Monday, July 25, 2011

More Learning Time, Not Less

A policy guide on Expanding Learning Time just released by the Education Commission of the States (ECS) and the National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL) points out that some states are reducing the required number of days in the school year. States are allowing a reduction in the school year as misguided attempt to save money, without recognizing the consequences. Typically states require 180 days per year. The cost-cutting legislation in states such as California and Arizona set the bar to 170-175 days.

Students in the United States in 2011 need more time learning, not less. Students need in-school time and extended learning opportunities beyond the school day.

The ECS/NCTL document provides some examples of cost-effective models that expand learning time including:
• Staggered staff schedules
• Technology as a teaching tool
• Community partnerships
The policy guide challenges states and school districts to look more creatively at the fiscal problem without forgetting the core mission of schools, student learning. Student learning time can be extended both inside and outside of the school day even while costs are constrained. In Approaching 100% I explored an economic model that might be used to serve more students with more adults without increasing costs. An example in the ECS/NCTL policy guide shows that an increase in class size by one student could pay for the 5 days being cut based on some state. Children's futures depend on state policy makers being more innovative than that. Cutting budgets by cutting learning time should not be an option.

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