Extended Learning Time

Posted on September 8, 2013
by FeliciaOctocog

Any after-school provider who speaks out against Extended Learning Time (ELT) speaketh with forked tongue, indeed. Quality after-school programs prove over and over again that ELT is valuable. When reading articles on ELT, I am taken aback with comments that ELT have not been proven to impact academic outcomes. I infer from the articles that the data is inconclusive.

I have not had the time to read the research that has been done but I believe that some of the issue may be that the value of after-school programs is not just academic improvement (although our data shows that this in fact does improve) but also social-emotional growth, and growth in higher-order thinking skills that are not picked up in standardized testing.

Most people believe that ELT does offer schools the ability to offer more programs that develop HOT skills, programs that develop creative expression (visual and performing arts) as well as opportunities for service learning, social-emotional development, and college and career readiness. The million dollar question with ELT is will it be inter-weaved with the school day or offered as supplemental programs after-school. There are arguments to be said for both approaches.

1. If you intertwine it throughout the school day, the teachers have the opportunity to build in project-based activities and service learning into the curriculum which helps contextualize the lessons for the students. The downside? It makes for a long school day and teachers will have to be well-trained and flexible enough to change their teaching model to adapt to this new program. The sit- in-your-seat model of learning would have to make way for hands-on, creative approaches that allow students time to leave school, do independent research and work in teams. It presents a very long school day for youth which could be exciting if done well or dreadful, if not. For some, school is not a positive place so the prospect of being there 2 more hours every day is not a plus. Also, what would happen to students who have other after-school activities such as sports, music, jobs, etc. This model allows no room for flexibility.
2. If you offer the ELT as a supplemental program at the end of the regular school day, the ability to tie the experiential learning to the book learning becomes harder but not impossible. After-school instructors can work in tandem with the core curricula. You can have the class between 8 am and 2 pm and the “lab” after 2. With this model you also have the flexibility to reach out to other CBO’s or businesses to come in and teach all or part of these programs. You can better manage trips away from “campus” without interrupting the flow of the school day. And, you can offer flexibility for those students who must leave school for legitimate pursuits such as sports, jobs, etc. not to mention doctor’s appointments and other family obligations. You could set an school-day academic standard to allow this so only students who are performing well in school could opt out of the extended day academic program.

There is certainly a lot to think about as schools, including Salem, study the feasibility, cost, and structure of a school day that includes ELT.