Sondra Arnold didn’t feel like art had a place in Kuss Middle School’s increasingly rushed school day. As the sole visual arts teacher responsible for over 500 students, Arnold couldn’t find the time to plan the electives she had in mind – painting, drawing, sculpture outside of just ceramics, and even manga, Japanese comic book art – nor did her students have time to settle into the relaxed mindset they would need to tap into their artistic potential.
The result is that our students have performed better consistently year after year because of expanded learning time.Then in 2004, Kuss Middle School was the first school in Massachusetts designated as chronically underperforming by the state. Ms. Arnold says, “Teachers that were here for the long haul felt disheartened. They felt as if the district was giving up on them. In fact, that was not the case.” In the months that followed, teachers and administrators worked with experts to integrate an expanded learning time schedule, a change that has had a profound positive impact on teacher preparation, student opportunities and, ultimately, the performance of the school as a whole.
For Nancy Mullen, the principal at Kuss at the time, the benefits of ELT are clear. “When we began the work at Kuss Middle School, expanded learning time became a possibility in that first year and our teachers embraced the opportunity to be able to provide enrichment and more academic instruction for our students,” Mullen says. “Since that time, expanded learning time has enabled our students to look at their deficits and to have more fun in school. The result is that our students have performed better consistently year after year because of expanded learning time.”
Today, expanded learning time at Kuss Middle School allows Ms. Arnold to plan art classes she knows will benefit her students, reaching those individuals who struggle with math or writing and providing them with a creative outlet to excel. The benefits show in the classroom and beyond, with more confident, higher performing students and teachers and administrators who share enthusiasm for the school’s bright future.