Education officials propose extended learning

Jan 1, 2014 by

corporate_desk-620x412DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Education officials in Iowa are pushing for a pilot program that would add before- and after-school learning for students, saying such measures could boost graduation rates in the state.

The state Department of Education asked for $1 million for the extended learning pilot project through a budget request submitted in November, The Des Moines Register reported (http://dmreg.co/19EpVzR ). Gov. Terry Branstad hasn’t said whether he will support it.

A report commissioned by the state recommends that the proposed program focus on high-need students. It offers three strategies: Providing additional academic activities before or after school for low-come children; offering summer instruction for children struggling with reading; or lengthening the school day for middle school students.

The most successful strategy could then be replicated statewide, according to the report, which was compiled by Des Moines-based consulting firm State Public Policy Group.

Proponents of such programs say the measure shows that support for out-of-school learning is growing in Iowa. The United Way of Central Iowa recently hired two literacy coaches for its youth programs, and Des Moines Public Schools announced in July that it would increase extracurricular opportunities at its middle and high schools.

Some see it as a step toward fixing the problem of students dropping out of school, because educators may recognize academic struggles earlier.

“To fix that problem, it’s going to take much more than to look at our schools,” said Jodie Warth, chief professional officer with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Iowa. “Extended learning, in my mind, is just one of many arms that we can stretch out and wrap around our children to help them step up and succeed.”

Thirty high-poverty schools in the country that added days or hours to their calendar improved math and reading scores, according to a 2011 study by the Massachusetts-based National Center on Time & Learning. Overall, more than 1,500 schools are trying such methods — though that kind of programming comes with a price tag.

“There are two truths that can be said about extended learning time: No. 1, it does have a significant cost; and No. 2, if done well, it can have a significant, positive impact,” said Mike Cormack, a state education policy liaison.

It’s unclear if the money needed for the pilot project will get approved. Branstad is still deciding what will go into his budget for fiscal 2015, according to Linda Fandel, special assistant for education with the governor’s administration.

Some Iowa educators say extended learning time will help the state as it works to close its achievement gap. Thomas Ahart, superintendent of the Des Moines school district, said educators need more time with a lot of students.

“A million dollars isn’t much, but hopefully, if that’s used to good effect, it will be a nice demonstration of what works for Iowa,” he said.

via Education officials propose extended learning – SFGate.

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