.
Some of the coalition’s other signatories include the heads of both national teachers’ unions, Randi Weingarten and Dennis Van Roekel; the founders and leaders of leading charter school networks, including KIPP co-founders Michael Feinberg and Dave Levin and Uncommon Schools’ CEO Evan Rudall; educational policy leaders and innovation pioneers including Linda Darling-Hammond, Jon Schnur, Geoffrey Canada, Wendy Kopp and Pedro Noguera; leading scholars such as University of Chicago professor Charles Payne and Harvard Dean Kathleen McCartney; superintendents and state education leaders such as Chicago’s J.C. Brizard, Houston’s Terry Grier, Boston’s Carol Johnson, John Deasy of Los Angeles, and Paul Reville of Massachusetts; civil rights leaders such as Wade Henderson, Tom Saenz and Antonia Hernandez; and business leaders such as legendary investor Peter Lynch, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, and Eli Broad of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.
Experience is showing that expanded learning time, when designed and used well, makes a wide array of other strategies for improving teaching and learning more effective. Coalition leaders add that expanded and redesigned time makes it possible for students to master reading and math without sacrificing other valuable essentials such as science, history, civics, art, music and physical education.
“To build a vibrant future as a nation, we have to equalize learning opportunities for all children,” said Ubiñas. “After-school programs, while engaging and educational, are not available to all kids, and are not enough to solve the core problem. What is needed is a strategic redesign of the school day, where teaching practices are modernized to accommodate the unique needs of today’s world, today’s economy, and today’s family life.”
The coalition is focusing its effort on low-income communities and disadvantaged schools, where achievement is hampered by inadequate time for learning and a dearth of opportunities outside of school for engagement and growth.
“We see this approach working successfully in places like Massachusetts, where there are 90 schools serving over 40,000 vulnerable kids,” Gabrieli said. “Students at these schools are gaining academic skills at dramatically better rates than the students at other majority poverty schools. They are nearly four times as likely to be narrowing achievement gaps in English and two-and-a-half times as likely to do so in math. They also have greater access to subjects that are too often cut from the school day. With more time, schools can provide the well-rounded education we know our kids need.”
The Balsz Elementary School District #31, in Phoenix has expanded the school year by 20 days for all its students. With the expanded time, the students—90 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch—are making dramatic gains on their reading skills. By the time a kindergartener in this district reach eighth grade, they will have received an additional year of school.
Boston’s Clarence R. Edwards Middle School, a school with more than 75 percent low-income students, powerfully demonstrates the potential of expanding learning time. In the five years since it added 300 hours to its school year, Edwards dramatically closed achievement gaps in both math and English. The school has empowered its teachers to take on leadership roles and has allotted specific time in each week’s schedule for teacher collaboration and planning.
Early adopters have created partnerships with community organizations and nonprofit organizations, such as Citizen Schools, which provides volunteers and young adults to work as a second shift of educators, and City Year, which supplies AmeriCorps members to support teachers. Other pioneers are innovating with technology, such as Rocketship Schools in California, which uses adaptive software to fuel an added 90-minute period in the Learning Lab each day, extending and personalizing learning time at almost no cost.
“We are aware that asking schools to take on more can cost more. But through the use of newly available federal resources, the reallocation of existing funding and cost-effective practices, we see that it is possible in even the hardest-hit communities,” said Gabrieli.
Expanded learning time offers benefits for families and communities as well as students and teachers. With few parents at home during after-school hours, it ensures that students are in supervised, productive and engaging activities during the hours when they would otherwise be most at risk. One study of families found that more than 70 percent of parents whose children participated in extended learning time reported that the program helped them to miss less work and made it easier for them to keep their jobs.
In addition to the nearly $5 billion in resources being made available at the federal level, officials at the state and local levels are making expanded learning time a priority. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is leading an effort to expand learning time in all 675 Chicago public schools this fall. Newark Mayor Cory Booker has pledged similarly broad expansion.
Time to Succeed will continue to recruit signatories and advocates, and it plans to launch on-the-ground campaigns in select cities around the country. A campaign website provides tools for supporters to join the movement and to contact local leaders and lawmakers. The website will also be home to news on expanded learning time initiatives around the country and announcements related to Time to Succeed’s ongoing grassroots efforts.
“The Ford Foundation has committed $50 million over three years to this initiative because it completely embodies our mission—to give all people the opportunity to reach their full potential,” said Ubiñas. “We should all be embracing a longer, more smartly designed school day for our children.”
Additional information, tools, resources, contacts and the complete list of signatories to the coalition’s principles may be found at www.timetosucceed.com
The Ford Foundation’s More and Better Learning Time initiative—which is funding the coalition—works to reinvent public schools through “more and better learning time” in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, so that students are prepared equitably for college, career and civic participation.
The Time to Succeed Coalition is a diverse coalition of Americans committed to improving our public schools by expanding learning time for students who need it most—those disadvantaged by poverty. TSC is building the movement to expand learning time and to help communities overcome barriers to change.