Waviers and Expanded Learning

Lucy FriedmanEducation Sector is taking a look at the “fine print” on the Department of Education’s announcement about NCLB waivers this week and I was pleased to see that they chose the language affecting 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21stCCLC), the only federal funding stream devoted to expanded learning time, for their first entry.

The author, Anne Hyslop, issued this warning for all of us who are working to expand the time and ways kids learn:

Both sides – ELT advocates and fans of afterschool programs –face the same threat: targeted funding for their efforts in 21st CCLC and other programs could be consolidated into Title I. Over the last two decades, the overall shift in federal education policy has been from targeted assistance for poor students, to schoolwide support for low-performing schools… whose students just happen to be poor. Like it or not, ELT is going to be on the federal agenda. The challenge states will run into is ensuring extended time is used meaningfully and that teachers have the support they need to change what they’re doing with the time they have. And afterschool programs need to be part of this conversation. Otherwise, it’s just more time wasted.

The threat she identified is real. Without continuation of 21CCLC we will see not only after-school programs vanish, but we’ll also lose support for what we believe is the most sustainable, cost-effective, and good-for-kids strategy to expand learning time: joining schools and community/youth development organizations in partnerships to expand the learning day.

This is a comprehensive school reform strategy. A much-expanded school staff of teachers and community educators work on one team to tailor instruction and support to their students’ needs and engage kids more deeply in a broadened, balanced curriculum.

Having worked through this process with many school-community partners over four years, we at TASC know it’s not easy to build trust and new relationships at every level from the classroom to the places where policy is made. But we must come together if we’re going to do ELT right while the federal government is behind it.