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

The Uses of Time for Teaching and Learning - October 1996

II. (RE)structuring Time to Create Effective Conditions
for Teaching and Learning:
An Introduction to The Study Sites

Time has long been a defining element of American education. State laws determine when in an individual's life compulsory schooling begins and ends, for example. To progress in school, children move through a sequence of grades that roughly corresponds to their ages. Ten-year-olds, for instance, are typically expected to be in fifth grade. When they are not, they are considered to be either behind or ahead of schedule. Despite the emergence of year-round schooling in some locales, calendar years are still easily divided into "the school year" and "summer vacation" by virtually anyone over the age of six. These and many other time-based school practices represent the enduring and often unquestioned foundations of American education.

This chapter introduces a group of schools that have broken with tradition in configuring time for teaching and learning. Case studies of these schools and the ways in which they have confronted old and new time barriers form the basis of this study of education reform efforts viewed through the lens of time. The full case studies are available as Volume II of this report. Here, we briefly describe each of the 14 study sites and the school characteristics that pertain to time use innovations across the sites.

Schools That Are Breaking Time Barriers

This study looked at 14 school sites 1 that arrange and use time resourcefully as a key dimension of their efforts to improve the quality of teaching and learning. All but two of the schools in our sample serve a substantial number of disadvantaged students. Beyond that, the schools differ widely. The sample includes:

The Sites in a Nutshell

Alternative Middle Years (AMY). Established in 1974, AMY is a magnet program option for roughly 325 of Philadelphia's public school students in grades 6 through 8. Its defining time-related innovations are vertical and mixed-ability grouping plus small classes that allow greater teacher- student interaction.

Beaver Island Lighthouse Alternative School. The Beaver Island Lighthouse School is a residential dropout recovery program serving young people in a 10-county Job Training Partnership Act service delivery area of northern Michigan. The dropout recovery program, which began in 1985, is co-ed and can serve 20 to 25 students (ages 16-21 years) each ten-week session.

Chinquapin School. Chinquapin School is a private, residential school that was founded in 1969 to provide a college preparatory education for poor and minority students. Located on a quiet rural campus east of Houston, Texas, Chinquapin serves about 100 students in grades 7-12 (including girls, since 1978). Boys live on campus from Sunday night through Friday afternoon each week that school is in session; girls commute daily.

Chiron Middle School. Chiron is a public middle school that draws students citywide through a school choice program in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Designed to teach students through experiential education, the school makes the city and its environs the classroom through the use of several off-campus learning sites. Additional time-related innovations include block scheduling, mixed-age groups, small classes, and team teaching. Begun in 1989 with 120 students in grades 5 and 6, Chiron now serves roughly 200 students in grades 6 through 8 and will continue to grow until it reaches its maximum enrollment of 300 students.

ConCurrent Options. ConCurrent Options is a citywide dropout prevention program that offers New York City's public high school students various supplemental learning opportunities that allow them to continue their education, earn additional credits, and graduate with a diploma. Student participation varies by educational alternative, from 5,000 students who attend afterschool classes to an estimated 60,000 who enroll in summer school.

Girard College. Girard College is a private, full-scholarship, residential school serving 550 students in grades 1 through 12. It is located on a large, walled campus in the gateway to North Philadelphia, one of the country's most economically depressed urban areas.

Hollibrook Elementary School. Hollibrook is a public elementary school in Houston, Texas, that enrolls nearly 1,000 students in Kindergarten through grade 5. In addition to being an Accelerated School, Hollibrook implements several time-related innovations, including afterschool activities, mixed-age classes, enrichment classes, and a two-way developmental bilingual program.

Metro High School. Metro High School is a public alternative school that began in 1974 as a small "second chance" school for high school dropouts in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Now serving 600 students in grades 9 through 12, Metro is a member of the Coalition of Essential Schools and boasts a variety of time-related innovations, including less daily class time and no class on Friday, an expanded time frame in which to earn a high school diploma, a competency-based curriculum, and interdisciplinary instruction.

Moton and Lockett Elementary Schools. Moton and Lockett are public elementary schools that serve extremely impoverished and isolated areas of New Orleans, Louisiana. The two schools enroll 600 and 900 students respectively. For three years, from 1989 to 1991, Moton and Lockett were part of a district experiment to offer students a 220-day school year. Strong community support for the experiment stemmed largely from a belief that children would be safer and cooler if they spent more days in air-conditioned classrooms.

Nativity Mission School. Founded in 1950, Nativity Mission is a private Jesuit school that serves 45-50 boys in grades 6 through 8. The school operates out of the Nativity Mission Center on New York City's Lower East Side. In addition to a full academic program, Nativity Mission provides a comprehensive student support system that begins before students enroll, extends beyond the school day, and continues long after students graduate from the school.

Nativity Preparatory School. Nativity Prep was founded in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1990 and is modeled after Nativity Mission School in New York City. It serves roughly 60 boys in grades 5 through 8, providing them with, in addition to a traditional academic program, mandatory afterschool activities and a voluntary evening study program.

Piney Woods Country Life School. Piney Woods School is a private, residential school founded in 1909 to provide educational opportunity for poor black children in rural Rankin County in Mississippi. The school serves about 70 local students in pre-Kindergarten through grade 6 and more than 280 residential students in grades 7 through 12. The time-related features of Piney Woods School include full-time campus residence and block scheduling.

James P. Timilty Middle School. Timilty Middle School is a public, citywide magnet school in Boston, Massachusetts, that serves 500 students in grades 6 through 8. Its original time innovation, begun in 1985, is an extended school day that adds 90 minutes to daily reading and mathematics instruction, Monday through Thursday. The extended day has spawned a host of changes in the ways that school time is used, including flexibility in curricular decisions, small classes, and team teaching.

Wheeler Elementary School. Wheeler is a much-studied public elementary school in a suburban section of Jefferson County, Kentucky. The school serves about 500 students, ages 5 to 10 years. The time-related innovation that landed Wheeler in this study is multi-age grouping of students for instruction, which began in 1987. Other innovations associated with the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) define this school's reform efforts.

Key Characteristics of the Sample

In nine cases, the time-related features that attracted our attention were part of the original school design (Figure II-1). For example, residential schools in this group were designed specifically to provide a full-time living and learning environment for students with particular needs. As such, these schools are not the products of reform efforts. They are established and rather traditional institutions if compared with reforms that currently engage many public schools. On the other hand, if other places were to try to replicate the idea of a college preparatory boarding school for disadvantaged students with high potential, the model would be a significant reform in the new context.

In the other five cases, the time-related innovations that we investigated represent important changes in the organization and structure of schools. At one of the study sites, for example, two schools lengthened the school year. At another site, the district has helped high schools organize an existing set of supplemental learning opportunities (with some additions) into a formal dropout prevention program. In many of the study sites, the original innovative school design prompted additional time-related changes. The 14 study sites can be sorted and grouped in many other ways to highlight their key characteristics, similarities, and differences (Figure II-2).

The information gathered in visits to these 14 sites represent the "raw data" from which, through cross-site analysis, we have attempted to identify commonalities and differences among the schools that help explain their effectiveness as educative institutions. We should emphasize at the outset that the sites were selected as examples of interesting but not necessarily best practice with regard to use of time. Nevertheless, on the whole, they turned out to be success stories. The key analytic issue is whether or not the time-related innovations help explain the success. In the chapters that follow we examine (1) time and student learning; (2) time as a resource. We then draw some conclusions about the factors that seem to have the greatest impact on desirable outcomes; and (3) time and teachers' work lives.

Figure II-1

Starting Year and Original Purpose of Time-Related Innovation, by Site

Site Year Original Purpose
Time-Related Innovation Was Part of the Original School Design
Alternative Middle Years (AMY) 1974 Magnet school to aid district's desegregation plan
Beaver Island Lighthouse
Alternative School
1983 Residential dropout prevention and recovery program
Chinquapin School 1969 Residential school to prepare poor and minority youth for college
Chiron Middle School 1989 Experiment in public-private partnership to improve public education
Girard College 1848 Residential school for orphans
Metro High School 1974 Dropout recovery program
Nativity Mission School 1971 Extended educational program to break the cycle of poverty
Nativity Preparatory School 1990 Extended educational program to break the cycle of poverty
Piney Woods Country Life School 1909 Residential school for poor, southern Blacks
Time-Related Innovation Represents Change in the School/District Organization or Structure
ConCurrent Options Program,
New York High School Division
1987 Dropout prevention program
Hollibrook Elementary School 1989 Accelerated School to improve student achievement and discipline and to motivate faculty
James P. Timilty Middle School 1986 Extended day to improve basic skills achievement
Moton & Lockett Elementary Schools 1989 to 1992 Experiment in year-round schooling for disadvantaged students
Wheeler Elementary School 1983 Innovations in instruction and school management to improve teacher morale

Figure II-2
Study Sites, by Time-Related Innovations and Other Selected Characteristics

Site Innovations Related To: School Level School Control School
Quantity of Time Quality of Time
Alternative Middle Years
Vertical and mixed-ability grouping, small classes Middle Public 325
Beaver Island Lighthouse Alternative School Residential school Small classes, individualized curriculum and instruction High Public 20-25
Chinquapin School Residential school Small classes Middle/High Private 100
Chiron Middle School
Block scheduling, mixed-age groups, experiential learning, small classes, interdisciplinary instruction, team teaching, altered teacher time Middle Public 200-300
ConCurrent Options, New York High School Division Flexibility in class time and lapsed time to graduation Some options have small classes High Public Varies by option
Girard College Residential school Small classes, Comer Development Program All grades Private 550
Hollibrook Elementary School Afterschool activities Accelerated school, mixed-age classes, enrichment classes, team teaching Elementary Public 1,000
Metro High School Less daily class time, more lapsed time to graduation Small classes, Coalition school, interdisciplinary instruction, team teaching, altered teacher time High Public 600
Moton & Lockett Elementary Schools 220-day school year
Elementary Public 600, 900
Nativity Mission School 11-month school year, extended day Small classes Middle Private 45-50
Nativity Preparatory School Extended day Small classes Middle Private 60
Piney Woods Country Life School Residential school Longer class periods Middle/High Private 284
J. P. Timilty Middle School Extended day Small classes, flexible schedule, altered teacher time, team teaching Middle Public 500
Wheeler Elementary School
Ungraded classes, team teaching Elementary Public 500

1In two cases the site is a school district in which many schools are part of the time-use innovation. In the other 12 cases, the site is a single school.


[Introduction]  [Table of Contents]  [Alternative Uses of Time and Student Learning]