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

A Systematic Review of the Evidence

This report synthesizes what is known about the effectiveness of school and program interventions that aim to address deficiencies and inequities in academic achievement and attainment by expanding learning opportunities for students both inside and outside of school.

This report is based on an extensive review of more than 80 evaluation studies of different models for increasing learning time, including extended school day (ESD) models that aim to improve student learning outcomes by adding more hours to the school day; extended school year (ESY) models that add more days to the school year; and expanded learning opportunities (ELO) models that provide educational and enrichment services in school-based and community-based settings during nonschool hours.

In addition, studies that met the following additional criteria were included in the report:

  • evaluations using random assignment, quasi-experimental, or nonexperimental designs; and
  • evaluations that examined, using statistical tests, whether the program was effective in increasing academic achievement or educational attainment outcomes, among others.

Types of Extended Learning Time Models

This report reviews the effects of three different types of extended learning time (ELT) models for children and youth in grades K-12. Figure 1 describes and defines the different types of ELT models.

Figure 1: Types of Extended Learning Time Programs

Extended School Day (ESD) program models:

  • lengthen the school day beyond the standard 6.5 hours offered in most public schools in the United States.
    • Full-Day Kindergarten programs are categorized in this report as extended school day models because much of the research on full-day kindergarten focuses on its differential effects, as compared with half-day kindergarten.

Extended School Year (ESY) program models:

  • lengthen the school year beyond the standard 180 school days offered in most public schools in the United States.

Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) program models:

  • provide academic and other learning supports to young people and their families during or outside of schools or outside of regular operating school-day hours (often to supplement in-school learning). In some cases, ELO programs are social intervention programs that may offer services during the school day as well as outside of the school day. ELO models may be school-based, community-based, or they may provide additional supports for student learning in varied locations both during and outside of school, including students' homes.
    • Examples of ELO programs include academic-oriented social interventions that provide services through before- and after-school programs, summer learning and summer school programs,xiii weekend programs, youth development programs, service learning programs, vocational programs, academic-oriented mentoring programs, multi-service programs, and multi-component programs that provide a large range of youth development and prevention services to young people.
    • Community School Models also fall under the ELO category because of their focus on partnering with community organizations and extending the hours of operation to offer academic and other services and supports for students and their families.

Figure 2 graphically depicts differences and similarities among the various types of ELT models. For instance, the chart shows that Community School Models can be operated by schools and community-based organizations, during school and out-of-school time hours. In terms of their mode of learning expansion, Community School Models might offer extended school days or years, and they may also offer out-of-school services during and beyond the school year. In contrast, summer school programs can be operated by schools and community organizations during days that are typically outside of the traditional school year. These programs involve the expansion of school-year learning, as opposed to expansion of the school day.


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xiii With the release of multiple literature reviews focusing on the effects of summer school and summer learning programs, findings for summer programs are not covered extensively in this review on ELT programs. For more information about summer learning programs, please see McCombs, J., Augustine, C., Schwartz, H., Bodilly, S., McInnis, B., Lichter, D., Cross, A. (2011). Making summers count: How summer programs can boost children’s learning. Arlington, VA: RAND Corporation. Retrieved from and Terzian, M. Moore, K., & Hamilton, K. (2009). Effective and promising summer learning programs and approaches for economically disadvantaged children and youth. Washington, DC: Child Trends. Retrieved from