To the Editor:
Your article on expanded learning (“Push Is On to Add Time to School Day, Year,” Oct. 26, 2011) calls attention to current interest in extended learning time. It also highlights some challenges associated with implementation. These include ensuring that school districts and community partners have the know-how to provide quality programming for additional time and the resources to bring programs to scale sustainably. Another issue is the relationship between extending the school day and addressing summer learning loss.
Efforts to expand the school day will fall short of their goals unless we also address the issue of how the long summer break in most U.S. school districts affects student achievement. Substantial research shows that summer learning loss is a major factor in the lagging performance of American students overall and the achievement gap in particular. It is critical, therefore, that school-year reform efforts involving time and other factors join with innovative summer learning initiatives. Such programs are most effective when they operate for at least 150 hours each summer.
For states opting to apply for No Child Left Behind Act waivers, there appears to be an opening to use funds previously allocated to supplemental educational services for a range of innovations, including summer learning programs. Also, the ongoing reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act provides an opportunity for the federal government to offer guidance and support to states and districts on expanded learning, including during the summer.
National Summer Learning Association
A version of this article appeared in the November 09, 2011 edition of Education Week as Expanded Learning Should Address Summer