Imagine if the 3 p.m. dismissal bell wasn’t a call for a mass school exodus. Imagine if students stayed well into the evening, not for detention but as part of an engaging, integrated elementary or middle school day not just of math, English and social studies, but also hands-on science, dance, sports, web design – the kind of broad curriculum that all parents want for their kids, but that not all can afford to supplement.
This scenario is now reality in three Baltimore City public schools, three New Orleans charter schools and five New York City public elementary and middle schools that are all part of TASC’s new ExpandED Schools initiative, thanks to major new funding from the Open Society Foundations and The Wallace Foundation.
ExpandED Schools is a promising approach to re-inventing public schools that are struggling to deliver on the promise of high-quality education for all students. We add roughly three hours to the traditional school day by partnering schools with experienced community youth-serving organizations, like YMCAs, that fully participate in planning and staffing the longer learning day. Together schools and their community partners give students more opportunities to reinforce and expand on core knowledge and develop their talents and passions through a balanced, well-rounded curriculum. Schools cost-effectively deliver at least 35 percent more learning time than the typical American school day at 10 percent of the cost.
Why expand learning time? I’m sure you can list many reasons, and I invite you to tweet your favorite to @expand_school, #expandEDin2012. Here are 12 of my top reasons:
- All kids need an individualized, balanced, hands-on education and a fighting chance to succeed no matter where they begin.
- Too many schools lack the time for arts, recess or inquiry-driven projects that teach collaboration, problem-solving and love of learning.
- The current school day was designed for an age of factories and farms when people could live a good life without even a high school degree.
- But we live in a knowledge economy where demands on teachers and students keep growing while the school day stays the same.
- Three of every four students who go from New York City public schools to community colleges need remediation.
- The U.S. has dropped from first to 16th in the world in college completion.
- Obesity and diabetes rates are skyrocketing at the same time that physical education, recess and sports are being cut from schools.
- Research shows that more learning time leads to higher achievement, better school attendance and more enthusiastic learners. [Start with this PDF, a review of after-school research by Robert Granger.]
- For example, ExpandED Schools students out-performed their city and state peers in improving their math and English proficiency.
- Students in ExpandED Schools attend school, on average, seven more days a year than students in matched schools.
- Teachers give ExpandED Schools high ratings, with 85 percent finding their students’ learning improved.
- Recent research on the highest-performing charter schools finds additional learning time to be a critical element of their success.
Lucy N. Friedman is the president of TASC (The After-School Corporation.)