Supporting Student Success: The Promise of Expanded Learning Opportunities 

NCSL Resources

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Young studentExpanded learning opportunities (ELOs) support state education goals by providing safe, structured learning environments for students outside the regular school day.

ELOs include after-school and summer learning programs, as well as before-school, evening and weekend programs. Although research demonstrates that high-quality expanded learning opportunities can improve a variety of student skills, these programs are frequently disconnected from larger, state-level school reform efforts.

To address this problem, in 2007, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) launched a program called "Supporting Student Success: The Promise of Expanded Learning Opportunities (S3)", with support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Competitive grants of $50,000 were awarded to leadership teams in six states: Colorado, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio and Rhode Island. These states were charged with bringing together high-level policymakers and stakeholders to help integrate expanded learning opportunities into state education reform agendas. To date, the six states have used the grants successfully in pursuing strategic reforms in state-level ELO policy.

Many of the S3 states faced a number of challenges in launching this difficult work, including state budget crises and shortages of funds for ELOs; changes in state leadership and personnel; and the need to navigate complex governance structures that made systemic reform difficult. Nevertheless, the six states accomplished a number of policy changes during the two-year grant period:

  • Colorado secured ELO representation on the state P-20 Council and launched a county-level initiative that served as a statewide model.
  • Iowa created its Afterschool Executive Council, which raised awareness of ELOs through a publication that offered state policy recommendations and identified gaps in ELO access, funding and quality.
  • Massachusetts generated additional funding for the state’s major after-school grants program and secured positions for ELO representatives on key state commissions and subcommittees for education reform.
  • New Hampshire piloted a program allowing high school students to earn credit for participation in ELOs, which resulted in a reduced dropout rate among participating students.
  • Ohio collected data on ELO funding and sustainability challenges that ultimately increased support for ELOs within the state.
  • Rhode Island secured ELO representation on a gubernatorial task force and launched a pilot extended-school-day program.

For policymakers seeking to better integrate ELOs into state education reform agendas, this report provides an overview of the lessons learned from the S3 project. It describes the major policy strategies and processes by which the six states were able to improve education outcomes through the S3 grant.

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