A New Day

Today is a new day—in so many ways.  With the bipartisan passage of ESSA last year and the new Administration, it is clear that a strong federal role in education is over.  States and communities must lead the way on ensuring children have the opportunity to experience a high quality, well-rounded education that prepares them for future success. 

As the co-founder of NCTL, I am proud to relaunch the NCTL blog today. I have taken on a new role, but remain committed to the NCTL mission and work.  NCTL’s work to modernize the American school calendar to provide students the time they need to succeed has become embedded in a much larger agenda to redesign our education system to integrate the support, services, and opportunities all students need and deserve. Through the Education Redesign Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, we are supporting communities to create children's cabinets that integrate and align educational, health, mental health, and social services for children.  With growing poverty rates and widening achievement and opportunity gaps, it is urgently important that we redouble our efforts and bring communities together around a unified strategy to improve child wellbeing and education.  

Wearing my NCTL hat, on January 18th I had the opportunity to share all of the research, reports, tools, and experiences we have amassed over the last ten years—since launching our national organization—with a Maryland state task force established to ‎explore innovative school scheduling. While states like Massachusetts have over 140 expanded learning time schools and a state policy framework and funding in place since 2004, many states are still at the starting gate.  The Maryland governor’s executive order requiring schools to start after Labor Day has sparked an important discussion about learning time, summer learning loss, and the reality that a one-size-fits-all approach to the school calendar misses the fact that some children need more—not less—learning time.  It is so important that each community be able to assess for itself their children’s needs and design educational policies and strategies to meet those needs.  What works well for children in Potomac is unlikely to be sufficient for the children of Baltimore.   

At a time when succeeding in our competitive economy is harder than ever, when a high quality education is the only route out of poverty, we have to focus on innovative school designs and more individualized approaches to helping all children to succeed. We have to rely on state and local leadership to make it possible. Twenty years of research and practice have made clear what works. High performing charter schools serving low income children all offer expanded learning time—up to 60 percent more time than the standard 6.5 hour, 180-day school calendar.  District schools need the same flexibility to meet their students’ needs, and restricting the ability of districts to create the schedules most appropriate for their students is a move in the wrong direction.