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


Preface

In the this volume, we present summary information that emerged from a three- year study of The Uses of Time for Teaching and Learning that was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Research. The study is one of 12 that, taken together, were designed to explore the status and impacts of reform strategies believed to hold great promise for improving the American educational system as it moved into the last decade of the 20th century. Many of the themes governing these studies are recognizable as reform "movements" of the decade from 1985 to 1995--systemic reform, school restructuring, standards-based curriculum reform, new forms of student assessment. Others, including the Uses of Time study, have examined variables in the education equation that might be expected to play a role in the change process no matter what "movement" is under consideration.

From the outset, the Uses of Time study has been conceptually challenging. The government specified that the study should examine three aspects of educational time: (1) the quantity of time in school; (2) the quality of time in school; and (3) students' uses of out-of-school time. This report primarily concentrates on the first two topics, although we ultimately argue that extensions of nonclassroom-based time at school may be a critical factor in improved student outcomes. We pursued a more extensive examination of the educational contributions of students' out-of-school activities through our research review (described in more detail in Chapter I) and a conference that brought together formal and nonformal educators. A summary of "timely ideas" that emerged from the conference is available from Policy Studies Associates under the title Making the Most of Their Time: Timely Ideas on Coordinated Opportunities for Young Adolescent.

In this volume, Findings and Conclusions from a Study of Educational Time, we present the results of our field research. Chapter I outlines what we learned from reviewing the research to help define the parameters of the quantity and quality of time factors that we used as site selection criteria. This chapter also summarizes the study's main purposes and key research questions. Chapter II introduces the 14 sites that we visited--each representing a unique combination of quantity and quality of time variables. While we were not specifically bound to study sites that primarily serve disadvantaged children and youth, we chose to make this a focus of our work. A majority of the students in twelve of the schools come from backgrounds that, according to well- established research, might put them at risk of school failure.

Chapters III through V are the heart of our analyses. First, in Chapter III, we examine the student experience in the 14 schools and programs studied--the amount of educative time available, how it is used, and what the outcomes are. We end Chapter III with discussion of a second curriculum that parallels the academic curriculum in many of the sites--a set of strongly enforced values that may be the most critical factors in student success. In Chapter IV, we move on to resource issues. As they say, time is money. Most of our sites do not have significantly more money than other schools in their local contexts. Rather, they have configured their existing resources to support the instructional approaches that they believe in. However, to the extent that instructional time has actually been increased in some sites, it does take more money. Chapter V explores the meaning of time for teachers in the 14 schools and programs studied. While the bottom line of the study is improved student learning, we came to the conclusion very early that teacher time issues can make or break attempts at educational reform.

We conclude this volume with a summary chapter on the meaning of our findings for policy and practice and a final chapter on suggestions for additional research that would both test our conclusions and fill in some gaps in our collective understanding of what constitutes educational time.

Two other volumes accompany this one. Volume II offers detailed case studies of the 14 sites that we visited. These case studies have been reviewed and approved by the sites as public documents. Actual school names and locations are used, and interested readers should feel free to contact sites for additional information about the educational strategies that they have implemented. Volume III presents our full research design, much of which was prescribed in the government's original statement of work. In addition to these three volumes and Making the Most of Their Time: Timely Ideas on Coordinated Learning Opportunities for Young Adolescents, our review of the research, A Research Review: The Educational Uses of Time, is available as a separate product. Together, these documents represent the complete record of The Study of Uses of Time for Teaching and Learning.
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