Many years ago now I remember a phone call with John King, then New York Commissioner of Education, who expressed his concern about Buffalo Public Schools. We discussed the possibility of my organization, the National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL), providing support to some of Buffalo’s persistently low performing schools. I recall that our team felt that the district did not have stable leadership at the time or a strong educational plan for improving the schools. It would be difficult for any outside organization to provide enough support to see a measurable academic impact.  

Massachusetts students consistently rank at the top of the charts nationally and internationally, but these results do not tell the full story: while 4th and 8th graders had the highest performance on standardized tests in 2015, the Commonwealth’s achievement gap based on socioeconomic status was the third highest in the nation. Massachusetts students are performing extraordinarily well, but they are doing so in spite of yawning achievement and opportunity gaps.

Today I was interviewed by Maine Public Radio reporter Robbie Feinberg about a trend in Maine around early release days. In Maine, and across the country, schools are focused on providing teachers more professional learning time embedded within the school day. While I have long been an advocate for expanded, school-embedded teacher professional learning time and NCTL published a report, Time for Teachers, on its importance a few years back, I also believe strongly that students should not lose lea

Today is a new day—in so many ways.  With the bipartisan passage of ESSA last year and the new Administration, it is clear that a strong federal role in education is over.  States and communities must lead the way on ensuring children have the opportunity to experience a high quality, well-rounded education that prepares them for future success. 

As I approach my 15-year anniversary at the National Center on Time & Learning (and before 2007, Massachusetts 2020), I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on five core ideas that have motivated me over the course of my career in education research and, more pointedly, in prodding practitioners, policymakers and thought leaders to develop the kind of schools and school systems that our young people need and deserve.

Over the years, we have often heard the concern that a longer school day would not work well for our youngest students because they would be unable to handle the demands of school for so many hours.  Our just-released report goes a long way toward showing that this concern may be misplaced by shedding light on the incredible benefits an expanded school day can have for young children, when designed thoughtfully. A longer school day for the early grades can be the platform upon which a more individualized, more well-rounded, and, in turn, less onerous learning experience takes shape.

Boston Superintendent Tommy Chang has a lot on his plate.  Among other challenges, the district is facing a sizeable budget shortfall; last week at a Boston Foundation event an audience of over 200 heard loud and clear from former Chairman of the Education Committee of the Boston City Council, John Connolly, that only by addressing the structural budget problem, will the city be in a position to invest more in our schools.

My colleague wrote a few months ago of the link between expanded time and innovation and how providing more time for teaching and learning can often become so much more than just added “time on task.”  Indeed, if implemented well, expanding school time can catalyze “disruptive innovation,” as Harvard Business School scholar Clayton Christensen calls it.

In a clever, albeit depressing, piece education thought leader Dr. Stephen Fink of the Center for Education Leadership at the University of Washington penned an obituary for the Common Core. He rightly claims that the mainly political opposition to the implementation of what are perceived as federal education standards—even though Common Core was an initiative of the National Governors’ Association—began to doom the effort.

As I’m wont to do over the Christmas break, I caught up on a little reading. One of the books I picked up was the highly informative study by Robert Putnam released last March called Our Kids, a description and analysis of what the economic inequality gap looks like in American families, schools and communities. The basic premise of Putnam’s book—children born in lower socioeconomic strata have a much harder time getting ahead that those born to middle-class families—is not new to me.