New Analysis Reveals States Failed to Include Detailed Expanded Learning Time Plans in Education Waiver Applications

Washington D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–April 18, 2012.  The Center for American Progress today released an analysis finding that of the 11 states that submitted applications to waive requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, most missed an important opportunity to rethink how they use time in school to promote student achievement.

Time in school has been identified as one of the key factors leading to academic success in high-performing schools. Just adding time to the calendar, however, will not suffice. Rather than simply tacking additional hours onto the school day, week, or year, schools need to carefully consider how they design their schedule to strategically incorporate increased time for academics, enrichment, and teacher preparation, planning, and collaboration.

“For the most part states did not treat time as a valuable resource in their waiver applications,” Isabel Owen, author of the report and education policy analyst at the Center for American Progress. “Expanded learning time, done well, is a proven strategy to increase student achievement in our lowest-performing schools. States should keep thinking about meaningful schedule redesign as they work to implement intervention strategies.”

Last fall, 11 states submitted applications and were granted approval from the U.S. Department of Education to waive some parts of the outdated No Child Left Behind law. In exchange for increased flexibility, states are required to make specific reforms in order to turn around low-performing schools. As part of the waiver process, states were offered new flexibility to use significant funding streams for expanded learning time. While the opportunity to increase learning time is a small part of the very ambitious reforms states included in their waiver applications, it is a proven strategy to increase student achievement among high-poverty students, and it demands states’ attention. However the report released today, entitled States Need to Fill in the Gaps on Expanded Learning Time, found that few states provided specific detail in their waiver applications about how their districts and schools will reconsider time in school.

The brief takes a close look at each of the states’ plans to increase learning time. Key findings highlighted in the report include:

  • Eight of the 11 states asked for flexibility in using their 21 Century Community Learning Center grants, but only three—Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma—provided any insight into how they will use the funding differently.
  • Applications from Colorado, New Mexico, and Tennessee provided very little detail and failed to think strategically about using learning time differently.
  • Only one state’s plan for increasing learning time stands out—Massachusetts—because of its plan to provide guidance on how districts and schools can best use additional time to improve instruction, add time for enrichment and the most out of teacher-collaboration time.
  • The majority of the states (Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Oklahoma) demonstrate a commitment to schedule redesign as part of a package of interventions, however they do not provide enough specific detail about increasing learning time.

The report grouped states in one of three categories based on how detailed their waiver application’s proposals for increasing learning time were. The categories included:

  • Standout applications: Massachusetts
  • Applications committed but missing details: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma
  • Applications lacking strategic thinking: Colorado, New Mexico, Tennessee

States, districts, schools, and the U.S. Department of Education can still work to redesign the school calendar to incorporate time in a meaningful way as states begin to implement intervention strategies in their low-performing schools. The report outlines recommendations for tackling the lack of detail in the states’ learning-time proposals, including:

  • States should create guidance that helps districts and schools think about their current time use and how they could redesign the calendar to more effectively use time.
  • Districts and schools should analyze current data to determine the specific needs of their students.
  • Districts and schools should monitor the new schedule to ensure that the additional time is used well.
  • The U.S. Department of Education should push states to address the lack of detail about learning time in their waiver applications and keep thinking about how to better use school time.

Read the analysis:
States Need to Fill in the Gaps on Expanded Learning Time, by Isabel Owen

Related Resources from CAP:

Source: americanprogress.org