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Expanded Learning Time and Opportunities: Integral Community School Components


Community schools offer the best vehicle for expanded learning time and opportunities the Coalition’s Martin Blank and Reuben Jacobson write in a new chapter in the New Directions in Youth Development (NDYD) Journal published earlier this month.
The Fall issue of NDYD is dedicated to expanded learning time and opportunities – an emergent strategy in improving student learning outcomes ­– and how community partnerships can help foster this strategy. The issue’s introduction notes many models of expanded learning time are emerging and proving effective such as expanding or extending the school day and/or year, extending more time for core academic subjects, or incorporating enrichment and experiential learning through community partnerships.
Expanded learning time and the community schools strategies both fundamentally challenge the way traditional schools operate by expanding time and rely heavily on external partners to provide additional support. Both strategies rely on local decision-making. But since schools have limited resources by themselves, the best way to expand time and opportunities is to have communities involved in decisions to expand learning time and opportunities.
Blank and Jacobson explain that expanding learning time is just one component of a community school in their chapter. Community schools go beyond improving academic outcomes for students exclusively by offering early childhood programs, health services, and other supports, therefore, providing more opportunities for students and the community beyond the traditional school structure. Community partners bring a host of other hands-on learning resources such as apprenticeships and mentorships for community school students to takeadvantage.  For example, at Sayre High School in Philadelphia, students visit the University of Pennsylvania to work in the medical schools laboratory.
"Teams (of schools administrators and community partners) ensure that community school activities are aligned with instruction and other school reform strategies, including ELT (extended learning time), to achieve the identified results," Blank and Jacobson write in their chapter.
A webinar was held in conjunction the publication of the issue Nov. 2 moderated by NDYD Editor-in-Chief Gil G. Noam, where much of the impromptu discussion veered into how the community schools strategy might be the most pragmatic and holistic way of engaging external community partners to provide opportunities for students to learn beyond the classroom.
"The school together with their partners can increasingly make things these happen," Blank said during the webinar.
The first half of the journal’s issue delves into the history, construct, and importance of expanded learning time and opportunity strategies. The second half of the issue takes readers around the country for an inside look at how these programs work at schools in Los Angeles, New York City, and Houston to name a few.

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