Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"Expanded" or "Extended" Learning: An Interview with President and Co-Founder of the National Center on Time & Learning

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
The afterschool and summer learning movement is not immune from collecting new jargon. As we move forward, there are two new terms that are being used in often confusing ways. Those terms are "expanded learning" and "extended learning". How are these terms different and are they meant to replace "afterschool" and "summer learning" programs. To add to the confusion, they are being used in different ways depending on what part of the country you come from.

To help us better understand these terms, we interviewed a host of afterschool leaders to ask them to help clarify. Below is an interview with Jennifer Davis, Co-Founder & President at The National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL). We offered a previous blog on this topic that included an interview with Jennifer Peck (Partnership for Children and Youth) and a second one that featured Lucy Friedman (TASC). 

Q: The term “expanded learning” is used differently by different people in different parts of the country. Can you give your definition of “expanded learning time and programs”?

Jennifer Davis,
Co-Founder & President
The National Center
on Time & Learning
A: NCTL’s definition of expanded learning time (ELT) is a school redesign model that provides students significantly more and better learning opportunities within an expanded school day and year. High quality expanded learning time schools provide students more individualized instruction and a well-rounded education that includes art, music, robotics, drama, sports, step dance and many other enrichments that make learning fun and engaging. In many ELT schools, community partners run these activities.  Adding significantly more time to the school calendar makes these things possible and also enables teachers to have more collaboration time to strengthen their craft.  Overall these school models are designed to ensure that all children in the high poverty schools have the opportunities they need to succeed. I recommend Wikipedia’s page on expanded learning time since it provides an overview and history of the movement. 

Q: In your mind, what is the difference between the terms “expanded learning” and “extended learning”?

A: In my experience, I have found that parents, teachers, and students rightfully fear “more of the same” and that’s exactly what “extended learning” conveys. However, “expanded learning” connotes offering children broader educational experiences, which is what NCTL advocates for. Everyone agrees, we can’t simply tack time on to the school calendar and expect to see our schools improve and our students to be engaged. Instead, expanded learning time enables schools to truly rethink the entire school day/year and produce significant improvements in the overall design of the school that can result in much more engaged learning that better prepares students for their futures.
Q: Are you hoping that the field begins using the terms “expanded learning programs” to replace “afterschool and summer programs”? 

A: No. I think it’s important to differentiate between these terms even though after-school, summer and ELT programs are all important and parents should have choices among these options.  Expanded learning time differs from afterschool and summer programs because ELT requires all students in a given school to attend the longer day and/or year, and the additional time becomes a dependent component of the school’s educational practices and objectives. Afterschool and summer programs are crucial as well but they are voluntary.

For twenty years, Jennifer Davis has held positions at the federal, state, and local levels focused on improving educational opportunities for children across the United States. Jennifer’s previous positions have included serving as U.S. Department of Education Deputy Assistant Secretary, Special Assistant to U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, Special Assistant to the Executive Director of the National Governors Association, and Executive Director of Boston Mayor Tom Menino’s after-school learning initiative.  

In 2000, Jennifer became the co-founder and president of Massachusetts 2020, an education organization dedicated to expanding learning opportunities for children across Massachusetts. Massachusetts 2020 led eight strategic initiatives to improve education and after-school learning opportunities for high poverty students across the state. 

On October 2, 2007, Massachusetts 2020 launched a national organization, the National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL), which is dedicated to expanding and modernizing the American school calendar to meet the needs of students in the 21st century. 

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