The demands we make of our students as we seek to prepare them for the demands of 21st century workplaces have increased out of proportion to the time we allot for meeting these goals. When we raise concerns about the 65 percent of our students who are not graduating from high school ready for college and a career (and the almost unbelievable fact that more than 90 percent are not meeting that standard in Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse), we need to ask about the amount of time students have to learn and to seek help in the subjects where they are struggling, as well as the quality of the teaching and curricula they are receiving. Getting all of our students to achieve college and career readiness through the Common Core will take more time for many students, particularly those who grow up in poverty and are statistically far more likely to start kindergarten already behind the curve.
Of course, it is not enough to add empty hours to the school day or year—the additional time has to be high-quality too.
A truly 21st century education will give students the skills to find answers to their own questions and to support their decisions, recommendations and opinions with compelling evidence. It will help them situate themselves as citizens, entrepreneurs and employees in a globally connected and highly technologically dependent world.
In other words, it will focus on inquiry-based learning as a route to global and STEM competence, with educators serving the roles of facilitators and leaders as much as instructors and lecturers. It will help students flourish throughout their lives by teaching and mentoring them to develop a base of resilience to draw from when faced with trauma and failure. And it will recognize that in the 21st century world, for most of our students, all of their caregivers are in the workforce, meaning that a school day (and year) that ends before caregivers are home is not meeting 21st century needs for students or parents.
Meeting these 21st century goals will require more time, different uses of time and more community resources to increase the relevance of the time. Expanded learning time programs, which bring a school and one or more community-based organizations into partnership to supplement and complement each other’s strengths, can be an effective route to meeting these goals. Community partners can wrap social-emotional learning and supports around academic teaching, add time and staff for the messy but crucial hands-on projects that foster engaged learning and a sense of real-world relevance, and facilitate further connections to local businesses, social services, and resources.
In New York, there are several initiatives and programs seeking to use additional time to improve student outcomes. As part of its Elementary and Secondary Education Act waiver, the New York State Education Department decided to require Priority Schools to begin offering at least 200 hours of additional learning time to their students, starting for most schools in 2013-14. Governor Andrew Cuomo also proposed, and the state legislature approved, a new Extended Learning Time (ELT) competitive grant program, which will fund the selected school districts to add a minimum of 25 percent more learning time to their school schedules. Rochester City School District (in partnership with the TIME Collaborative), Children’s Aid Society community schools, Citizen Schools, ExpandED schools by TASC, many charter schools, and other district and community initiatives have added additional time to school schedules across the state.
Research on expanded learning programs is in its early stages, particularly since most research on adding time to the school day or year has looked at schools that also implemented other major reforms at the same time. There is evidence of positive effects on student outcomes, however, and research is ongoing. There is also a major body of evidence from the afterschool and summer fields that demonstrates that well designed, high-quality programs can have significant effects on achievement and test scores, improved school attendance and homework completion, higher graduation and promotion rates, improvements in work habits, reductions in the need for disciplinary actions, increased effort and enjoyment in school, greater persistence and stronger connections to school.
New York State Afterschool Network is confident based on this research that additional, high-quality time in the school schedule that includes enrichment and social-emotional support, as well as engaging academics, will pay off for students. We recognize, however, that making this time valuable and effective places new demands on principals and teachers. To meet these needs, NYSAN developed Adding 200 Hours: A Guidebook on Designing an Expanded Learning Time Program for Priority Schools. The guidebook is designed to provide supports and ideas for school leaders in a step-by-step, resource-rich format with numerous concrete examples of successful programs. The guidebook draws on the research around ELT, summer, and afterschool programs and the experiential knowledge of New York program providers. It is addressed to school leaders at Priority Schools implementing the additional 200 hours, but will be equally valuable for those who will be applying for the competitive ELT funds or planning a local initiative.
As New York moves forward with expanded learning time across multiple communities and through both state and local initiatives, NYSAN looks forward to continuing to support the growth of high-quality school-community partnerships that will better meet our students’ 21st century needs. Please use and share our guidebook—and join us for our webinar on the guidebook on July 9 at 1 pm.
Nora Niedzielski-Eichner is the Executive Director of the New York State Afterschool Network (NYSAN), a public-private partnership of statewide, regional, and local groups dedicated to promoting young people’s safety, learning, and healthy development outside the traditional classroom. NYSAN’s activities are directed toward building the capacity and commitment of communities to increase the quality and availability of afterschool and other expanded learning programs and youth services across New York State.