Off The Clock: What More Time Can (And Can’t) Do For School Turnarounds

Billions of dollars are being spent to increase learning time in struggling schools through Extended Learning Time (ELT). “ELT,” which the  U.S. Department of Education defines as the use of a longer school day, week, or year, is a key component of the School Improvement Grant program aimed at turning around failing public schools. But is the way to improve low-performing schools simply to add more time in school A recent report by Education Sector, Off The Clock: What More Time Can (And Can’t) Do For School Turnarounds, attempts to answer that question by looking at how schools are actually using their extra learning time. The report states that roughly 1,000 public schools around the nation are now operating with extended learning schedules, and at least 60 percent of those are charter schools.

ELT takes three major forms:

  • Adding time to the school day: Schools anywhere from 180 additional minutes per week to 90 new minutes per day.
  • Expanding time outside of school: This model relies on a community partner or external provider to offer additional learning hours outside of the school on Saturdays or during the summer.
  • Changing the way schools use time: The goal here is simple: use time more effectively, and more efficiently, within the current school day. As opposed to extending the time, schools are encouraged to decrease non-instructional time and reallocate those minutes elsewhere.

In Ohio, of the 42 schools awarded SIG funds, 27 of them chose to take advantage of the transformation model, some using ELT, in various ways. The long term effects of ELT’s success will depend on careful use of resources, staff, and planning. And like most grant-funded reform efforts, while ELT may have a positive effect on academic performance, when SIG funds dry up schools may not be able to support the expense of ELT.

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