Expanded Learning? Extended Learning? Let's Just Make Sure There's More Quality Learning

11/22/2010 06:35 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Last summer, my then 10-year-old son completed a two-week, intensive summer program at a public school, taught by teachers and members of the community together. The program focused on Holocaust remembrance, and the students met a survivor and visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. My younger son attended a two-week program learning about natural and unnatural disasters, in the wake of the oil spill in the Gulf.

Was this school? (The program did take place in a school building.) Was it a high-quality summer program? (We as parents thought so.) Were the boys having fun and learning at the same time? (They certainly thought so.)

So, what do we call this learning experience? Does it matter what we call it?

On this National Day of Blogging for Real Education Reform, it's a great time to talk about how to get American young people the extra learning time they need to prevent summer setback -- whatever you call that time.

President Obama recently called for more learning time for American students to address the well-documented problem of summer learning loss. But many people who work in the field have gotten tied up in semantics -- what we're calling, or not calling, the critical work we do for kids. Some worry that extending the school day or year means great programs won't have a role.

The important question is, do we see ourselves as a movement in a way that we can respond to a bold call from the President to address summer learning loss? We'd better see ourselves as being able to do that, or we're going to miss the boat. More importantly, millions of kids will miss the boat.

Whether we're calling this more school, extended day, or expanded time, if you look it up in the dictionary, there's virtually no difference in what these terms really mean. What we should do is push the Administration to say we don't want more of the same for the time that's added. It's time to make the case.