- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A new national organization wants to help states and school districts expand their school days to give teachers more time to educate and students more time to learn.

Many educators and local leaders are ready for the change but need help and advice, said the leaders of the National Center on Time and Learning, which opened in Boston yesterday.

“People already want to do this,” said Chris Gabrieli, the center’s co-chairman. “The appetite is pre-existing.”

The center, funded in part with a $1 million grant from the Broad Foundation, will act as a clearinghouse of information and as a technical consultant to those willing to expand the school day or school year in their community.

The center, partnering with the Center for American Progress, also will advocate public-policy changes and funding for expanded learning time.

Innovative and successful charter schools have expanded beyond the traditional academic calendar of 180 days and six-hour days, proponents said.

Longer school days allow more time for instruction, teacher interaction with students, activities like music and sports and innovative programs, proponents said, adding that expanded learning time produces well-rounded children and can help close achievement gaps.

Reformers see a key opportunity to push for change this year because lawmakers are working to renew the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, which requires states to test and track students in reading and math with the goal of grade-level proficiency by 2014.

Mr. Gabrieli said the pressure to meet those goals has increased grass-roots demand for longer school days, because more time spent on reading and math comes at a cost to history and recess.

“There seems to be a growing consensus that children … need more time,” said Jennifer Davis, president of the new center and a former education official in the Clinton administration.

The center is co-chaired by Paul Reville, director of Harvard University’s Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy. It is working with House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, California Democrat, and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.

Mr. Miller and the ranking Republican on his committee, Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon of California, drafted legislation to renew No Child Left Behind with a pilot program that would fund expanded learning time in 10 states, Ms. Davis said.

One of the center’s first projects will be to glean best practices by examining about 1,000 schools nationwide that have expanded school days or school years. In Massachusetts, 19 public schools have expanded school days, at a cost of $13 million, and 43 more schools are waiting for approval.

Mr. Gabrieli said preliminary test data from Massachusetts, as well as feedback from parents and teachers, are positive. Children typically are won over by the idea of having more time for art, music and sports.

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