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A multi-city reporting project will look at expanding learning time

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

In conjunction with partner education news organizations in other cities, the Notebook is launching a year-long reporting project to write about the issue of expanding learning time.

We will join Catalyst-Chicago, EdNews Colorado, GothamSchools, and EdSource Today (which covers California) in this collaboration, supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation, which has made “more and better learning time” a priority in its philanthropy.

Expanding learning time for students, especially those in low-income communities, has emerged as a major reform initiative. Some argue that additional time that is wisely used can be a key lever for educational equity.

In addition to reporting on developments in their own localities, the five news organizations will take advantage of this collaboration to produce a cross-city report that compares and contrasts policies and practices.

Philadelphia schools have seen District-run afterschool and summer school programs gutted by budget cuts in recent years. But there are tens of thousands of youth participating in other structured afterschool programs. An ambitious, city-led collaboration has been working to address fragmentation, gather data on participation and service gaps, and offer professional development to improve program quality.

The Notebook will be exploring these and other issues locally; expanding learning time will be the focus of our upcoming summer edition.

We also welcome guest commentaries on the topic — about strategies and obstacles to providing more and better structured learning opportunities for Philadelphia youth. Contact us at notebook@thenotebook.org.

Here are some of the ways the issue has played out in other cities:

  • In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently succeeded in lengthening the school day and year, which has been among the shortest in the nation.
  • In Denver, School Superintendent Tom Boasberg has made a concerted effort to run pilot expanded-learning-time programs in district schools, especially in middle schools.
  • In both Los Angeles and Oakland, the school districts have instituted “community schools” initiatives and are turning to outside partners to provide afterschool learning activities and health and social services that engage students beyond the regular school day.
  • Schools in New York City are experimenting with a “community hub” model, adding to other expanded-learning-time efforts by city schools and outside partners.

We will be republishing relevant stories from these cities. We welcome your comments and suggestions on how to make the most of this cross-city collaboration.