It’s always good when leaders come together to improve our children’s education, and that happened yesterday when the Ford Foundation announced its new Time to Succeed Coalition. More than 100 education and civic leaders from diverse backgrounds launched a national coalition to expand and redesign learning time for our kids. We wholeheartedly support this effort to improve student achievement by ensuring that children have more time to learn.
For more than a decade, the afterschool and summer learning community has been at the forefront of expanded learning. Quality programs can serve as models for communities and schools as they find ways to give students opportunities for hands-on, engaged learning in close collaboration with both schools and community-based organizations such as museums, universities, civic and social service organizations, sports teams, businesses and others. The afterschool community will be delighted to share the lessons learned
from decades of this work.
The Time to Learn Coalition leaders are right that we should no longer structure our schools for an agrarian society that no longer exists. Afterschool, before-school and summer programs have long been filling in the gaps, keeping kids safe, inspiring them to learn, and supporting working families in the hours when schools are closed but parents are still on-the-job. Over the years, we’ve learned a tremendous amount about how to support and complement, but not replicate, school day activities. There’s now a huge body of evidence that demonstrates that afterschool, before-school and summer programs are highly effective and the reasons they work so well. We look forward to sharing that evidence with leaders of this new coalition and helping them incorporate it in their own work.
We were especially pleased yesterday to hear Chris Gabrieli of the National Center on Time & Learning stress the importance of engaging communities in school day expansion. In too many cases, that hasn’t happened in the recent, early experiments that add time to the school day. It is great news for our kids that the Time to Succeed leaders plan to make it a priority now.
Yesterday’s announcement was further evidence of growing support to expand learning opportunities for our students. Just last month, more than 500 individuals and 400 organizations signed onto the Expanded Learning and Afterschool Project—an important campaign to focus on quality in expanded learning and afterschool. It recognizes that merely adding time is not a solution to what ails our schools. We need quality activities that meet the needs of diverse students, and we need to use extra time to help struggling students find and follow their passions so they will discover the joy of learning.
We see potential for progress in the announcement yesterday, and stand ready to help as specifics begin to be put into place. We want to ensure that all students as well as teachers are empowered by expanded learning opportunities, that community- and faith-based partners and parents are engaged, and that there are soon safe, supervised, engaging, educational activities available to all students during all the hours until their parents return from work.
Right now, 15 million students are unsupervised each afternoon after the school day ends. We can and must do better. Redirecting inadequate federal funds won’t get us where we need to go. We need to find more public and private funding so that all underserved and at-risk children are safe, engaged and learning after the school day ends. The afterschool, before-school and summer community is ready to do its part and to work with Time to Succeed, the Expanded Learning and Afterschool Project, and others to make that happen.