Reimagining the School Day: More Time for Learning

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Reimagining the School Day: More Time for Learning


By Will Miller, president, The Wallace Foundation

The forum at the center of this report took place not quite two months before I had the privilege of assuming the reins of The Wallace Foundation from M. Christine DeVita.

Chris, Wallace's founding president, was the foundation's guiding spirit for almost a quarter of a century. She was key not only to Wallace's emergence from a collection of family philanthropies into a single national foundation, but also to the organization's unusual, and respected, approach to its mission. Today, largely because of Chris' vision, Wallace's work encompasses much more than making grants. Hand-in-hand with grantees, the foundation develops and tests innovative ideas on the ground, gathers credible evidence about what works and what doesn't, and then shares this information with policymakers and others who can use it to benefit our most vulnerable children.

We all owe Chris a debt of gratitude for shaping Wallace into what it is today. True to the spirit of the foundation she created, this publication focuses on inquiry and evidence gathering. Specifically, the report documents a May 2011 Wallace conference that laid out questions to be answered if the United States is to solve a difficult problem: The traditional school day and year do not contain nough hours to enable America's neediest urban children to learn what's necessary to lead successful lives in the 21st century. We need to find extra hours and make sure that every moment is used well.

Supporting more time for learning, over summer and during the school year, is new for Wallace, although it emerges from our years of work in education, after school and arts learning. We launched the initiative in June 2010 with grants to groups including three premier providers of summer learning programs: Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL), Higher Achievement and Horizons National. Shortly thereafter, we began supporting School of One, which uses technology to tailor math teaching to the needs of the individual child; Project READS, a summer reading program; and the KIPP schools, which feature expanded school hours. The conference, bringing together key thinkers and doers in expanded learning, was another initiative milestone.

More has happened since.

Over the summer of 2011, we published Making Summer Count, a RAND study that looks at the research on summer learning loss and possible solutions. If the resulting commentary and press mentions are any indication, the report struck a chord in communities across the United States. Wallace also announced it would help six school districts develop strong summer learning programs and test whether the programming can produce lasting academic gains for low-income students. Working with the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, we've begun supporting Citizen Schools, which works to expand the school day for low-income middle school students, and Communities in Schools, a highly regarded drop-out prevention program.

We intend this initiative to aid two groups: grantees and those who need ideas and information to make beneficial change for our least advantaged children. In that spirit, we hope this report spurs the kind of informed discussion necessary for progress in helping these children across the country.

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