The Uses of Time for Teaching and Learning - October 1996
Previous chapters have described the many ways that the schools we studied modified the quantity and quality of time available for teaching and learning. Like the schools themselves, these efforts are diverse. The experiences of the teachers, principals, and students we met illustrate the complexity of the change process, including the benefits and barriers that result from either changing existing schools or creating new ones. In this chapter, we look at a perennial topic and source of concern in most discussions about school reform: resources. What we found is that when the primary goal of a change effort is--either implicitly or explicitly--to increase the quantity of time for teaching and learning, the principal challenge is to figure out how to pay for the increase. But, when the goal is to change the quality of time for teaching and learning, the issue becomes more complicated. There are, of course, cost factors. Most changes bring price tags, and most substantial changes bring substantial price tags, although determining exactly what the costs are is difficult. When the schools that we studied focused on changing the quality of time, time itself often became an important resource. How much time is required to prepare for the changes? How much time is required to implement them? In addition, other resources are required and a considerable amount of effort and time is spent getting them.
This chapter begins with a look at (1)the costs of increasing the quantity of time for instruction and (2) how some of the schools in this study increased the quantity and quality of time through thoughtful uses of nonformal educational experiences. In the second section, there is a discussion of time itself as a resource necessary for planning, implementation, and professional development. The third section looks at three structural resources that are important in supporting time-related innovations, and the fourth section examines the entrepreneurial behavior of these schools as they seek the resources necessary to operate their programs. Finally, the fifth section examines the resource base of four schools with very limited annual operating budgets that manage to provide quality programs for their students. The chapter ends with four conclusions about the resources necessary to alter the uses of time.
Wherever possible, our discussion of resources includes quantitative data on costs. However, our primary focus is on the types of resources that schools require and use to alter the quantity and quality of time for teaching and learning. Our analysis concentrates on the kinds of investments, rather than on the specific amounts. In addition, we examine investments that increase resources that are necessary to support changes or that are specifically linked to the development of new programs. We offer few detailed comparisons of the costs of the innovations we studied with the cost of other programs or of basic operations, as it was beyond the scope of our study to collect complete information about individual school and district budgets.
In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education recommended that states and school districts increase the amount of time available for learning by adding either hours to the school day or days to the school year. This recommendation, along with another recommendation to increase the number of credits in core curriculum areas required for high school graduation, attracted an enormous amount of attention because the recommendations were relatively straightforward and easy for policymakers to deal with. Not surprisingly, the recommendations for increased time led to a number of efforts to estimate the cost of increased time nationwide. Two frequently cited 1984 estimates put the annual cost of adding 20 days of instruction to the average 180-day school year at between $20 billion and $22 billion--an investment that was unlikely to receive much public support.
Paying for Increased Time for Teaching and Learning
Data from three of the case studies of the public school sites in our sample describe the capital outlays needed to increase the amount of instructional time in individual schools. The experiences of these schools also illustrate the difficulties that some schools face in garnering and retaining resources, particularly schools that serve large populations of at-risk students. Finally, as we discuss in more detail later in this chapter, the experiences of these schools illustrate why more time by itself is unlikely to solve the problems the reformers set out to address.
As we have described in previous chapters, Moton and Lockett Elementary Schools and Timilty Middle School won district approval to increase the amount of time their students spend developing basic skills in mathematics and reading. At Moton and Lockett, the school decided to switch to a year-round schedule and to add 40 days to the school calendar. Under the plan they adopted, which is a standard model in year-round schools, students would attend school in 45-day blocks of instruction, followed by 15 days of vacation. There was also to be intersession instruction available for the lowest achieving students. In addition, local school board members who supported this experiment argued that increased time in school, besides providing more instructional time, meant that students would spend less time in the unsafe neighborhoods surrounding these schools.
The 40-day extension represented a 22 percent increase in time spent in school, and school district officials estimated that the cost would increase routine operating costs by 25 percent. Their estimates included (1) salaries and fringe benefits for teachers, administrators, clerical staff, food service personnel, custodians, security officers and crossing guards, and other instructional support staff; (2) instructional supplies; and (3) utilities. Expenditures for utilities, which included the costs of air conditioning, were particularly important because these schools would remain open during the hot, humid New Orleans summers. Reports from these schools indicate that only a small portion of the additional funds was spent on planning and staff development. The total cost of this experiment was approximately $750,000 a year.
Despite the promise of the extended year schedule, school board members and others at Moton and Lockett were more concerned with its costs. To overcome these objections, supporters of the experiment negotiated an agreement with the state department of education to use Chapter 1 funds to pay for about 60 percent of the costs. Under this agreement, the schools were designated schoolwide projects so that they could use Chapter 1 funds for the entire instructional program. Chapter 1 provided $455,000, and the district provided $295,000. In the end, local officials concluded that the Moton and Lockett experiment would not have occurred if the Chapter 1 funds had not been made available.
Increasing the quantity of time at Timilty Middle School was also part of an experiment by a school district to increase the amount of time that students spend on basic skills. The primary approach of this experiment was to add 1.5 hours to the school day, although, as we describe in earlier chapters, the change spawned a number of other changes in the school. The increase in salaries from extending the school day was approximately $9,000 per teacher and somewhat less for other building staff. As in the case of Moton and Lockett, the support for Timilty's extended-day program has come from a district special project fund.
A third site where there have been substantial investments to increase the amount of instructional time is ConCurrent Options in New York City. Among the 125 schools served by ConCurrent Options, 32 receive state support from Project Achieve, which is part of the state's Attendance Improvement Dropout Prevention Program. The other 93 schools that offer options do so at their own discretion and pay for them out of regular operating expenses. The Project Achieve Schools receive approximately $90,000 in supplementary funds. Teachers are paid at a per-session rate of $28 per hour, and guidance counselors receive $30 per hour when they work beyond their regular schedule. These stipends fall outside of the teachers' union contract, which has created some opposition to the program from union officials.
Together, these three sites clearly illustrate that investing in a longer school day or longer school year can be very expensive, particularly when teachers and other staff are paid for their time at prevailing salary rates. The demise of the extended-time experiment at Moton and Lockett, the continuing struggle for funds that the principal at Timilty wages with the district, and the friction between ConCurrent Options and the teachers' union all point to how difficult it is to maintain these levels of expenditures over time. What is interesting in comparing the experiences of Moton and Lockett with those of Timilty is that the investment in the extended day at Timilty was accompanied by investments in other areas, such as professional development and opportunities for increased time for planning and program implementation. There were no similar investments made at Moton and Lockett. Teachers were thrust into the new extended-year schedule without real planning and without support through staff development or training. As one teacher put it, "It was like you were going into a dark room and you didn't even know what was there." In the absence of planning and staff preparation that would have changed the traditional content and instruction of the two schools' programs, instruction became just more of the same for a longer period of time. The result, as we noted in the previous chapter, was no improvement in student outcomes.
The change process in Timilty has been quite different. Investments have supported a dramatic restructuring of teachers' work time so that teachers have more time to participate in planning and implementation. Before discussing how Timilty and a number of other schools in our sample brought these other resources to bear on the change process, we look at another strategy for increasing the quantity of time for learning: the use of nonformal educators.
The Value Added by Volunteers and Nonformal Educators
Teachers and administrators in a number of schools in our sample report that they have observed that students learn from an array of sources both in and out of the classroom. At the same time, many are concerned that students are not using their out-of-school time to engage in positive learning experiences that can contribute to increased self-esteem, feelings of personal efficacy, and intellectual growth. To take better advantage of students' out-of-school time and to extend the overall quantity of time available for productive learning, a number of the schools we studied have created a variety of nonformal learning activities for their students. Often, the activities bring students into contact with adults--other than teachers--who perform their educative functions on a voluntary basis. Their contributions are thus a value added to the quantity and quality of a school's educational program at little or no additional cost.
At Timilty Middle School, nonformal experiences add to the already expanded quantity of time for instruction. Two full-time professionals seek educational opportunities for students outside the regular school schedule. Among the many arrangements made by the school over the past several years is Promising Pals, a pen-pal program that helps to broaden Timilty students' writing beyond basic academic writing. In 1993, every student in the school had an adult pal with whom to correspond. The program's culminating activity--a breakfast reception and recognition ceremony-- helps students and their pen pals forge closer relationships and make additional plans for getting together in the future. In addition to Promising Pals, other nonformal programs at Timilty provide opportunities for students to shadow adults in health care jobs in a local hospital and to participate in a variety of community service activities.
At Chiron Middle School one of the basic goals of the instructional program is to blur the distinction between learning that occurs in the classroom and learning that can occur in the community. To reach this goal, the school has established a community-based curriculum as part of the foundation of the new program. In addition, the faculty works hard to place students in nonformal education experiences where they work and study with mentors and tutors.
At Hollibrook Elementary School, the time for learning is expanded through the After School Activities Program (ASAP). Initially, teachers assumed much of the responsibility for this program. Later, they realized that this effort, along with implementation of the Accelerated Schools Program, required more time than individual teachers could give. As a solution, they recruited large numbers of parents and students from a nearby high school to serve as volunteer nonformal educators in the ASAP.
The two Jesuit schools in this study have also made strong commitments to making nonformal educational experiences available to their students as a way of not only increasing the time available for instruction but also enriching the regular school program. Indeed, from the perspective of the faculty at Nativity Mission, the most innovative component of the school program is the activities that take place outside the regular school day and school year (e.g., the evening study hall, summer camp, and high school support program discussed in the previous chapter). Although the school's director feels strongly that school faculty should be involved in the nonclassroom activities as much as possible, a large cadre of volunteers is a school mainstay. Indeed, even the instructional faculty at the two Nativity schools are mostly low paid or unpaid clergy or Jesuit volunteers. At these schools, working with youth, both in and out of school, is as much a mission as it is a job. The director at Nativity Mission clearly understands that taking on the dual responsibility can be taxing. His observations have important implications for all schools: "I don't know if staff with their own family could work here. I've wondered about that. . . . The staff at Nativity is extremely dedicated; the director needs to keep them from overloading." To help reduce this burden, a large group of college students, parents, and other community members work alongside faculty at the Nativity schools to ensure that students get the attention and support they need from early in the morning until late at night.
The Chinquapin School in Texas puts a slightly different spin on the role of volunteerism in enriching the educational experience. This school strongly encourages community service as a way of showing the disadvantaged students that it serves how blessed they are in comparison with many other people. In fact, the school's motto is Quid Pro Quo--giving something in return. For example, the school's Interact Club, in partnership with the local Rotary Club, organizes an annual Christmas party for handicapped youngsters in the area. In return, the Rotary donates a $1,000 scholarship for a graduating senior. Even more important to the financial health of the school is a long-term relationship with the Houston chapter of the Professional Golf Association. Each year, 50 Chinquapin students volunteer their labor at the PGA tournament. In exchange, the PGA gives the school a substantial annual gift (from $30,000 to $100,000). Over a 14-year period, these resources-- garnered from student volunteerism--have been used to improve the physical plant and purchase school vans.
Together, the nonformal education activities and the donated time of volunteers make three important contributions to the educational experiences provided in each of these schools. First, they represent significant additions to the amount of time available for learning. As such, they help students and their teachers recognize and appreciate that valuable learning takes place in many different circumstances. Second, they substantially increase the opportunities for students to interact with peers and with adults in a variety of settings. These interactions are critical to developing a sense of self and to learning to work with others. Finally, these activities help to instill a sense of belonging to a community by involving students in the community and by providing opportunities for them to make tangible contributions to the quality of life there. For many students, membership in these school communities is an important hedge against the anomie of the environments in which they live.
In their comprehensive study of improving urban secondary schools, Louis and Miles (1990) found that teachers who are closely associated with change projects spend, on the average, 70 days working on the project over a three- or four-year period. The median amount of time for administrators was 70 days a year. Based on their surveys and case studies, they concluded that: "Time is a crucial resource for improvement, and is most typically used for change management, and for training and assistance to staff. Centrally involved people can expect overload." Teachers and principals in the schools in our sample in which there were significant changes in the quality of time for teaching and learning spent large amounts of time working on the change process and, to a lesser extent, on professional development and training.
Time for Planning and Implementation
Teachers and administrators in some of the schools we studied have found a variety of ways to carve time out of their schedules for planning and implementing changes intended to improve the quality of time spent on teaching and learning. Typically, strategies have involved altering class schedules and teaching assignments to free up planning time and time for developing new content and instructional strategies. In contrast, in several of the schools there has not been adequate time for planning and implementation, and the consequences have been severe.
Protecting time for planning and implementation. Timilty Middle School, Wheeler Elementary School, and Metro High School all offer examples of relatively effective strategies for setting aside time for planning and implementation. At Timilty, the daily schedule includes two planning periods for teachers to work together in their clusters to develop interdisciplinary themes, plan weekly blocks of instruction, and assess individual student performance. In addition, two hours and fifteen minutes are set aside every Friday for professional development and common planning. At Wheeler, teachers have daily group-planning periods of 35 to 45 minutes. In addition, teachers not participating in the Learning Connection, a special program held every Friday, can use the time for planning. At Metro High School, the only school in our study in which the quantity of classroom time for students has been substantially reduced, teachers have one full day a week for planning, program development, and working collectively to address individual student problems. Teachers and administrators in these schools generally agree that the blocks of times that they set aside to work together are essential for the success of their programs. They also represent substantial investments of the schools' resources.
The perils of inadequate time for planning and implementation. Several schools in the sample demonstrate what happens when schools embark on an ambitious course to alter quantity and/or quality of time for teaching and learning without allocating sufficient time for planning and implementation. The extended-year experiment at Moton and Lockett Elementary School in New Orleans represents our most extreme example of the failure to anticipate staff needs for planning time to consider how added time might most profitably be used to improve curriculum and instruction. In this case, almost no time was allocated for planning purposes, which may have contributed to the cancellation of the experiment. Other experiments survive, but their struggles to find or make time for planning and implementation seem to be chronic.
At Chiron, three factors contributed to the almost complete lack of time for operational planning and implementation. First, considerable pressure was exerted to open the then-new school following a year of conceptual planning by a steering committee whose members did not include any of the instructional staff. Thus, the school opened its doors to the first group of students just two months after the staff was hired. According to staff, the primary design flaw was that teachers had no time to think about or plan the myriad components of the new school. Second, because those promoting the design were committed to creating a school that cost no more to operate than other schools do, there were no resources set aside for ongoing planning and development. Third, to honor a commitment to have smaller class sizes, Chiron agreed to exchange some of its regular contractual allotment of teacher planning time for an increased number of classes each day. As a result, virtually all of the planning and development that has been required to operationalize this new school has been done outside of the regular school day and without any pay. Teachers have found several solutions to the problems and pressures. As a staff member explained: "The struggle has been to ritualize, to establish routines, and to write things down. But finally we have some built-ins. . . . Ideally, we should spend 25 percent less time with the students. We need Fridays off to plan. [As it is right now], we have to deliver the system and change it simultaneously." Teachers have also developed informal arrangements to increase planning time. One team has taken advantage of the school's Friday "options period" to co-teach a chess class. In fact, there is little instruction as teachers use the 110-minute block for planning. Another team has found a volunteer to teach Japanese for a half-hour per day. The team members use this time for planning, but this is not group planning.
At Hollibrook, a number of innovations are under way as the staff has attempted to alter the school's governance structure, improve curriculum and instruction, extend the school day by providing after-school learning opportunities, and increase parent involvement. Although flexibility is one of the hallmarks of the school's daily schedule, there has been little time set aside for planning and implementation. A particular concern is the competing demands made on teachers to participate in the After School Activities Program and in the site-based governance structure being created as part of the school's evolution as a member of the Accelerated Schools Program. To participate in these two activities, some teachers must work for several hours immediately after school and then attend meetings that begin at 4:00 p.m. or 4:30 p.m.
The original design for AMY, the most mature public school experiment in our study, included substantial planning time for teachers. Students were dismissed earlier than in other district schools to allow common teacher planning periods at the end of the school day. Teachers also used this time to discuss individual students and exchange their classroom experiences with students who were having problems. At the beginning of each term, time was set aside for teachers to meet with parents and students to decide on the courses that the students would take. According to staff, the amounts of time available for these activities have eroded; although teachers continue to adhere to the school's basic philosophy, they find that more and more of the essential tasks necessary to sustain the school's "alternativeness" must be completed outside of regular school hours.
Although inadequate time for planning and implementation of reforms has caused problems in all three of these schools, the problems are most acute at Chiron. The most serious problem there has been teacher turnover. At the end of the first year, four of the six teachers at the school transferred to other schools. At the end of the second year, six of the nine teachers left. It was not until the third year that the faculty began to acquire some stability. The high faculty attrition made it difficult to build on programmatic successes and failures from one year to the next and resulted in a lack of continuity in the instructional program. At Hollibrook, the tensions are less severe, possibly because the faculty was more involved in the original decisions about the reforms and innovations and, as we discuss below, because there was considerable time expended on planning and implementation several years earlier when the school joined the Accelerated Schools Program. Nevertheless, several of the people we interviewed suggested that burnout is a real concern and that the pressures are particularly great for teachers with family responsibilities. They pointed out that although volunteerism among the teachers is a clear sign of strong commitment, it is probably not a secure foundation on which to build long-term change efforts.
Time for Professional Development
Our case study data suggest that the standard forms of professional development (e.g., workshops, inservice training, technical assistance) were not critical resources in the change efforts that have occurred in many of the schools in our sample. At the same time, we have evidence that professional development opportunities designed according to the needs of staff in their particular reform context can be an important resource. Further, our data suggest, albeit indirectly, that teachers and other staff have used some of the time allotted for planning and implementation to develop problem-solving skills together with other skills in order to carry out the expanded roles that they have assumed since the quantity and quality of time for teaching and learning have changed.
External assistance. At least two schools in our study, Wheeler and Timilty, have made extensive use of professional development activities provided by an external source. Overall, Wheeler's investment in professional development was quite large, and it continued for almost four years. In 1985 teachers voted to participate in an experimental program operated by the Gheens Professional Development Academy, the Jefferson County (Kentucky) Public Schools' nationally recognized professional development center. Under this program, two teachers from each of the 14 participating schools attended the academy sessions once a month for two years to review recent research and discuss issues among themselves. Teachers attended regional and national conferences to augment these study sessions, and they were expected to share what they were learning with their colleagues. After the first two years, Wheeler teachers voted to continue their ties with the Gheens Academy by agreeing to join a pilot project on participatory management. Participation in the project included on-site technical assistance in designing and implementing a model of shared decisionmaking. In addition, two teachers and the principal received special training as facilitators, and there were workshops on consensus building, communications, running productive meetings, problem solving, leadership, and conflict resolution for the entire staff.
Timilty's investment was not as large as Wheeler's, nor did it span the same amount of time. Nevertheless, it was a significant investment. Soon after the school began receiving support from Project Promise, it became clear that if the teachers were going to learn how to implement major changes, they were going to need considerable help. As an example of the assistance available to teachers, a local university faculty member worked closely with the faculty to sharpen their skills at teaching writing and at integrating writing with the rest of the school curriculum. This assistance extended over several years.
Four features of these two professional development agendas were vital to their effectiveness as resources for improving the schools:
These factors are, of course, among the central indicators of high-quality professional development activities.
Professional development as an internal process. When compared with Wheeler and Timilty, other schools in our sample had more limited external staff development opportunities. Nevertheless, our findings about ongoing opportunities for planning and implementation, which we discussed above, lead us to conclude that these fairly routine--at least in these schools--internal processes represent important mechanisms for staff to develop their professional perspectives and skills. Metro, AMY, and Hollibrook offer good examples of how this can work.
As discussed above, Metro teachers have one full day a week for nonclassroom activities. These days begin with full staff meetings in which teachers review positive events from the past week and individual student problems that require immediate action. Next, there are staff presentations on topics of common interest (e.g., AIDS awareness). Following this portion of the meeting, the teachers go into the community to visit students at home or at work. The day ends after teachers return to school for a large group meeting or for smaller cluster meetings to review what they learned. Fridays can also be devoted to working on interdisciplinary courses, building Metro's ties to the Coalition of Essential Schools, and finding ways to gain access to other professional networks. The cumulative result of these activities has been the articulation and evolution of important new roles for Metro teachers: teacher as student advisor, teacher as academic coach, and teacher as researcher and problem solver.
At AMY, a combination of the school's designation as an experimental site and the amount of time formally budgeted for nonclassroom activities during the school day made it possible for teachers to develop the skills necessary to affect and maintain fundamental changes in curriculum and instruction. A similar, staff-centered process occurred at Hollibrook during the early stages of its efforts to restructure. The difference is that the principal played a key role and that some external professional development and technical assistance were available at key junctures. Beginning in the 1989-1990 school year, the principal asked teachers to outline major issues and problems facing the school. Then, she asked them to draw upon the findings of the effective schools research to develop a basic campus improvement plan. As teachers were working on this task, the principal began introducing more concepts from the effective schools research and from the Accelerated Schools Program, although she did not label the concepts as such. By the end of the school year, teachers noted several positive changes, especially improvements in attitude and morale. In the following year, funding was available for staff to participate in training officially provided by the Accelerated Schools Program; district office staff served as facilitators and provided technical assistance.
[Alternative Uses of Time and Student Learning - Student Outcomes] [Resources Required to Alter The Uses of time for Learning - Additional Structural Resources to Support Improvement]