Celebrating 10 Years of ELT

In 2005, the Massachusetts legislature inserted a relatively small item into the state budget—just $500,000—that would launch a small revolution in public education. The line item funded some planning grants to district schools to take on the monumental task of redesigning their school day to include 300 more hours annually and, more significantly, to think about how to reshape their educational programs—everything from curricula, to support structures, to staffing—to better educate children. The following year, the Massachusetts legislature allocated enough funding to support the first 10 schools what would be in known as the Expanded Learning Time Initiative —the first-in-the-nation effort to convert existing district schools to a substantially longer schedule all for the purpose of strengthening teaching and learning.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

Ten years later, 22 ELT schools have now taken root across 11 districts in Massachusetts. They are joined by other expanded-time schools in Lawrence, Springfield, and other communities that, though not funded through the same original ELT line-item, have been able to leverage public dollars to build a longer, stronger school day.

At an event yesterday, NCTL was proud to host these many schools to celebrate all the great work that has been done to improve student achievement and development. We heard from them, as they shared their challenges, ambitious plans, and some of the specific action steps they’ll be taking in the coming months and year to move ever further along the path of continuous improvement.  Too much good to capture in a single post, but I thought I’d share just a few quotes to provide just a small flavor of the day’s proceedings:

“ELT schools have continued to impress…. ELT is crucial for taking Commonwealth’s education system to the next level.” – Senator Michael Rodrigues, Massachusetts State Senate

“We cannot imagine how we would operate our school without a longer day. We can’t say enough about how much we love it.” – Gerilyn Trafficante, Teacher, Salemwood K – 8 School, Malden

“We didn’t start out loving data. Believe me, we were really resistant to posting data publicly. But now we’ve changed and our teachers are totally bought in.” Lori Butterfield, Principal, Guilmette Elementary School, Lawrence

“We’re trying to figure out how to tweak our interventions again to reach every student. We really value this dedicated time today to figure this out.” Jean Facchiano, Principal, Silvia Elementary School, Fall River

“We have ‘pockets of awesome’ in using data to drive instruction, but we need to make the practices more widespread.” – Melissa Larco, Principal, Guilmette Middle School, Lawrence

“Our practice with one-on-one conferences with students is good, but we need to figure out how to make them better and more responsive to student needs.” – Tracy Young, Teacher, Edwards Middle School, Boston

And on, and on, and on….

As a person who was “present at the creation,” I appreciate how far we’ve come, but I also did get the sense today of just how far these schools still have to go to get to a place where they would claim to be leveraging their additional time for universally strong instruction and results. This is no knock on all the great work going on; rather I’m just echoing the frank talk we heard today from educators who acknowledge that the core idea of continuous improvement is that there is always room to do better. Indeed, getting to a place where they can recognize the room still to grow is the work of which these schools should be most proud.

If you missed the event in person, click here to see the Prezi presentation on "MA Leading the Way."