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Expanded Learning

A growing number of districts across the country are starting to take a more systemic look at their use of time; the arbitrary constraint of the traditional 6-hour school day is being revisited to explore whether a longer school day could benefit some or all students. One of the greatest hurdles school districts face as they think about lengthening the day is whether and how to compensate teachers and other staff for the additional time.

Over the last several years, Cross & Joftus has worked with a number of districts that are experimenting with a longer day for some or all of their schools. As this work progresses, we are starting to see some patterns emerge in the approaches to compensation that may be useful for other districts.

While there are a handful of districts that have substantially lengthened the day for all students, more often districts begin this process by lengthening the school day for a targeted school or a subset of schools or grades. For the majority of districts that have a longer day, in some but not all schools, compensation for the added time generally was negotiated apart from regular contract negotiations. As longer-day options take root and expand, districts are grappling with larger compensation issues—what would it mean if the entire district or a much larger number of schools within the district adopted a longer day? Would the current compensation approach make sense? Would it be sustainable long term? How would it be integrated with or layered on all the initiatives already happening in the district, including pay for performance, differentiated pay for hard-to-staff subjects or schools and the like? Does the district need to negotiate a specific pay increase for the extra time or could this change in schedule be viewed as part of a broader set of changes to the teacher role that has been evolving over time?

We’ve started to see several different pay models emerge, each with its own pros and cons:

Contracted hourly rate for extra time — This could take the form of either an “extra pay for extra duty” hourly rate outlined in the teachers’ contract or a computed hourly rate based on each teacher’s annual salary. When Denver Public Schools was implementing its small Expanded Learning Time Pilot in July 2012, the teachers’ contract was amended to explicitly state that teachers in ELT schools who worked over and above the contracted 40-hour workweek would be paid a specified rate ($28 per hour at that time). This allowed for flexibility from school to school in exactly how the extra time was implemented.

Additional flat amount added to base pay —In Boston, the most recent round of contract negotiations included a new program to add 40 minutes of extra time at the city’s 60 lowest-performing elementary and middle schools. The contract specifies a flat amount of $4,464 to be added to all teacher salaries (an approximate 5% increase in pay for the average teacher) at schools implementing this reform. Because it is an increase in base pay, this increase counts towards teachers’ pensions, which is a significant benefit to teachers. In addition to the increase in pay, the contract also included significant additional planning time for teachers and funding and support to ensure that the additional planning and collaboration time is well used. It is notable that all teachers receive the same amount, which means a larger percentage increase for the less experienced teachers who tend to be lower on the pay scale. It is also worth noting that, over the years, Boston has implemented a number of reforms that include a longer day, and the district currently has a number of extant pay models for schools that operate on a longer schedule. Each pay model was negotiated separately with the union and has a separate carve-out within the contract. This has created a complicated contract and has engendered some discontent among those in the district who feel they didn’t get as good a deal as those that came before or after.

A percentage increase in teacher pay — Elizabeth (New Jersey) Public Schools began implementing a longer school day starting in 2006. By 2011 they had lengthened the school day by 90 minutes in every school in the district, creating an eight-hour school day district wide. The district based the pay increase provided to teachers on a pay differential that had been negotiated back in 1998 when a new magnet included a longer school day as part of its school model. In that original school and then in all subsequent schools, the district paid all teachers an additional 8.24% for the additional 90 minutes. In 2014, when the district was faced with budget difficulties, it cut back the extra time to 45 minutes and cut teachers’ “extra” pay back to 4.2%. Elizabeth started the longer day in a single school and negotiated the pay increase years before the district ever conceived of the longer day as a district-wide strategy. The teacher contract is up for renewal in Elizabeth, and the district is likely to address this issue in the next round of contract negotiations.

While there are other ELT compensation structures emerging, many are simply variations on these themes. In addition, it is worth noting that some districts (Chicago is the most notable) have tried to lengthen the school day district wide with little to no extra pay for teachers beyond the typical yearly increases.

Each of these pay models has its benefits and its costs, and districts should consider these within the context of their needs (e.g. extended day schedules) and constraints (e.g. teacher contracts). One lesson for all districts looking to establish an extended day program is that pay structures, once established within a district on any scale, often become district-wide compensation models that are both politically and logistically challenging to alter. Districts expanding learning time at any level would be wise to develop extra-time compensation structures with an eye towards how those pay structures would scale, whether they would be sustainable over time, and how they can build in flexibility to modify compensation strategies as extended day programs evolve.

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Author(s): Heather Clapp Padgette

In January, the Southern Education Foundation reported that a majority of the nation’s public school students come from low-income families – 51% is the national average with many states experiencing higher rates. The implications of educating a majority-poverty population are complex and are increasingly felt by teachers, principals, and district and community leaders across the country. We know that low-income children have less access to early childhood and enrichment opportunities than their middle- and upper-class peers. And for a growing pool of too many, food security, emotional and physical health, housing, and other essentials are lacking.

Districts with student poverty rates soaring above the national average are turning to a community school model to try and address these challenges. Last summer, New York City superintendent Bill de Blasio announced a grant program to launch community schools in the city’s high-need areas, falling in line behind other urban districts including Oakland, Baltimore, and Cincinnati.

Community schools are not new – the Coalition for Community Schools has been promoting and studying them for decades. The goal of a community school is to leverage district and partner resources to integrate academics, health and social services, youth and community development, and community engagement, resulting in thriving students, families, and communities.

This approach may seem tangential to many of today’s reform priorities – we know that great teaching and school leadership account for a sizable share of the student success puzzle. And much of our work is understandably focused there. But as schools serve more and more students from low-income families, non-academic factors can’t be ignored – and teachers, schools, and districts need help addressing them. Integrating student and family supports in schools is becoming less of a nice-to-do and more of a prerequisite to learning.

For the past five months, Cross & Joftus has worked with Tulsa Public Schools to examine their decades-old approach to community schools and suggest ways to strengthen it. We’ve found there, as we expect we might find in other places, that the community schools strategy has been implemented as a distinct initiative, parallel to but on the periphery of the district’s core instructional improvement work aimed at creating successful teachers, leaders, and students.

The district and its community and philanthropic partners want to change that, making sure that the services and supports students receive are tightly connected to individual student needs and the core work of schools and the district. What that looks like exactly is to be determined – with support from C&J, a group of community stakeholders are developing a strategic plan for accomplishing that goal. But for NYC and others interested in a full-service school model, Tulsa will be a place to watch.

Learn more about C&J’s School, District, and State System Improvement practice.

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Author(s): Meghan Neary

Across the country, Expanded Learning Organizations (ELOs) that run afterschool and summer programs are doing their part to support students in their efforts to meet increased learning expectations. As states are implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or other standards focused on college and career readiness, some ELOs are taking a bold step to closely examine their current practices and establish plans and milestones for further improvement by more closely aligning their work to these new standards.

As partners in the education process, ELOs provide many students with the additional time needed to learn at high levels. ELOs also incorporate different learning styles and approaches including more hands-on projects and problem solving. For many ELOs, alignment to the new standards provides an opportunity to strengthen their programs and is a must for sustainability as districts seek to align all student supports with the new standards. While the idea of ELOs aligning their programming with the CCSS or other state standards is appealing, exactly how that could or should happen is less clear. With support from the Wallace Foundation, Cross & Joftus has developed a framework that ELOs can use to assess how well they are aligned to the CCSS and what it would take to improve alignment. The framework focuses on four key areas identified as critical for alignment: organizational infrastructure, instruction, curriculum, and student learning and assessment. Each key area has indicators of alignment which provide greater clarity and can be used to develop an action plan for improved alignment. We tested the tools and process with a range of summer and afterschool programs.

In designing and testing the framework and tools, one of the critical challenges we grappled with was reconciling the fact that the CCSS were created for schools and ELOs are different from schools in many ways. In addition, ELOs have the ability to pick and choose whether, how, and to what extent they want to align their program with the CCSS so that they are improving leaning and still remaining true to their mission and vision. What this means is that ELOs can focus on a limited number of high-leverage instructional strategies that support program goals. For instance, ELOs may choose to focus on the habits of mind or real world connections through project based learning, or delivering highly effective close reading lessons as their primary strategy for aligning with the new standards.

We offer a few lessons from our early work in helping ELOs to align with the CCSS.

– The first step in aligning with the CCSS and/or other state standards is for ELOs to agree upon and communicate a clear vision for what CCSS alignment should look like for their organization. With a clear vision in place, ELOs can develop systems to ensure that program leaders and providers are on the same page when it comes to alignment. A clear vision also helps to bring coherence to efforts underway for ELOs with multiple programs in various locations.

– Everyone in the ELO working with students – staff, partners, and volunteers— needs some basic information about the CCSS. There are many misconceptions about the new standards and their implications for teaching and learning. Making sure everyone has baseline knowledge is an important early step in alignment. Some ELOs are addressing this issue by ensuring that at least one person on staff is well versed in the CCSS and can answer questions as they arise. Depending upon the skill level of this point person, they may also be able to provide ongoing training to teachers and other staff to support alignment.

– Many ELOs already have in place a number of resources that could be re-purposed to better support alignment such as professional development time, curriculum banks, and virtual or distance learning. A number of ELOs are already working to revise curriculum and PD to build knowledge and awareness of the CCSS and to foster alignment.  This ranges from purchasing new curriculum units that are designed specifically to be aligned with the CCSS to creating new information and resources to support alignment with the CCSS more broadly.

– ELOs have an opportunity to focus on authentic assessments that mirror more closely what students will encounter with new performance based assessments. Many ELOs are using assessments that are not aligned to the CCSS, but with some support could develop basic rubrics to critique and provide feedback on student projects and presentations that are a key part of many ELO programs.

In the coming months we will continue to explore this issue and will share new tools and strategies as they emerge.  Learn more about our work in the Expanded Learning practice area.


(Photo: Middle school students in the Providence After School Alliance’s Designing for Growth AfterZone program, provided by DownCity Design, designed and built a water-collection structure for a community garden in Providence. Photo taken by Jori Ketten.)

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Author(s): Cheryl Krehbiel

In the past two decades we have witnessed a steady growth of school-community partnerships. These partnerships have sought to address a wide range of school, student, and family needs including mentoring, before and after school care, academic tutoring, family financial literacy, and mental health support.  In the wake of these partnerships is a growing drumbeat for more districts to adopt this strategy.  The recent report ”Partnerships, Not Pushouts: A Guide for School Board Members on Community Partnerships for Student Success,” developed by a group of national k12 education and advocacy groups is a notable addition to the push for more and better school-community partnerships.

School-community partnerships may be inspired by a new school reform approach; a desire to better prepare students for the demands of the 21st century; a push to address equity issues; or the need to fill holes in school budgets.  The idea of bringing community resources into schools or sending students out into the community as part of their formal education is simple and compelling: when schools and communities work together, they bring more resources and expertise to support students. The reality of creating a partnership that works for both schools and community partners is much more complicated.   The complex nature of school-community partnerships goes a long way towards explaining why they are still not the norm and why partnership often happens in a one-off or ad hoc manner.

Through our work with school districts and community partners we have come to see that when districts adopt a strategic and transparent approach to partnerships it can fuel their growth. We offer a few lessons from our work that may help more districts collaborate with community organizations and connect families to community resources.

Enduring school-community partnerships have a clear, formal agreement that identifies the roles and responsibilities of each partner. Formal agreements clarify the ground rules for the partnership by specifying who is going to do what, when, and how. For school districts, a key step in developing agreements with community partners often involves creating a set of criteria to determine the fit of various partners to support the work of the district. For instance, in partnerships with afterschool providers, a district may establish criteria around staffing or quality. Additionally, partnership agreements often spell out a set of shared outcomes and how each partner (including schools themselves) will be held accountable for their contribution to the outcomes.  Another important feature of these formal agreements is that they support partnerships through inevitable staff or leadership transitions; with formal arrangements the partnerships become more about the work and less about the particular individuals in the organizations.

Dedicated staff at the district and/or school level is like the grease of the partnership engine—supporting the smooth operation of the partnership. At the district level, this may involve one or more staff that are initiating and managing the formal agreements between schools and partners.  Some districts (including Oakland, Chicago, Clark County, Nevada, and Northside ISD in San Antonio, Texas) have taken this one step further and created entire units or offices to support their community partnership work. Establishing an office to support school-community partnerships can alleviate some of the time burden on individual principals and other school staff of establishing and maintaining partnerships. The office can also serve as a troubleshooting resource for school-based staff (and for community partners) facing partnership challenges on the ground. There are added benefits as well.  First, it is a clear statement of the value of partnerships to district staff, partners, and the community which can serve to re-enforce good partnering and attract additional partners and resources. Second, it makes partnership an explicit part of the district’s on-going educational approach, helping all parties to see how such work supports district goals and priorities. And finally, having an anchor in the district creates opportunities to share data to better understand how partnerships are contributing to student success as well as to identify areas for improvement.

There is no one way to implement school-community partnerships.  Like many things in the world of education reform, there is no right way to approach school-community partnerships. Rather, how districts choose to structure partnerships depends upon district and municipal leadership, the type and mix of partners, the availability of public and private resources, as well as other on-going district reform efforts. For instance, a growing number of districts are creating community schools as a way to foster and organize school-community partnerships.  Other districts rely on a particular program model such as Beacons or Communities in Schools to support partnerships.  And others rely on a third party—often an intermediary– such as the Providence Afterschool Alliance, a local United Way, or Say Yes to Education to help support partners. Say Yes successfully helped Syracuse (NY) City School District build a coalition of partners in business, education, local and state government, and community organizations to reform how the school system supports students and their families.  (Learn more about the Say Yes/Syracuse story here.) Regardless of the approach, district involvement can help to ensure success and sustainability.

In the coming months, we will continue to explore this issue as well as others related to the strategic use of resources.  Stay tuned!

(Photo: Communities In Schools site coordinator and her students at Samuel Clemens High School in Texas. Photo by Laura McKenzie, courtesy of Communities In Schools.)

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Author(s): Heather Clapp Padgette and Sharon Deich

There is a growing recognition that the traditional school day and school calendar are out of synch with the needs of students and the demands of the workplace. To address these challenges, more and more schools – originally charters, but increasingly traditional district schools – are expanding learning opportunities by adding hours to the school day or lengthening the school year.   Earlier this month in his state of the state address, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced plans for a longer school day and an extended school year. In 2012, the city of Chicago – which had one of the shortest school days in the country – lengthened its school day despite significant opposition.  Florida is requiring its lowest-performing schools to offer a longer school day with the hopes of boosting literacy achievement. This work is also buoyed by support from several national foundations including The Wallace Foundation, The Ford Foundation, and the C.S. Mott Foundation that are helping to untangle questions of policy and practice regarding Expanded Learning Time (ELT).

While the notion of expanding learning time appeals to many, fundamental questions abound about how much the extra time will cost and and how to pay for it.  In a new paper, developed by Cross & Joftus with the National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL), we identify challenges and strategies related to financing ELT by examining several traditional district schools (not including charters) that lengthened their school day or school year.

The study confirmed that similar to the regular school day, staff costs are the biggest cost driver for ELT.  Most of the schools in the study employed their school day teachers for some or part of the longer day (one school contracted with a community partner to support the longer day) and finding funding to cover the additional staff costs was a universal challenge.

The study also raised an important question that schools are grappling with—what is the appropriate compensation for teachers for the extra hours?  For the schools in the study, we found that while all teachers were compensated for their extra time, the amount they were paid varied greatly and was not proportional to the extra time they were working (ten percent additional time did not translate to ten percent in additional pay).  In fact, the study found that for every ten percent increase in time, schools were paying teachers about six percent more.  District approaches to compensation included a flat stipend for all teachers in one school and varying percentage increases to salaries in several other places.  While we know that teacher compensation will remain a local issue, compensation data from more schools and districts is needed to identify promising practices.

Another insight from the study was that in some places moving to a longer day or longer year created staff turnover —at least in the first few years of the new schedule.  Teacher turnover presents real costs to schools and districts in terms of hiring, inducting, and training new faculty.   Principals also indicated a worry about teacher burnout associated with expanding learning time.  Several reported that when faced with a longer school day or school year some teachers were voting with their feet and moving to schools that had a shorter work day.  NCTL reports some emerging strategies to address issues of burnout including staggering teacher schedules, using technology, and more teacher collaboration time.

Finding strategies to address both of these issues– appropriate compensation and burnout for teachers who are working longer hours– will be key to sustaining ELT efforts.

As more and more districts add time to their school schedules, they have ELT’s early adopters to thank for shedding light on financing challenges and strategies and for sharing their evolving knowledge to support ELT implementation.  As we continue our work with schools and districts across the country we will use this space to share updates and emerging strategies for financing ELT.


Learn more about our work in the area of Expanded Learning.

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Author(s): Heather Clapp Padgette and Sharon Deich