George Lucas Educational Foundation

Schools That Work | Practice

Edwards Middle School

Grades 6-8 | Charlestown, MA

Expanded Learning Time Builds Positive Culture and Academic Performance

Extended learning time allows students to work together in groups to improve their skills and gives them the opportunity to explore extracurricular areas of interest.

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How Expanded Learning Time Builds Positive Culture and Academic Performance (Transcript)

Craig Haas: When I first started here 11 years ago, we were slated to be closed, because we were not meeting our annual yearly progress that was expected of us by the District and the State.

Amrita Sahni: We had some of the lowest-performing test scores in the City, and declining enrollment.

Craig: So we knew something had to be done, and the staff and the administration got together and we decided to put in place an extended learning time program. It was really all about giving children that extra time on their academics. We wanted to see what the students can do if they could experience extra-curriculars that were really important to them. So we gave them a whole bunch of things to buy-into in an effort to really attend to these test scores. And in the end, we saw our test scores really start to skyrocket.

Amrita: A student at the Edwards Middle School goes through several classes within the course of our day here. On Monday through Thursdays our school is from 7:00 to 4:30. And on Friday's, it's a half-day, and we have professional development every Friday afternoon. Through the normal day, a child would have four core 60-minute classes in ELA, Math, Science and Social Studies, and one specialty class. And then when we launched the expanded learning part of the day, the student will go through a one-hour academic intervention course, follow by a two-hour enrichment or electives program. What we do is we look at student data very carefully. We get teacher input as well as student input. And we look at what is it that is going to help drive this student to the next level within ELA, Math or Science?

Doc Mansaray: In my Academic League, which is part of the extended learning time, I work with core group of students who are there for remediation. And here this is where I pay individual attention to specific students. I have done this for the last six years with kids, and I have seen growth in these kids, because I have them in the morning, and I have them in the afternoon.

Amrita: Our students have a unique opportunity here, where we give them the choice to drive the enrichment classes that they want in the afternoons. And so we believe that the enrichment classes support students in finding their talents, working with peers, and being able to express themselves creatively. Our Enrichment to Time includes electives, such as ballet, step, musical theater, chorus. And we have several arts-based classes. A lot of athletics.

Sasha: I joined Stepping and I love it, ’cause it gives me the opportunity to express myself. In a way, I do feel a connection between my stepping and learning in class with Doctor Mansaray. Because I'm having fun while doing stepping, and I'm learning, and then in class with "Doc," I am having fun and learning at the same time, too.

Doc: Extended learning time is essential. It builds a school community that will excel, not only in academics, but also socially the kids feel safe. They know that the adults care about them.

Felix: Before I transferred here, I used to get in trouble a lot. But like when I came to Edwards, it was different because everybody was focused, and more serious about their work. So I found that there was no point of acting out, and to take the work seriously so you can be successful in life.

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  • Director: Alyssa Fedele
  • Editors: Alyssa Fedele, Daniel Jarvis
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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

Key Practices 

Edwards’ remarkable success with ELT can be attributed to three key practices: enrichment programs, academic leagues, and continuous professional learning.

Enrichment Programs 

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.

Academic Leagues

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.

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