Student Achievement

Wallace Announces Urban Learning-Time Initiative

By Mary-Ellen Phelps Deily — June 22, 2010 2 min read

The Wallace Foundation this week announced a $9 million initiative to expand, test, and promote high-quality summer-learning and expanded day- and school-year programs for disadvantaged children in cities.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that the traditional school calendar may not be ideal for students, especially those in the most need,” M. Christine DeVita, president of The Wallace Foundation, said in a news release announcing the effort. “If we provide more high-quality learning time for disadvantaged students by offering summer learning and extending the school day—and use that time effectively—we may be able to substantially improve students’ achievement.”

The initiative will focus on three priorities: building awareness among school officials and policymakers of the importance of adding time for high-quality learning; helping leading organizations in the field to work with more children; and testing to determine how programs that provide more learning time could expand to reach more urban children, and also evaluating how well such programs work.

In launching its learning-time effort, Wallace is providing grants to several organizations, including:


  • $350,000 over one year to the National Summer Learning Association to support “strategic planning and communications” and to help NSLA work with Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL), Higher Achievement, and Horizons National—all three of the partner organizations provide expanded learning and enrichment for underserved kids;
  • $250,000 over one year to the National Center on Time & Learning to fund communications and reports on state and local programs and policies on added learning time;
  • $4 million over three years to BELL. The Boston-based group (which is cited also in the NSLA grant) offers six-week, all-day summer programs in numerous cities that supplement three hours of academics with enrichment courses and field trips;
  • $635,000 over one year to the RAND Corporation for research to identify critical elements of summer-learning programs, TO PRODUCE A study is due to be released by April 2011; and,
  • $600,000 over one year to MDRC to help Wallace identify district partners for a demonstration summer-learning program to be used broadly across an urban district.

Interesting that this comes at a time when some school districts are having to cut learning time rather than expand it. Perhaps more research and grant-funded programs will change that picture down the road. Your thoughts?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Beyond School blog.