“We Know Something Has To Change”

We are blogging today from NCTL and HGSE's Expanding Learning Time Convening. It is really hard to sum up in a single post all that we heard in this morning’s session. Issues were wide-ranging, including how teachers can take advantage of opportunities for collaboration and professional development, how schools with more time can integrate arts and broader learning, and how more time must be thought of as a resource, not a strategy. So many strong speakers, so many passionate believers in the power of more time.

The most prominent theme of the morning was summed up nicely in the words spoken by Ford Foundation President Luis Ubinas to wrap up the opening session of the convening: “We know something has to change.” Education leader after education leader declared that having schools operate today on a model that was intended to meet the educational needs of students in the 19th century is simply untenable and, in the words of Ubinas, “unfair” to either students or to the schools that are expected to educate the students to 21st century standards.

This theme—that expanded time represents much more than just an addition to the standard schedule—kept popping up. Carol Johnson, Superintendent of Boston Public Schools, argued that, for her, “time is justice,” meaning that giving disadvantaged kids more time in school is the way to level the playing field. From the policy perspective, Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville used the word “re-invent” to describe what our public education system must do to overcome its many challenges in helping all students to achieve high standards. And his words were then followed by the testimony from several practitioners, including Amrita Sahni, Instructional leader of the Edwards Middle School in Boston, and Jeff Smith, Superintendent of the Balsz Elementary School District in Phoenix, who illustrated how the district is reinventing what their schools look like.

Perhaps my favorite quote of the morning belongs to Dave Levin, co-founder of the KIPP network of charter schools. Standing before a room of practitioners and thought leaders—very much members of the choir of expanded time, as it were—Levin said simply, “More time cannot be the debate.” It was so obvious to him and so obvious to all in education that to operate schools by sticking to the antiquated model of what a school schedule should look like was simply not debatable. Surely, there are still questions and challenges around how to use more time wisely, but  whether more time is needed is no longer one of these questions.

More highlights from the convening to follow and be sure to check out NCTL (expanding_time) on twitter with hashtag: #elt11.