State and local officials are joining a broad coalition, spearheaded by the National Center on Time and Learning (NCTL) and the Ford Foundation, to push for a cultural shift toward extended school schedules at schools in low-income areas.
The Time to Succeed Coalition, which formally launched on Thursday, includes more than 100 members, including school superintendents, mayors, state legislators and teacher union leadership. The NCTL is a long-time advocate for expanded learning, and the Ford Foundation is pledging $50 million to help states and school districts pursue such initiatives over the next three years.
According to NCTL, at least 1,000 schools nationwide, serving 460,000 students, have already adopted some form of extended schedules.
In a conferencing call introducing the coalition, Jeff Smith, superintendent of the Balsz Elementary School District in Phoenix, and Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker spoke in support of the movement. Other signatories include New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten and Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville.
Smith led an effort to adopt a 200-day school year in his district in 2009. (Most school districts average 180 days a year.) Three years later, Smith said certain grade levels have seen 40 percent increases in their math and reading scores. The chronically low-performing district (where 90 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunches) has closed its achievement gap with the state average by nearly 70 percent.
"Students and teachers deserve extra time to meet the ever-increasing demands that are placed on them," Smith said. "Extended learning time means extended opportunities."
As Governing has previously reported, early research suggests expanded schedules could have a significant impact on student achievement, particularly at low-income schools. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has stated support for adding school hours and days. One of the White House's approved turnaround models for schools receiving School Improvement Grants includes extended learning time.
Based on the evidence he has seen, Mayor Booker said he is urging Newark Public Schools to adopt a longer school day and school year. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has also voiced support for an extended school schedule in all Chicago public schools by next year, the coalition noted in its first release.
"The fact that we still have the same kind of school year as my great-great-grandparents is just ridiculous," Booker said. "This idea's time came a long time ago."