The Hard Truth About Extended Learning Time

"Many schools are ill-equipped to put extended learning time (ELT) to the most effective use for improving student and school outcomes, a new report finds. Off the Clock: What More Time Can (and Can’t) Do for School Turnarounds says, “But the hard truth is that there is far more research showing the ill effects of unequal time than research showing that ELT policies can make up the difference. Less time may be a cause of poor performance, but that doesn’t mean that more time is necessarily the cure.”

The report, released by Education Sector last month, reviews data on how schools are using “increased learning time” mandated by the federal government. The variations are wide—from adding minutes to the school day, to providing afterschool programs and/or shortening recess and lunch. Some approaches show clear potential, while others face considerable limits to implementation.

As sensible as using existing time differently sounds, its results often fall “well short of the mark,” the study says. “Many schools are proposing to gain time for instruction by decreasing non-instructional time, namely lunch, recess, or the time allotted for students to move between classes.” By doing so, Off the Clock warns, “they are choosing technical compliance with federal rules instead of the hard work of comprehensive reform.”

The report notes that schools that have succeeded with extended time have done so largely because they include time as part of a more comprehensive reform. It reviews successful models, including TASC in New York, Citizen Schools in Boston and the Providence After School Alliance in Rhode Island."