ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

More Learning Time Without More Money?

Post submitted by Educational Leadership Senior Editor Deborah Perkins-Gough.

Lengthen the school day! Shorten the summer break! Keep U.S. students in school longer to make them more competitive with their international counterparts! To realistic educators, enthusiastic calls for expanded learning time may seem like pie in the sky. In tight fiscal times when schools are scrambling just to maintain current programs and staffing, how can we possibly afford to expand instructional time?

More learning time doesn't necessarily require more resources—just flexible use of the resources we have, according to Ben Lummis, vice president of the National Center on Time and Learning. In a May 12 webinar sponsored by Schools Moving Up, Lummis described how some schools are using creative staffing, flexible scheduling, community partners, and technology to expand learning time without adding cost or asking teachers to work a longer day. Some examples:

  • Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Elementary School in Palo Alto, Calif., incorporates a 100-minute learning lab into each school day. Students engage in computer-based math and reading lessons, supervised by paraprofessionals. Teachers use data from the students' online assessments to individualize classroom instruction.
  • A.C. Whelan Elementary School in Revere, Mass., employs a coach from the nonprofit group Playworks to teach six periods of physical education each day. By partnering with this community organization, the school increased students' physical education time and freed up teachers' time for collaboration and individual student support.

Lummis stipulated that expanding learning time is a complex and complicated endeavor, and the best approach will vary from school to school. But it is possible, even with limited resources. And it's an investment that has the potential to yield big dividends in terms of student learning.

Do you agree that extending the school day or year should be a priority for schools? Has your school found innovative ways to do so?

Comments (1)

Glenn Ayres

May 27, 2011

One idea that I would like to suggest is what I call “Homework Wednesdays.” High schools should have no classes on Wednesdays.  The school year should be extended into the summer so that there is no change in number of days of instruction (and presumably no extra teacher salary costs).  Homework should be scheduled to be done primarily on weekends and Wednesdays, so that students won’t need to stay up late and will be better rested in class.  (Giving students a long weekend won’t work.)  Students won’t have a long summer break to forget what they learned.  So far, my local school board has not shown interest in my idea.

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