Extended School Day and Year Initiatives
Schools are continuously seeking out innovative ways to close widening achievement gaps and meet national accountability standards. As some studies show that decreased classroom time can be a cause of poor student performance, educators and policymakers are considering extending school days and years as a strategy for school reform.
Research has shown that only adding instructional time may not necessarily help improve student achievement, however. All instructional time must be reexamined to ensure that it is being used as effective learning time by addressing students’ needs and interests. Extended instructional time can be used for expanded learning opportunities (ELOs) to help students who need more individualized and engaging educational experiences to improve.
The majority of states currently require 180 instructional days, although some states require more or fewer and others measure time by hours rather than days. Recent legislative action relating to extended learning time include:
- Arkansas Study under Act 593 and I.S.P. 2011-25 (2011). This study examines the implications of lengthening the school year and/or school day from 178 days to 200 in the state.
- Iowa S.B. 2284 (2012) This bill created a school instructional time task force to conduct a study of minimum school day and school year requirements.
- North Carolina H.B. 765 (2011) This law created the Blue Ribbon Commission to Study the Current Length of the School Year.
Efforts to increase learning time have also occurred at the school and district levels. The well-known KIPP Schools require students to spend significantly more time in school - often from 8am - 5:30, sometimes on Saturdays, and for more weeks -than traditional schools.
Massachusetts has offered a number of schools the opportunity to extend the school day by 30 percent (2 hours) through its Expanded Learning Time initiative. The New Orleans Recovery School District implemented extended day and year initiatives to increase time on task, and has seen both test scores and graduation rates rise. Schools in Baltimore, New Orleans, and New York City have adopted expanded school day models under the After-School Corporation’s ExpandED school model which extends the learning day by 35 percent and shapes that time to meet the needs and interests of students.
Other states have considered legislation to extend the school day or year, but have been stymied by cost issues.
49 states mention ELOs in their education code.
"Expanded Learning Opportunities in State Education Codes"
With help from the C.S. Mott Foundation, NCSL collaborated with Harvard Family Research Project on a series of briefs called ELO Research, Policy and Practice.
"Helping Older Youth Succeed Through Expanded Learning Opportunities"
"Families and Expanded Learning Opportunities: Working Together to Support Children's Learning"
"Year-Round Learning: Continuity in Education Across Settings and Time Through Expanded Learning Opportunities"
Read recommendations for policymakers provided by the National Time and Learning Task force as well as innovative state examples of expanded learning opportunities in this State Legislatures magazine article, "A New Day for Learning", published in 2007.