Capitol Hill is Talking Expanded Learning

Saskia TraillDC continues to talk expanded learning—the Government Accountability Office and a bipartisan group of Senators are the latest to join the conversation. Many of you probably saw the recent GAO assessment of the federal School Improvement Grant program. It’s supposed to help struggling schools turn around by increasing learning time and improving teacher evaluations, among other strategies. The GAO team concluded that “the SIG requirements to develop teacher evaluations and increase student learning time were difficult to implement quickly and effectively because they required extensive planning and coordination.”

We have also found that it takes significant time to plan, coordinate and build partnerships to re-engineer the school day, particularly in schools that are struggling the most to demonstrate student achievement gains. This is not simple, one-size-fits-all work. But it holds enormous potential to change kids’ lives. To get results for kids, we need federal policy that provides the flexibility necessary to allow local communities to figure out the best strategy for their particular needs, and fail-safes so that efforts and public funds aren’t squandered.

Senators Bingaman, Kirk, and Sanders are hosting a briefing today on “Expanded Learning Time as a School Improvement Strategy.” Joining the National Center on Time and Learning, the US Department of Education and others, Lucy Friedman, TASC’s President, is presenting lessons from ExpandED Schools and from CBASS partner cities including Providence. I’m encouraged that Senators are hosting an opportunity for the expanded learning community to share knowledge about what works to get results, and how flexible federal policy can boost, not get in the way of better outcomes for kids in all sorts of communities.