Here’s something exciting and promising — at a time of great division and strife in our public discourse in general and around how to improve education in specific, a wonderfully diverse array of more than 100 of America’s education and civic leaders have come together around a powerful way to catapult educational success ahead.
Here’s a very simple, common sense idea — if you practice something more, you get better at it; if you can’t complete everything you need to do, take more time.
Here’s a tragic situation that threatens America’s economic well-being, moral commitment to opportunity for all and even our ability to operate effectively as a democratic society — we have stopped making significant overall progress in educating our people for a whole generation and the socio-economic achievement gap and college completion gap have grown considerably over the past generation.
Here’s where these two points come together — American schools serving high poverty students do not have enough time in their schedules to meet their goals. Clinging to a schedule designed for a farm and factory age makes no sense today. Schools serving disadvantaged students need more time to help these students catch up and gain the core academic skills they will need to succeed in our economy and society. They also need more time to make sure schools go beyond the (tested) academic core of literacy and numeracy to also provide curricula rich in science and social studies, history and global languages. Every child should have time for arts, music, sports, drama, robotics, school newspapers and the like not to mention recess and play. To meet these two essential goals — providing strong academic skills and a well-rounded education — schools serving high poverty populations need more time for learning. They need longer school days and longer school years.
Here’s some good news — more than 1,000 schools across the country have already turned this theory into practice. Many of them provide some of the most powerful proof points in the country that schools can overcome the disadvantage of poverty, that when great teachers and schools use more time well, their students can erase achievement gaps with wealthier, suburban students and at the same time can offer the wide range of courses and activities and exposures. In Massachusetts, a pioneer in the expanded-time movement, students across nearly one hundred expanded-time schools are gaining academic skills at dramatically better rates than the students at other majority poverty schools. They are nearly four times more likely to be narrowing achievement gaps in English and two-and-a-half times more likely to do so in math.
Here’s today’s news — the launch of the Time to Succeed Coalition at the forefront of an emerging national movement. The Time to Succeed Coalition brings together an unprecedented group of leaders from education and business, communities and academia to say that it is time to strike the shackles of an outdated school calendar from our disadvantaged schools. Today, we boldly proclaim that we cannot fulfill our commitment to equal opportunity until all children, regardless of background, are ensured a quality education with not only the best in academic instruction, but also the enrichment opportunities commonplace in middle-class communities across the country. Today, we ask grassroots citizens and prominent leaders to act on the obvious logic and the compelling evidence that we can and must provide more and better learning for our children by providing them the learning time and opportunities they need and deserve.
We are launching this coalition at a moment of tremendous opportunity. Thanks to efforts by the Obama Administration and Congress, there is now over $4.5 billion in ongoing annual federal funding newly available to support schools that expand learning time. At the same time, state and local leaders from around the nation are joining the movement in growing numbers.
The success of the pioneering expanded time schools and the launch of the Time to Succeed Coalition are victories for our growing movement. To paraphrase Churchill, they do not mark the end of our movement, nor even the beginning of the end but they do probably signal the end of the beginning. The Time to Succeed Coalition invites you to join us in this movement and cause and remain as relentless as is necessary until we reach a “new normal” where high-poverty students receive the learning time they need to succeed. That’s an end worth pursuing.
This article is cross-posted on the Huffington Post.