Extended Learning Time: 5 Things to Consider

extended learning time
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Congress put an emphasis on addressing learning loss in the latest round of stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, which places new ideas and strategies at the forefront of addressing the toughest challenges emerging from the pandemic. 

Many districts are putting extended learning time (ELT) into their plans in the hope that students, especially the most vulnerable, will come back in the fall having closed the gaps created during the last two years.

It is critical that as districts think about ELT, these programs are not simply viewed as additional learning time. The pandemic opened up the doors for personalized learning opportunities and pathways, and now is not the time to undo the flexibility allowed and created under COVID-19 circumstances to be tightened because of seat-time requirements. A survey by the Institute of Education Sciences of more than 7,000 studies identified 30 that met the most rigorous standards for research and those found that increased learning time does not always produce positive results. 

5 Things Districts Should Consider and Identify When Implement a High-Quality Extended Learning Time (ELT) Program: 

1. Determine the extent to which out-of-school time exacerbates or mitigates inequitable educational outcomes for students 

ELT programs help to engage students who are the most vulnerable. These opportunities should focus on acceleration rather than remediation, building on students’ strengths rather than adopting a deficit-based approach. 

2. Provide opportunities to help make up for learning time lost to the pandemic with resources focused on students who have been most impacted by school closures 

A study done by the RAND Corporation found that students who received a minimum of 25 hours of mathematics instruction in a summer performed better on the subsequent state math test; those receiving 34 hours of language arts performed better on the subsequent state English language arts assessment. Participants also displayed stronger social and emotional competencies. 

3. Infuse high-quality tutoring within and beyond the school day 

There has been an increased effort to offer tutoring to more students as the results start to show increased student academic performance. “One effort to sum up the high-quality research on tutoring was a Harvard study from 2016 that found ‘frequent one-to-one tutoring with research proven instruction was especially effective in increasing learning rates of low-performing students,’” the Hechinger Report recently reported. Frequent tutoring has shown to be more effective than weekly sessions. An expanded ELT program focused on implementing tutoring must be frequent to have the best impact. 

4. Expand high-quality after-school programs 

Oftentimes, afterschool programs can be viewed by parents and the community as glorified babysitting. After-school programs have the ability and potential to really engage students in ways that are meaningful and provide context to learning, but the implementation must be carefully planned in order to be effective. 

5. Create high-quality summer programs 

According to the Wallace Foundation, “Summer learning loss disproportionately affects low-income students. While all students lose some ground in mathematics over the summer, low-income students lose more ground in reading, while their higher-income peers may even gain.” The summer learning loss can show us a great deal about what kind of “academic slides” we can expect to see in the year’s coming data. Summer enrichment programs are emphasized by Congress as a way to close these gaps, and these programs are considered to be critical in the coming months. 

ELT is an opportunity to engage students, while still allowing a student to move on once mastery is demonstrated. It can be a tool used to enhance new learning models and provide opportunities that may not have otherwise been available pre-pandemic. 

Susan Gentz

Susan comes from a strong policy background as a former staffer in the United States Senate and Legislative Aide in the Iowa House of Representatives. 

Along with experience at both federal and state levels, she served as the Deputy Executive Director for the Center for Digital Education, worked for a government relations firm in Arlington, VA and heavily worked on federal and state education policy at iNACOL, where she wrote published reports to move the field forward with innovative learning models, best practices, and policy recommendations.