Extended Learning More Important Than Ever in Return to School

When Education Trust-Midwest issued its 2020 State of Michigan Education Report, A Marshall Plan: Reimagining Michigan Public Education, schools had closed en masse here and across the nation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of our ongoing series on the six recommendations in our annual report, today we are digging deeper into our recommendation calling for extended learning time.

At the time of our report, we called on Michigan’s state and district leaders to plan and act now to invest in bolstering and accelerating teaching and learning, including by dramatically expanding effective instructional time to all students.

With schools back in session, we are again calling on schools and district leaders to strongly consider—and publicly report on—plans to add hours on to the school day or year, especially for vulnerable students who are most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. That’s because research shows that increasing instructional time can boost student achievement. This strategy is particularly important for students who are most at risk of failing—because it provides opportunities for students to accelerate their learning in subjects in which they are struggling.

Some of those extended day opportunities include:

  • Meaningfully extending the school day or year
  • Scheduling twice as much time for a subject that students are struggling in—known as “double-blocking”
  • Offering high-quality afterschool programming and enrichment activities
  • Using more targeted interventions, including intervention blocks, within-class groups or one-on-one tutoring. High-intensity tutoring is also proven to help students catch up, according to several studies.

As our report noted, expanded learning options during the school day or year that are aligned with Michigan’s college- and career-ready standards are essential to providing students with both the academics and wraparound social services they need now and in coming years. These options should be integrated into the school day, as well as through traditional after-school programs.

Our recommendation also called for optional summer school offered by all districts for all students for at least two to three summers, with the understanding that students would likely need multiple summers to overcome learning losses from the school closures and accelerate learning in a state that is already too far behind.

While most school districts are focused on how to implement a safe and instructionally-sound return to school, it is also critical that districts begin planning now to expand summer school access next summer — and in the years ahead. Districts should also develop and report on a plan to provide direct outreach to families about these additional supports to ensure all families are aware and able to participate.

Research shows high-quality summer school provides clear benefits for continuing learning and reducing the impact of learning loss during extended breaks, such as “summer slide”—the learning loss that happens in the summer months when children have a long break from school and lack enrichment experiences, particularly for students from low-income backgrounds.

Read more here about the research on high-quality and multi-week summer school, which is known to lead to notable academic gains in reading and math that can lessen the effects of learning loss for participating students.

Expanded learning can also provide important opportunities for educators, as well, creating meaningful professional development and teacher leadership opportunities. Asking more of educators who step up to take on additional teaching responsibilities, such as summer school or extended learning time during the school day or year as recommended, should also come with additional investment.

Teachers who take on more leadership and other responsibilities should be paid accordingly. In leading education states such as Tennessee, summer reading camps that embed standards-aligned professional development led by the state’s most effective educators have been a cornerstone for improvement.

Read more about our recommendation on extended learning time, as well as our other national and state-level solutions and best practices based on demonstrated evidence from around the country and state to support student success, in our Marshall Plan report here.

MDE: USDA Extends Waiver To Provide Needed Flexibilities To Feed All Kids

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has extended federal waivers allowing flexibilities in child nutrition programs to continue feeding all Michigan children during the pandemic, according to the Michigan Department of Education (MDE).

Effective immediately, meals will continue to be provided to children ages 18 and under at no cost to the families, MDE said.

Read the full press release here.

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