How can we create a school that can support the needs of every student?
Since we at TSC primarily focus on how high-quality expanded learning time can enable a well-rounded education for youth in low-income areas, it’s important to understand what it means to be low-income when it comes to education. The manifestations of child poverty influence both the educational opportunities available to children and the educational outcomes they will likely achieve. Students from disadvantaged households tend to face more challenges and obstacles in their education (e.g., lacking early childhood education programs, attendance issues, poorer health and nutrition) and need more supports than their affluent peers.
With the release of America’s Promise Alliance report, Don’t Call Them Dropouts, Dr. Pamela Cantor wrote a great blog this week about designing schools to keep all children on the path to graduation. Her article pointed out the problem of schools not working for all students, because there are still 20% of children who aren’t graduating high school. Low-income students are five times more likely to drop out of school than students from affluent families. (Find more resources here.)She has noticed that there are overlapping circumstances that can factor in to becoming dropouts and has called for “fortified school environments” to combat these issues before they can arise. She calls for schools fortified to: a) reduce stress; b) promote strong connections to adults, peers, families and communities; c) aggressively address academic recovery; d) deliver rigorous and engaging content; and e) promote attributes common among all successful students.
Without specifically calling them “fortified environments”, we focus on expanding learning time in schools for students in high-poverty urban communities because we believe that by redesigning and expanding the school schedule, schools can create an environment that becomes part of the solution that Dr. Cantor outlines. By adding more time to the school day, there is an often an environmental shift that focuses on the needs of the individual child. For high-poverty schools – especially those already facing chronic under-performance – more time enables a range of strategies to improve teaching and learning – from restoring crucial subjects to the curriculum to individualizing instruction for students who are falling behind and creating new opportunities for students to excel. Finding more time for enrichment classes can provide students with more physical education, or allow them to find their passions in art, drama, dance, technology, robotics, or cooking. These opportunities could be the factor that motivates a child to stay in school.
Expanding learning time alone won’t solve the drop out crisis, but keeping students at risk of dropping out in the same school day also isn’t the answer. We need to give all students the time they need for a high-quality, well-rounded education they need and deserve.
Find out more about how expanding learning time can support the needs of every child in school.