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The Proof Behind Expanded Learning

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I'm proud today to join the launch of The Expanding Learning and Afterschool Project. This is a 50-state initiative that gives educators easy and direct access to research and promising practices that can help them use time beyond the conventional school day most effectively for learning.

I can tell you that superintendents, principals, families and community organizations have been asking for this: one central place where they can find the tools to launch, improve or expand high-quality after-school and summer programs and learning beyond the school day. A coalition of foundations, including the Charles Stewart Mott, Noyce and the David & Lucile Packard foundations, have joined forces to make it easier for schools and partnering community organizations to make better use of some of that 80% of American kids' waking hours they are not spending in school.

Educators can start with a research analysis by Joseph Durlak and Roger P. Weissberg, which the project is releasing today. Having reviewed 68 studies on the effects of after-school, the two found significantly higher outcomes among kids who attended programs that emphasize active forms of learning; focus time and attention on skill development; and are explicit in defining the skills they're attempting to promote. These programs helped kids do the following:

  • Raise their grades and increase their achievement test scores
  • Attend school more often
  • Reduce their conduct problems and drug use
  • Improve positive behaviors and their perceptions of themselves
  • Bond more strongly to their schools.

For me, the most exciting part of this research is the suggestion by Durlak and Weissberg that we can produce greater gains for kids by more closely aligning what happens in the strongest after-school programs with effective teaching and learning during the school day. That's the premise behind TASC's approach to ExpandED Schools.

We're thrilled that cities, school districts, principals and community organizations can get more than just studies from this new project. They can ask for and receive assistance building and improving expanded learning systems from organizations including TASC and the Collaborative for Building After-School Systems. We're waiting for your call.