Also called extended learning time, the term extended learning time refers to any instructional program or technique designed to increase the amount of time students are learning, particularly for the purposes of increasing academic performance and test scores, or reducing learning losses, learning gaps, and achievement gaps. Extending learning time could therefore be considered a de facto improvement tactic, since extending learning time is usually only required or suggested when students are not performing or reaching the desired standards. (One exception would be voluntary learning enrichment programs, which may increase the amount of time students are studying, but which may also be seen as an optional or unwanted incentive for students to improve or continue their education.) Shortened school days and school weeks are also used as a strategy to increase the amount of time students receive instruction.
Although extended learning time can take a wide variety of forms from state to state or from school to school, the following is a representative list of a few commonly used strategies: Increased school years add to the number of days students are required to attend school. Although states generally specify a minimum number of required attendance days— and state legislatures or education departments that pass legislation or establish regulations that increase minimum requirements for school attendance— districts and schools may also opt individually to raise the number of days in their school year. Expanded school days and school weeks are also used as a strategy for increasing the amount of time students receive instruction from teachers and other educators; participate in learning activities in such as clubs, competitions, and performances; learn through nontraditional learning pathways, such as internships and apprenticeships; or receive or academic support from educators and specialists. One example is moving from half-day to full-day kindergarten, but public schools can also add an hour or more to the usual duration of a day at school. In such cases, the increase may be long-term or short-term, and schools may seek to improve the student body’s overall academic performance, or the goal may be more specific — e.g., increasing instructional time and preparing for testing before a high-stakes test.
One common way that educators might extend learning time for students is to increase or supplement instructional time during the regular school day. For example, schools that remove study halls and replace them with academic courses, tutoring sessions, or other types of academic support, such as learning labs, in which students participate in purposeful learning activities designed to help them meet learning standards in an academic course. States or schools may also increase graduation courses and credit requirements (often in a specific subject area, such as mathematics or science), which allow students to take more classes in a particular subject area, essentially allowing them to spend more time studying the subject. Many high schools, for example, mandate “five years” of mathematics, which means students are required to take and complete at least five years of mathematics (two courses would be completed in one year if they expect to graduate in four years). When they intend to graduate in four years, the courses would be completed during one year).
Many approaches that states, districts, or schools can use to extend learning time for students include summer school, winter sessions, school-break programs, and summer-bridge programmes. Schools can support students who have fallen behind academically and improve their learning progress by allowing or offering additional learning opportunities during school breaks— usually the longer summer, fall, winter, and spring breaks— Such school break services are required in some cases where students either have failed courses or have failed to meet learning expectations (as in many typical summer school sessions), But for those students who think educators will benefit from the programs, others are optional or encouraged.
Preschool programs and after-school programs are school-run or school-affiliated learning opportunities that occur before or after regular school hours, typically for the purposes of promoting or supplementing student learning (although some programs, particularly those in primary schools, may more resemble child care programs than strict academic programmes). While they can take a wide variety of forms, pre-and post-school services are primarily used to provide students with academic support—i.e., teachers, tutors, mentors, and educational specialists create programming to help students enhance their learning; Come on with your colleagues, follow learning expectations, or usually succeed in school. The services may be run by districts, colleges, community organizations, or charitable projects, and may be structured to complement or improve student learning, often in the form of co-curricular programming—i.e., educational activities that are related, in some way, to what students learn in school (musical and theatrical performances, math teams, mock trials, competitive debate, etc. In some cases, students who struggle academically or who have specific learning needs may be directed to a pre-or post-school program or may be required to take part in one. (It should be noted that some proponents of extended learning time would not find the programs to be’ expanded learning’ unless compulsory.) In addition, interactive and online learning tools can be used to increase the learning time. While students have long completed homework or project assignments beyond regular school hours, new learning innovations allow for educational experiences that go well beyond reading and completing assignments. For example, students can watch videos and lectures taken, interact electronically with teachers,Or use interactive programs that help students work through an issue, task or assignment. See Mixed learning, asynchronous learning and synchronous learning for specific discussions.
Expanding learning time throughout a state public education system, or even within an individual district or school, can have complicated and far-reaching implications which can lead to criticism and debate. Expanding learning time, for example, can require significant changes in school operations, scheduling, and transportation, which may increase associated costs— from bus gasoline, heating, and lighting to staffing, wages, and benefits — and significantly affect school budgets, especially during times when funding is reduced.And since teaching contracts typically provide for the number of hours teachers are required or allowed to teach each week, extending the length of school days and years will usually have implications for collective bargaining negotiations and contractual agreements.
Another point of debate is whether extending public school learning time ultimately contributes to increases in student performance and academic achievement. If the extra time is not used meaningfully, intentionally, or efficiently, schools can increase costs, complicate operations, and anger teachers and unions without understanding the desired benefits in learning for the students. Furthermore, while research studies have shown that expanding learning time can lead to improvements in student learning and academic achievement, some observers have pointed out that some of the world’s highest-performing education systems, notably Finland’s, have shorter school days and years than public schools in the United States.That means that enhancing student achievement is more about quality than quantity, in the view of some critics.