Public schools that significantly expand their schedules will be in a much stronger position to successfully implement the Common Core State Standards, the most rigorous English and math standards in the history of U.S. public education, says a report released by the National Center on Time & Learning, or NCTL, and the Center for American Progress at an event at CAP in Washington, D.C.
“The Common Core is a huge step forward in preparing American students for college, careers, and citizenship in the 21st century. Successfully implementing the Common Core will require new approaches to schooling and a lot of hard work,” said Jennifer Davis, NCTL’s co-founder and president. “Schools that have more time in their calendars will be well-positioned to meet the sharp rise in expectations for teachers and students that the Common Core represents. Fortunately, more and more policymakers and school leaders around the United States are embracing expanded time as a key part of their efforts to improve educational outcomes.”
Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards, and 36 states and the District of Columbia have schools with expanded-time schedules. The report, “Redesigning and Expanding School Time to Support Common Core Implementation” explains why expanding time beyond the conventional 180-day, 6.5 hours-per-day school schedule can play such an important role in successful implementation:
- Educators will need more time to learn the new standards’ content, develop new curricula that align with the standards, engage in professional development with other educators, and master the new teaching techniques needed. They will also need more time to personalize instruction for students, who learn in different ways and at different paces.
- Students and teachers will need more time together in the classroom in order for students to gain proficiency in the more rigorous subject matter. In English language arts, for example, students will confront more challenging texts and be expected to consistently demonstrate comprehension by citing evidence and offering analysis. In mathematics, students will cover fewer topics in much greater depth in order to help them develop mechanical fluency, conceptual understanding, and applied problem solving.
“The Common Core State Standards are the most important education reform in decades, and a thoughtful approach to its implementation is crucial to its success. Expanding learning time is one way that we can help schools successfully transition to the new standards,” said Carmel Martin, CAP’s Executive Vice President for Policy. “By providing more time for teacher collaboration and professional development, and more time for students to grapple with difficult content, schools that expand learning time have great potential for positive, wide-ranging effects on both students and teachers as this country takes a major step forward in preparing the next generation of students for college and the workforce.”
To help schools take advantage of expanded time in order to better meet the challenges of Common Core implementation, the report offers policymakers and education leaders a series of recommendations, including:
- State and district strategies for implementation of the Common Core should include a focus on learning time, taking advantage of the opportunity to build on the success of expanded-time schools such as those in the Massachusetts Expanded Learning Time Initiative. They also should tap existing federal and state resources to fund high-quality expanded time.
- Prioritizing increasing time for teacher collaboration and professional development will be critical to helping the U.S. teaching force develop the new skills necessary for successful Common Core implementation.
- States and districts should expand learning time especially in schools serving high concentrations of disadvantaged students. Disadvantaged students— often low income, students of color, English language learners, and students with disabilities—have been left the furthest behind until now and so will need even more support to reach the Common Core’s higher expectations for proficiency.
- School districts and schools should expand time wisely—redesigning the school calendar to ensure that more time does not mean more of the same—and that best practices around instructional quality, the use of data, individualizing student supports, and teacher collaboration are a part of the redesigned and expanded school day and year.