Extending Learning Time for Disadvantaged Students - Volume 1 Summary of Promising Practices - 1995

A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Using Time In New and Better Ways

The rationale for extending the time available for learning is based on the relationship between instructional time and achievement for disadvantaged students. Research and case studies of extended learning-time strategies for disadvantaged students have indicated that increased instructional time might be especially beneficial for those low-achieving students who might need more time than typically available to master specific skills or acquire the thinking skills necessary to function effectively in the regular classroom. Also, extended learning opportunities may confer special benefits on children from low-income families who lack the resources that their more affluent counterparts can spend on improving the quality of their non-school time.

However, the National Education Commission on Time and Learning1 found that teachers and principals perceive the futility of adding extra instructional time for students without ensuring that the added time is used effectively.2 The Commission's 1994 report recommends that state and local boards of education work with schools to use time in new and better ways. This recommendation is consistent with earlier research that concluded that simple increases in the school day or year, without corresponding reform in the quality of instruction, would have only a modest effect, if any, on student achievement.

Other research has explored promising instructional practices such as heterogeneous (mixed-age and/or mixed-ability) grouping, cooperative learning groups, innovative scheduling, and the use of technology. Still other research focuses on effective practices associated with activities that occur outside the traditional classroom or school, and supports the idea that the way in which students use their time during non-school hours can have consequences for their success in and out of the classroom. One researcher concluded that children's success or failure in school is determined by the amount of time they engage in constructive learning activities. This work found that high achievers more often engaged not only in activities such as homework, tutorials, reading, writing, and verbal communication but also internships and apprenticeships, problem solving and decision making, interactions with caring adults during non-school hours, organized youth activities, and cultural events.

With these findings in mind, this idea book draws on programs that include an array of effective strategies. Most programs emphasize academic enrichment as a way to ensure learning. In order to motivate students, these programs do not simply replicate what is offered during the regular school day--they build on it. Several programs include activities that help students develop citizenship skills and learn about and contribute to their local communities.

A Resource For Policymakers

Designed to improve the academic performance of low-achieving students in low-income schools, Title I (formerly Chapter 1)3 is the largest federal program supporting elementary and secondary education. Recent national studies of Title I have recommended ways to use Title I resources for improving the educational prospects of disadvantaged children and helping meet national education goals for all students and schools.4 These recommendations include providing incentives for programs that extend learning time and requiring districts to use at least a minimum percentage of their Title I grants for these programs--or at least to offer information and assistance for this purpose. Further, the National Education Commission on Time and Learning recently recommended keeping schools open longer to meet the needs of all children and communities.

Extending learning time for Title I students is a priority because the extra instruction provided by Title I during the regular school day averages only about 30 minutes--and the actual instructional time is probably less, because time is lost during transitions between locations or activities. Also, nearly three quarters of classroom teachers report that students miss some regular instruction while participating in Title I. In fact, the average Title I program may only modestly increase the total amount of time that students receive instruction in reading and mathematics--contributing only about 10 additional minutes of academic instruction each day.

As of 1990-91, few districts reported offering extended-time programs for Title I students; only 9 percent of school districts offered Title I services before or after school or on weekends, and 15 percent reported offering summer programs. In reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Congress encourages schools to increase the amount and quality of instructional time for disadvantaged students.

This idea book is intended as a resource for policymakers who want to explore opportunities to extend learning time beyond the regular school day, week, and/or year. It draws on promising strategies used by 14 programs to extend learning time for disadvantaged students, including homeless or migrant students and those who live in public housing projects. The programs include those in private and public schools; for elementary and secondary students; and in urban, suburban, and rural settings across the United States. Collectively, the programs serve students of diverse racial and ethnic heritage. A companion volume for practitioners includes in-depth profiles of the 14 extended-time programs.

Although all 14 programs serve disadvantaged students, they are not all funded by Title I, and some do not meet all of the legislative requirements for the Title I program. For example, a Title I-funded program could not restrict access only to homeless children, as does the Education Program for Homeless Children and Youth in North Dakota. We draw on a few programs that serve special or restricted populations because they offer useful strategies for serving disadvantaged populations or for avoiding implementation problems with extended-time programs in poor, inner-city neighborhoods. In fact, extended-time programs very often are designed to target specific populations of students who have been identified as especially at risk of school failure. And--although the programs discussed here generally have strong connections to the regular academic program--in many cases extended-time programs exist because the regular school program does not meet the varied needs of these special populations.

This idea book presents extended-learning strategies that work in diverse settings and rely on volunteers and community-based professionals as well as teachers. Many programs also depend on communities for financial support and materials, in ways that might stretch the dollars available to local Title I programs. The programs use a broad definition of learning time that includes traditional classroom instruction as well as community service and extracurricular or cultural activities.

Despite their potential to benefit students, opportunities for extended-learning time are not common. Schools may avoid such programs because they prefer not to attempt significant change, partnerships between schools and other program sponsors can be hard to establish, the rigid bureaucracy of some school district administrations can act as a deterrent, and logistical requirements can act as barriers. The programs described in this book are going against the tide, but they show that these approaches can succeed.

The Extended-Time Programs Described
In This Idea Book

These extended-time programs were selected on the basis of three criteria. First, the programs had to actually extend instructional or learning time for students beyond the amount of time required in the school day, week, or year. For before- and after-school programs, we included only those that added at least one hour a week; no time restrictions applied for summer, intersession, or weekend programs. Second, the profiled programs had to serve highly disadvantaged populations, because these children most need additional help to succeed in school and beyond. Third, selected programs had to show quantifiable or anecdotal evidence of success and to have been identified as particularly promising by local, regional, or national education experts or studies.

Most of the programs have operated for at least two years. Many are established programs that have worked out the kinks in their operations and offer evidence of success. In addition, we also selected newer programs because the difficult logistical problems associated with planning and implementation, as well as possible solutions, were fresh in the minds of their organizers. Below we briefly describe each of the extended-time programs used to develop this idea book.

Overview Of The Report

This report has three chapters. First, we present the rationale for extended-time programs, drawing on research on the relationship between time and achievement for disadvantaged students. We also discuss the background and purpose of this idea book, the criteria for selecting the extended-time programs described here, and provide brief descriptions of these programs. The second chapter identifies promising practices associated with these programs and highlights challenges that planners face and the solutions that some have found. In the third chapter we draw conclusions about extending learning time for disadvantaged students.

1Authorized by Title I of P.L. 102-62, the Education Council Act of 1991, the Commission was formed to examine the quality and adequacy of the study and learning time of elementary and secondary students in the United States, including the length of the school day and year, the extent and role of homework, the use of time for academic subjects, year-round professional opportunities for teachers, and the use of school facilities for extended learning programs.

2Presentation by Milton Goldberg, Executive Director of the National Education Commission on Time and Learning, March 19, 1994, at the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington, D.C.

3 On October 20, 1994, the President signed into law the Pub. L. 103-382, the Improving America's Schools Act (IASA) of 1994, amending the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. The IASA reauthorized--for a five-year period--programs under Chapter 1 of Title I of the ESEA. We refer to these programs as Title I in the idea books in order to reflect the new legislation.

4The eight goals address school readiness; school completion; student achievement and citizenship; teacher development; mathematics and science achievement; adult literacy and lifelong learning; safe, disciplined, and alcohol- and drug-free schools; and parent participation.

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