A new organization was launched this week to promote an extended school day and school year as a means of ensuring that all children receive a rigorous and well-rounded education.
The National Center on Time & Learning will provide research, advocacy, and technical assistance for efforts to increase academic and enrichment opportunities for students, which some experts say can help improve student performance overall and close achievement gaps between disadvantaged students and their better-off peers.
“The current school time is insufficient for achieving the goals we have set out…and for allowing a well-rounded education,” said Paul Reville, the chairman of the Massachusetts state board of education, who will co-chair the Boston-based center with Chris Gabrieli, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. “What we are asking our schools to do now in the 21st century far exceeds what can be done” in the so-called factory model of education that has dictated the school day for generations.
Earlier this year, a panel of prominent education experts released a report on the structure of the school day, concluding that more time spent on educational activities, and a better use of learning time, could help efforts to improve schools. (“Panel Favors Extended View of Learning,” Jan. 24, 2007.)
The national center plans to conduct or sponsor research, such as time audits, on how time is used now in schools, and to review the scholarly literature on the effectiveness of additional learning time, according to its president, Jennifer Davis.
“We want to document the variety of ways of using time effectively in the school day,” said Ms. Davis, a former deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education during the Clinton administration. “We’re talking about more time used well.”
A bill now in Congress would finance district-level programs for expanded learning time, and the strategy is included in a discussion draft for the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act released recently by House education leaders.
Such efforts are bound to face a number of challenges, though, according to Roy Romer, a former governor of Colorado and former superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. In a meeting of prominent education leaders convened by the center, Mr. Romer said the cost of extending learning time—including teacher salaries and facilities costs—can be considerable.
“You have to convince yourself that the cost is worthwhile,” he said. For parents, he suggested, the argument for extended learning time is that without it, “your child is not going to get prepared for success in the global economy.”
The Eli and Edythe Broad Education Foundation, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation are financing the national center. Its mission is modeled in part on a Massachusetts initiative that provides grants to some school districts that add at least 300 hours of academic and enrichment programming to the school year.