International Education News

From After School Learning to Extended Learning Time: The Evolution of The After School Corporation/ExpandED (Part 2 of 2)

Last week, we posted the first part of this piece on TASC/ExpandED. This week, we continue tracing the organization’s evolution.

Shifting from TASC to ExpandED

As with NCLB, the development of this major new public policy initiative created an unanticipated opportunity for TASC. A nimble approach to this spandrel of opportunity allows TASC to, in some ways, return to that original vision of changing the traditional school day. Although TASC had an interest at the time in running and managing New York City’s Out-of-School Time Initiative, the architects of the program instead asked TASC to step in as “trusted advisors and capacity builders.” For Whipple, this was a liberating moment for the organization, freeing TASC from management responsibilities to think creatively about their future work. This provided room for TASC to ask and experiment with questions such as “How do we better connect the network to formal learning? How do we jump in to the school reform space and say, let’s try out hand at reforming schools by expanding the school day, in partnership with community organizations?”

Over the next few years, TASC worked with a number of partners to broaden their afterschool model. That work included helping to launch Every Hour Counts in 2006 which sought to bring together a variety of community partners to support and sustain afterschool programming in cities from Baltimore to the Bay area. It also included the development of Frontiers in Urban Science Exploration (FUSE) in 2007 which incorporated a focus on STEM into their afterschool work by providing STEM training and resources for after-school educators.  Along with continued efforts support and assess the development of a growing network of afterschool programs, these projects, in turn, helped to set the stage for TASC’s next phase and helped to spawn the development of the ExpandED Schools model.

 

Creating a Model for Expanding Learning (ExpandED 2008- )

With the establishment of New York City’s Out-of-School Time initiative and growing national interest in the importance of learning time outside of school, TASC found itself at the center of a growing movement to improve schools by extending learning time. While some of these opportunities may have been unanticipated, they could also be seen as a natural outgrowth of the conditions conducive to its overall goals that TASC had worked to foster at the city, state, and national level.

 

In 2008, TASC changed its name to ExpandED Schools and shifted its focus to develop an extended learning time model.  As a first step, ExpandED launched a pilot model, Expanded Learning Time New York City (ELT NYC) in ten schools. The ELT NYC model had a number of key features including:  adding three hours to the regular school day; creating a more flexible schedule that allowed the integration of opportunities for athletic and artistic expression, leadership development, and social emotional learning; and partnering with community organizations to support the expansion of activities and responsibilities. Their ELT model shared some features with community schools, such as integrating community partners into a lengthened school day, but did not include wrap-around services such as healthcare that are important to community schools. As such, they maintained a clear focus on closing the “6,000 hours” opportunity gap between under-served and more affluent students in extracurricular opportunities beyond the traditional school day.

At the end of each year of the ExpandED Schools demonstration, TASC commissioned  external evaluations which reported some increases in math scores, student attendance, and student, parent, and teacher satisfaction (Year One, Year Two, Year Three). These studies also served as a means of reflecting on key challenges and successes that highlighted the need for strong principal leadership and sustainable funding sources. Building on these evaluations, ExpandED Schools committed itself to a ELT NYC model which included four core elements: “more time for a balanced curriculum, school-and-community partnerships, engaging and personalized instruction, a sustainable cost model.”  Following three years of piloting, in 2011, TASC launched this ExpandED Schools model in 11 schools in NYC, Baltimore, and New Orleans with grants from Open Society Foundations and Wallace Foundation. By 2013, they had grown to 30 ExpandED Schools in NYC.

 

Today, the ExpandED schools model has grown to encompass socio-emotional learning and a focus on building community-based educator’s capacity to complement school STEM and literacy curriculum. In particular, ExpandED has worked with Every Hour Counts on FUSE: Next Generation. FUSE: Next Generation seeks to “lay the groundwork for a new instructional approach employing community partners in collaboration with formal educators to create real-world STEM learning experiences that integrate the principles of the Next Generation Science Standards as well as social and emotional learning.” TASC’s collaborations have also continued with partners like the NYC Department of Education, the City Council, Robin Hood, and Harvard EdLabs on programs for enrichment and tutoring for middle schools students (MS ExTRA) and with the New York Hall of Science, the Institute of Play, and the Pinkerton Foundation to bring teachers and community educators to develop skills for project-based STEM learning (on STEM Educators Academy).

 

Next Steps

ExpandED continues TASC’s work to build infrastructure and develop new models for enriched learning opportunities outside and inside schools. That work includes ongoing efforts to foster further funding and to create new training opportunities, while also establishing partnerships and building connections across diverse community organizations, funders, and public agencies. In the process, as Friedman explains, ExpandED seeks to both build on the strengths of already existing organizations and to create the bridges that can establish a better foundation for coordination and collaborative work.

Throughout its development, ExpandED has had to walk a fine line in trying to respond to the demands and opportunities for working in the regular school day without losing sight of commitments that many afterschool programs make to enriched learning experiences that go beyond academics.  Today, ExpandED faces another opportunity as the Community School movement grows.  Like the expanded learning time initiatives, work on community schools has been going on for some time but many of the core ideas — such as expanded learning time and integrating community-based partners for extra-curricular opportunities – are consistent with key aspects of the ExpandED model.  Recent policies, however, like the Every Child Succeeds Act’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio’s Community Schools Initiative have created funding and incentives for developing schools that have many of the characteristics of the extended learning time schools ExpandED already supports.

While these initiatives create opportunities to extend ExpandED’s influence in public schools, they come with the continuing challenge of maintaining a focus on holistic learning in the face of academic accountability pressures. In particular, ExpandED’s experience in working with community-based organizations and work to develop appropriate outcome indicators suggests that the three-year timeline of the Community Schools’ plan creates demands for CBO’s to turn around schools in an unreasonably short time.  At the same time, Katie Brohawn argues that this initiative can “open up the New York City Department of Education’s eyes to the notion of measuring more than just what happens in the traditional classroom setting,” such as attendance (as a proxy for student engagement) and social-emotional learning.  Here, a nimble approach might turn this challenge into a spandrel of opportunity for advancing programs that support SEL in school.

For ExpandED, social-emotional learning may be the next frontier. Building infrastructure and models to support and measure SEL are already part of another ExpandED collaboration with the New York City Department of Education, New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, and community-based organizations.  If the past is any indication, that work could serve as the basis for new policies and further funding.