By guest blogger Jaclyn Zubrzycki
Advocates for after-school, summer learning, and expanded school day programs are breathing a sigh of relief: The Every Student Succeeds Act, which would be the first reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 14 years, maintains funding for such programs, despite several early drafts that would have cut support.
The ESSA passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Dec. 2 and was approved by the Senate on Wednesday.
The bill includes an official definition of expanded learning time, which wasn’t present in the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. Here’s the definition:
EXPANDED LEARNING TIME. The term 'expanded learning time' means using a longer school day, week, or year schedule to significantly increase the total number of school hours, in order to include additional time for (A) activities and instruction for enrichment as part of a well-rounded education; and (B) instructional and support staff to collaborate, plan, and engage in professional development (including professional development on family and community engagement) within and across grades and subjects.
Jennifer Davis, the founder of the National Center for Time and Learning, said the inclusion of a clear definition will help ensure that money allocated for expanded learning time is well-spent. “We’re extremely excited about the fact that the federal government has now embraced in policy the necessity for more learning time, especially for our highest-needs children.”
Expanded learning time shows up in a few parts of the bill. The ESSA includes the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, a program that supports after-school and summer programs. The program had been cut from earlier drafts of the bill altogether, which prompted advocacy organizations to call on Congress to preserve it.
Despite the threats of cuts, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program has actually expanded its eligibility: Schools that expanded their schedules by 300 hours per year or more are now eligible for the grants, which had previously been reserved for nonschool after-school and summer programs. David Goldberg, NCTL’s vice president of national policy and partnerships, said that approximately $1 billion is being devoted to that program. (The relevant section of the ESSA starts on page 489.)
The Afterschool Alliance celebrated in a statement from executive director Jodi Grant:
Preserving this dedicated funding stream means millions of students and families will benefit from the quality after-school and summer-learning programs that keep kids safe, inspire them to learn, and help working families. This is a huge and much-needed win for America's children and families.
Several House representatives, including Dan Kildee, a Democrat from Michigan, highlighted their support for after-school programs in press releases after the House passage.
Expanded learning time also shows up in the ESSA’s school improvement fund for states, which replaces the federal School Improvement Grant program and increases the number of schools eligible for federal support. Extended learning time is named as one of the approaches states can take to help their lowest-performing schools improve.
The number of schools using extended learning time has doubled in the past two years.
Check out Politics K-12 for more on the implications of the ESSA and for the most up-to-date information about its progress.
For more news and information on curriculum and instruction:
A version of this news article first appeared in the Time and Learning blog.