Reimagining the School Day: More Time for Learning

Originally published by The Wallace Foundation

Also from ES | | November 3, 2011
Cover of Wallace Report: Reimagining the School Day: More Time for Learning

There are never enough hours in the day—this familiar frustration applies to virtually all of life's undertakings. When it comes to educating our young people, the expression is beginning to seem particularly true. What appeared as a small blip on the school reform radar screen a decade ago has today grown into a national movement to increase and better use the hours that American students spend learning. Thousands of K–12 schools, including some of the most successful charters, are op­erating for longer days and longer years, or are planning to. Dozens of school districts are building bridges between school and after-school or summer programs, and still more have "found" minutes, hours, even months by innovating with technology and scheduling.

These developments formed the backdrop for a two-day conference, Reimagining the School Day: A Forum on More Time for Learning, that brought more than 70 education, nonprofit and policy leaders to Washington, D.C., in May 2011 to discuss expanded learning time, identify the barriers to realizing it and forge a way forward. The size of the challenge was made clear from the start, as M. Christine DeVita, then-president of The Wallace Foundation, which hosted the event, laid out the frustrating realities: inertia born of traditional notions of school time, shrinking government rev­enues and infighting among education and after-school supporters.

Yet a handful of indicators over the last few years in Washington and the states suggest that "more time for learning" is making its way onto the national education reform agenda. Under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, increased learning time became a key eligibility require­ment for several important federal education funding programs: School Improvement Grants, Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation. Following the lead of Massachusetts, which in 2011 recom­mitted funds to its expanded learning initiative, states like Colorado, Oklahoma and Rhode Island have created task forces to explore different models of expanded time. Nine states are slated to host mayoral summits on citywide after-school efforts in 2012.11 And the weak economy notwithstand­ing, several large American cities, among them Dallas, Boston and Cincinnati, have instituted large-scale summer learning programs.

"This means that despite the challenges we face, the time seems ripe for progress," said DeVita. …Read the full report.