An Optimized School Day
Extending academic time in K-12 schools can be an effective way to support student learning, as long as the extra time is spent in ways that are productive, organized, and well planned. Expanded learning time (ELT) teachers report having time to cover material in greater depth, discuss and reflect on lessons, and connect concepts in different classes.
At Edwards Middle School, the ELT schedule includes three extra hours of school time for students that are spread throughout four days a week and half days on Fridays. Within a single school day, pupils are enrolled in four core classes (English language arts, math, science, and social studies), one specialty class, one academic intervention course, and one extracurricular enrichment course. On Fridays, after students are dismissed early, teachers collaborate with colleagues.
During the first year of the ELT program, academic intervention courses focused on math skills since student performance data showed that all students needed support in math. In subsequent years, the school expanded this support to include English language arts, science, English-language learners, and students with special needs. The results: statewide exam scores, student enrollment, daily student attendance, and community engagement all improved at Edwards.
How It's Done
Edwards’ remarkable success with ELT can be attributed to three key practices: enrichment programs, academic leagues, and continuous professional learning.
All students at Edwards participate in four 90-minute classes per week in an enrichment program of their choice in fine arts, sports, physical education, or career apprenticeships with community organizations. These programs motivate students to engage in learning, not only because the programs are fun but also because they cultivate and celebrate the broad array of talents beyond core academic skills that students possess.
Students at Edwards participate in academic leagues in math, English language arts, or science for one hour, four days per week. The leagues consist of 10-15 students working on English-language fluency or math skills they did not master.
Five times a year, teachers benchmark students’ understanding of core concepts. The data is analyzed by department teams to identify key areas in which learners require additional support. Teachers then collaborate on ways to adapt instruction in both classes and the academic leagues to make improvements in the areas in which students are struggling.
Continuous Professional Learning
Students are dismissed at 11:45 a.m. on Fridays, after which faculty, along with representatives from key partnering organizations, meet from 11:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. to work on professional development that primarily focuses on analyzing student data. Once a month, the sessions feature teaching demonstrations.
Grade-level teams meet two to three times per week during the time that students are in enrichment classes. These teams discuss student support issues, analyze student data, critically reflect upon teaching practices, and problem solve to identify the instructional practices most likely to support students’ progress.