Extended-Day Programs: Time to Learn: Extending Learning Time for Students in Need of Support Can Bridge the Academic Gap by Providing Students with the Time They Require to Master Subject Content

By Dodd, Catherine; Wise, Donald | Leadership, September-October 2002 | Go to article overview

Extended-Day Programs: Time to Learn: Extending Learning Time for Students in Need of Support Can Bridge the Academic Gap by Providing Students with the Time They Require to Master Subject Content


Dodd, Catherine, Wise, Donald, Leadership


Increasing student achievement is a topic that educators are talking about and struggling to accomplish each day. One problem is that schools have high learning expectations, but continue to provide the same amount of time for mastering concepts as they did years ago. According to the National Education Commission on Time and Learning (1994),"American public schools have held time constant and let learning vary."

Research confirms that some students take three to six times longer to learn than the average student. It is now clear that more time is necessary to support those students in need of additional time to be able to successfully master and build upon national and state standards and expectations. Extending learning time for students can bridge the gap to successful academic learning and provide students with the time they require to master subject content.

Many California schools are turning to some form of extended-day programs to provide extra time and assistance to students, especially at-risk students, who will benefit from such programs.

What are extended-day programs?

Extended-day programs may take a variety of forms:

* Before- or after-school programs

* Extended-day kindergarten

* Saturday school

* Summer school

* Intercession programs

Extended-day programs do not include the incorporation of extended time during the school day, such as extra help during recess, lunch or free periods.

Do extended-day programs affect achievement?

In a number of studies, extended-day activities have been found to positively affect the achievement of participating low-achieving students, who received more passing grades, higher grades and/or better test scores.

For example, one study that found achievement gains is the Optional Extended Year Program in Austin, Texas, which provides hands-on activities, cooperative learning, Project Read and Reading Recovery-based lessons. Students in grades three through eight showed measurable gains in their reading scores both in the classroom and on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (Washington, 1998).

In another study, extending the school day for kindergartners using the same curriculum as its half-day counterparts made a significant difference in the achievement levels of the full-day participants (Hough and Bryde, 1996). Yet another study found that providing content and instructional pace adaptations to accommodate the student's style of learning during the extended learning time in one-on-one or one-on-two tutorial sessions can cause a rise in student achievement scores (Mac Iver, 1991).

Should extended-day programs be linked to the regular school day?

It is clear that increasing the school day without quality instruction will not have a profound effect on student achievement. Time must be spent wisely, with the extended-day program building on the regular school day. A higher success rate is found when students participate in extended-day programs that are similar to their regular school-day programs. Reading strategies that are utilized in the regular school day should be continued in the extended-day program, but with some different materials and some added activities that support low-achieving students with their reading achievement.

Programs that link the regular school day with the extended day program by using similar, but slightly different academic strategies generally have more success than programs with no linkage. Programs held on the school site allow teachers to use actual materials from the students' regular classroom.

What about staffing for extended-day programs?

The hiring of staff is critical to the success of the program. This should include credentialed teachers along with assistants, parents and community volunteers. In one study showing student achievement gains, a primary reason for the success of the program was due to the regular classroom teachers being the primary instructors in the after-school program (Schwendiman and Fager, 1999). …

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