Thanks to Virginia Fitz Shea over at the Full School Days blog for her interest in the Time to Succeed Coalition and her support of a school calendar that makes sense. On her blog, she wondered whether the goal of TSC is too narrow and whether TSC shouldn’t prescribe a definition for ELT – an amount of time for schools to add to the day or year or a meaning to the phrase “more and better.”
The answer to that query is both very simple and much more complex at the same time. TSC is not meant to put a definition on what expanded learning time is – rather, TSC is a broad coalition of people who support the idea of expanding learning time in school for students in high-poverty communities. Within this coalition are school leaders, community leaders, civil rights leaders, civic leaders, union leaders, and business leaders who all believe that the current schedule of 180, 6.5 hour days is not enough to prepare students today for success in college, careers, and beyond.
In recognizing that we need to expand the school schedule, the Time to Succeed Coalition does not put specific numbers on it. Why? Because in every community and in every school, ELT may look different in order to meet the needs of that community – the students, teachers, and their families. Some schools may choose to expand learning time by 30 minutes each day while another school may choose to expand learning time by 1.5 hours each day with help from a community partner. Or, as in the case of Arizona’s Balsz Elementary School District #31, the district may choose to add days to the school year. TSC simply hopes to spark a new conversation in communities about school time so that it is seen as a variable — rather than a fixed, unmovable part of their equation.
That is not to say that there are no opinions about the quantity of time that should be added to the school calendar. TSC is a division of the National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL), the leading organization providing technical assistance to schools and districts as they plan for and implement expanded learning time. In contrast to TSC, NCTL has very definitive views on what an expanded school schedule should be. You can find that here.
In the end, Ms. Fitz Shea may be making a broader point. How can we be sure that “more time” is in fact “better time”? That really is at the crux of the issue. Time is a resource and can be spent well or can be wasted, much like money. TSC’s platform, to which our signatories are joining, outlines all of the opportunities made possible by an expanded school schedule. It’s not a formula; it’s closer to a recipe. If enough of those ingredients get in there, then we know something remarkable will emerge.