Friday, November 14, 2014

Speaking of extended learning time

...which you might remember was mentioned as part of the priorities set on foundation budget by the Worcester School Committee last week, in connection with increasing the low income allotment, there is a great report out from MassBudget on extended learning time. I'm particularly impressed by the nuances in the report, at time when "longer days! longer year!" appears to be the mantra. For example:
What matters is how time is used, not just the addition of more time.   Extended day schedules have been a critical part of successful school turnarounds when they have been used to support several effective practices. These practices include increased collaboration between teachers, more effective use of student data to target academic support, improved school leadership, and deeper partnerships with community organizations. 
There are potential drawbacks with the strategy. These include the intense focus on test preparation that could be at the expense of broader learning, and the selection of kids based on better behavior and MCAS scores within range of proficiency. These students may not be representative of a wider population that also needs additional support. It also remains to be seen if gains from temporary academies will be retained over time. 
Use of MCAS, PARCC or other standardized assessments is only one domain of outcomes to measure. Successful expanded learning initiatives have focused on health and wellness, built relationships between youth and caring adults, and provided hands-on career relevant learning opportunities.
More time for more test prep is NOT the answer. It's a nuanced conversation; let's make sure we're having it.

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