More States Must Use Flexibility Wavers to Expand Learning Time

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–December 19, 2013.  A new report released yesterday by the Center for American Progress provides an up-to-date review of states’ Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, flexibility plans and assesses the extent to which states have strategically thought about how expanded learning time can support school turnaround efforts. According to the analysis, the majority of states—32 out of 42—failed to think strategically about how increased learning time could complement school turnaround plans and increase academic achievement.

Expanded learning time has great potential to boost student achievement and close achievement gaps, but time alone is not a panacea. It must be well planned and part of a comprehensive reform—exactly the kind of change that “priority schools,” the lowest-performing schools in a state, need. The analysis released today reveals, however, that most states submitted ESEA flexibility applications that did not address how more time in school could strategically support school turnaround efforts. It should be noted that the lack of these details does not necessarily mean that states are not doing this, but it is not clear either way. It also does not necessarily mean that a robust state plan for increased learning time translates into strong execution. State plans, however, should reflect their intentions for accountability and transparency purposes. Furthermore, state plans serve as guidance for the Department of Education’s monitoring process, and more detail and documentation is critical to the process.

Among states that requested flexible use of 21st CCLC funds, we looked for details about its planned use. State plans were grouped in part based on the level of detail provided in three research-based building blocks for the effective use of increased learning time for core academics, enrichment opportunities, and teacher collaboration. Key findings include:

States that provided the most detailed information were considered “standouts.” Only four state plans met these criteria: Connecticut, Colorado, New York, and Massachusetts.

Six out of 42 states demonstrated a commitment to increased learning time but did not provide enough detail.

The majority of states—32 out of 42—did not think strategically about how increased learning time could complement school turnaround plans and increase academic achievement.

As a result of this analysis, the report’s author, Tiffany Miller, outlines a set of specific state- and local-level recommendations that will help make certain that expanded learning time is well planned and intentional. Recommendations include:

States develop guidelines promoting high-quality expanded learning time.

States develop a guide for school districts and principals that want to implement expanded learning time.

States encourage schools that choose to expand learning time to add 300 additional hours to the standard school-year schedule, allowing more time for the three key areas: academics, enrichment programming, and teacher collaboration.

States outline how they will use their 21st CCLC funding to increase learning time.

Districts and schools implement additional time strategically through an intentional, one-year planning period if possible.

Districts and schools use data analyses to strategically implement more time.

Districts monitor schedule redesign.

Read the report: Elementary and Secondary Education Act Flexibility Waivers: Are States Using Flexibility to Expand Learning Time in Schools? by Tiffany D. Miller

See also:

Interactive Map: Are States Using Flexibility Waivers to Expand Learning Time in Schools?

Expanded Learning Time Should Be Part of the 21st Century Community Learning Center Program by Tiffany Miller