The Wallace Foundation Launches Initiative to Help Disadvantaged Students Gain Time for Learning
"It's becoming increasingly clear that the traditional school calendar may not be ideal for students, especially those in the most need," said M. Christine DeVita, president of The Wallace Foundation. "If we provide more high-quality learning time for disadvantaged students by offering summer learning and extending the school day - and use that time effectively - we may be able to substantially improve students' achievement."
The initiative will involve three strategies:
- Building awareness among educators and policymakers of the value of adding more time for high-quality learning, including identifying what is already known, and what policies are needed to make progress;
- Helping leading national organizations that do a good job of educating children in now-underutilized hours to reach more children; and,
- Testing how programs that provide more high-quality learning time might be made available widely in one or more school districts to help disadvantaged children, and evaluating these efforts for results.
The foundation has joined with an initial group of partners to help build understanding and develop knowledge that districts, cities and states can use to take action. Those include: The National Summer Learning Association, The National Center on Time & Learning, BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), Higher Achievement, Horizons National, RAND, MDRC, and Child Trends.
Wallace's initiative comes amid increased interest in the issue of more time for learning, and questions about what approaches are most effective in boosting student achievement.
In the area of summer learning, a century of research has demonstrated that over the summer break common in most school districts, all children - but especially poor children - lose some of what they have learned during the school year. More recently, a 2007 study published in the American Sociological Review by researchers Karl L. Alexander, Doris R. Entwisle and Linda S. Olson concluded that because this "summer learning loss" was cumulative, about two-thirds of the ninth-grade reading achievement gap between poor children and their wealthier counterparts could be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities during the elementary school years. (They found one-third of the gap existed when children began school.)
Despite this evidence of the problem, less is known about what measures might be effective to solve it, especially on a wide scale, and what state and district policies would be needed to support those measures. Evaluations demonstrate that effective summer learning programs can reduce summer learning loss, especially in reading, as a Wallace-commissioned 2009 summary of research by Child Trends has shown. But there are few instances of those programs being successfully applied across a district - something Wallace hopes to test with one or more district partners.
In the area of extended learning time, the evidence is unclear about what it takes for more time added to the school day, week or year to make a difference in students' academic achievement. Tutoring consistently produces learning gains, but group activities have been found to have inconsistent effects on learning. However, studies of extended learning time have shown positive effects on students' school attendance, engagement and social and emotional development. In recent years, some selected charter and traditional public schools have begun to rethink the conventional, six-hour, 180-day school schedule, by integrating academics and enrichment activities into a redesigned school day.
The grants announced today include:
Building awareness of the value of adding more time for high-quality learning:
- $350,000 over one year to the National Summer Learning Association, the Baltimore-based organization that promotes wider understanding of the value of improving summer learning opportunities, and serves as a network hub providing tools and expertise for thousands of summer learning programs across the nation. Wallace's grant will fund strategic planning and communications, as well as help the Association work with BELL, Higher Achievement and Horizons National to learn from each others' work.
- $250,000 over one year to the National Center on Time & Learning, the Boston-based organization that promotes wider understanding of the value of adding more time to the school day and year. The grant will fund communications activities as well as reports on what districts and states are doing around the nation to add more time for learning.
Funding leading providers of more learning time so they can serve more children:
- $4 million over three years to Boston-based BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life). Its six-week, all-day summer program supplements three hours of academics with enrichment courses, field trips and community service in Boston, Augusta, Ga., Baltimore, Charlotte, Detroit, New York City and Springfield, Mass. An Urban Institute study found that BELL summer students outperformed a control group on reading tests and parental engagement. BELL's standardized assessments show its students posted five months' grade-equivalent gains in reading and math during the summer.
- $300,000 over one year to Norwalk, Connecticut-based Horizons National, which works closely with 19 private schools in Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington DC, to provide students from public schools with summer academic and enrichment opportunities. Horizons students consistently demonstrate gains in reading skills of more than three months as measured by STAR Reading assessment. Additionally, a 2009 Wireless Generation report showed substantial gains in reading skills for Horizons' youngest (K-2) students as compared to the loss experienced by the national average of a low-SES cohort.
- $3 million over three years to Higher Achievement, which operates in Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Alexandria, Virginia. The program, which pairs middle-school students with mentors who tutor and help them apply to competitive high schools, also offers activities such as trips to colleges. A 2009 internal study found that more than half of the lower-achieving students in the Washington sites improved in math by at least one letter grade, while students overall considerably improved reading and math test scores. Wallace funding will help support a formal, independent evaluation of the summer work.
- $150,000 to Child Trends in Washington, D.C., over nine months, to develop a public report available by spring 2011 on what is known about the range of approaches for extending learning time, evaluations of the impact of extended learning time on student achievement, as well as leading programs and their features.
Testing and evaluating whether district summer learning programs could reduce or eliminate summer learning loss among their poorest students.
- $635,000 over one year to RAND Corporation, headquartered in Santa Monica, Calif., for a study to help identify the key features that should be included in summer learning programs and ways to manage implementation challenges. The study would help guide the design of a demonstration of effective district summer learning programs. RAND will produce a public research report by April 2011 that is intended to be broadly useful to federal officials, districts, states and out-of-school time providers interested in developing effective summer learning programs and the policies to support them.
- $600,000 over one year to MDRC, based in New York City, to help Wallace identify one or more district partners to develop a demonstration of a summer learning program to be widely applied across a district and aimed at reducing or eliminating summer learning loss. MDRC would work closely with Wallace to help manage the work should one or more districts be identified that are willing and able to undertake a demonstration.
The Wallace Foundation is an independent, national foundation dedicated to supporting and sharing effective ideas and practices that expand learning and enrichment opportunities for all people. The Foundation maintains an online library of lessons at www.wallacefoundation.org about what it has learned, including knowledge from its current efforts aimed at: strengthening educational leadership to improve student achievement; helping disadvantaged students gain more time for learning through summer learning and an extended school day and year; enhancing out-of-school-time opportunities; and building appreciation and demand for the arts.
Lucas Held, The Wallace Foundation, 212-251-9782 or 646-942-1894,
Meeta Sharma-Holt, Collaborative Communications, 202-986-1736,