Expanding Time for Learning Both Inside and Outside the Classroom: A Review of the Evidence Base

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Expanding Time for Learning Both Inside and Outside the Classroom: A Review of the Evidence Base

Extended School Day Models

Extended school day (ESD) models incorporate additional instructional time into the traditional 6.5 hour school day offered in most schools in the United States. In most cases, this approach entails the expansion of instructional time across classes, or the addition of classes or programs that supplement an existing course in a core academic area, such as intensive tutoring or small-group study sessions for math or English/language arts. In some cases, the extra time is used to expand noncurricular offerings, such as arts and sports activities, that many schools have elected to cut in order to provide additional instructional time to improve student test scores.

Below is a summary of key findings based on our review of evaluations focusing on ESD program models.

Outcome Study Findings:

  • The majority of studies that have examined ESD program outcomes indicate that the programs are positively related to improved student outcomes, but these studies focus mostly on models that bundle ESD with other reforms, such as the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP).
  • The available research is not clear about whether or not gains in test scores are a direct result of an extended school day component within these school reform models.
  • ESD programs seem to benefit students who are at increased risk of academic failure or dropout.
  • There is no evidence that these programs seem to benefit students in a specific age group.
  • Participation in full-day kindergarten (FDK) has a significant, positive effect on the acquisition of reading and math knowledge during the kindergarten year, compared with participation in half-day kindergarten.
  • However, the positive achievement gains made by FDK participants rapidly dissipated over time; in fact, no study found significant, positive impacts of FDK beyond first grade.
  • Strong academic gains were shown in FDK classes with high proportions of minority students.

Implementation Study Findings:

  • ESD studies seem to suggest that the quantity and use of time is important in predicting student outcomes.
  • ESD models appear to be more effective when they allow for greater academic engagement.

Extended School Year Models

Extended school year (ESY) programs typically operate on a longer academic school-year calendar than the traditional 180-day calendar used by most schools in the United States. However, significant variation exists across states and districts in their policies affecting public schools, including requirements about the minimum length of the school year or mandated start-dates or end-dates for public school districts. As a result, the actual number of days in which school is open varies somewhat across states and districts, which have experimented with different school reforms over the past several decades, including reform efforts involving the expansion of the school day or year.

Below is a summary of key findings based on our review of evaluations focusing on ESY program models.

Outcome Study Findings:

  • Most of the studies found that attending a school with a longer school year is associated with at least one positive achievement outcome, usually as measured through test scores.
  • While evaluations of ESY models do not consistently show that programs are more likely to be associated with students' improved academic outcomes in math or reading, a few studies suggest that programs may be more effective when targeting elementary school students (rather than secondary school students) and young people with higher levels of academic risk (rather than young people with lower levels of academic risk).
  • Results from one study suggest that being in a school that operates on an extended year calendar is associated with improved science achievement, whereas another study found no such connection.
  • Two studies found that being in a school with a longer school year is associated with improved academic outcomes in the communication arts.
  • Two studies that examined whether kindergarteners would benefit from attending an extended school year both found short-term effects that faded out over the summer, a conclusion that mirrors the findings reported in the section on Full-Day Kindergarten.

Implementation Study Findings:

  • Findings from multiple studies suggest that program implementation and quality are important predictors of whether an ESY program will be effective.
  • A number of studies find that ESY programs can be challenging to operate. Several reports point to the higher costs associated with implementing ESY programs. Some of these costs are related to the higher utility-bill rates associated with operating into the summer months and the need to compensate teachers and staff adequately for the additional work hours.
  • It is important to take into account the perceptions of teachers, students, and parents when implementing ESY models. Initiatives that were implemented without the buy-in and support of these key stakeholders were not found to be successful.
  • Studies show that schools operating using extended year-round models may be more effective when they make use of intercession time to target students who need the extra time the most.

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