Considering the broader context of school reform that is seeking education strategies that might deliver substantial impact, this article examines four questions related to the policy and practice of expanding learning time: (a) why do educators find the standard American school calendar insufficient to meet students’ educational needs, especially those of disadvantaged students? (b) how do educators implement a longer day and/or year, addressing concerns about both educational quality and costs? (c) what does research report about outcomes of expanding time in schools? and (d) what are the future prospects for increasing the number of expanded-time schools? The paper examines these questions by considering research, policy, and practice at the national level and, throughout, by drawing upon additional evidence from Massachusetts, one of the leading states in the expanded-time movement. In considering the latter two questions, the article explores the knowns and unknowns related to expanded learning time and offers suggestions for further research.

Key Take Away Points

  • Expanding time in schools is an increasingly popular strategy in schools serving disadvantaged populations
  • Establishing an expanded-time school requires that educators must overcome significant obstacles
  • Expanded time has strong associations with improved student performance at the individual level, but complexities of time use at the school level make it more difficult to isolate time as singular factor in connection with student outcomes
  • Current research admits to several unknowns with regard to determining the role of time in generating student outcomes, most notably, the complex interaction of time and instructional quality, though effective practices research offers several insights in how having additional time can enhance a school's overall educational program overall and, in turn, individual student learning

Author Biography

David Farbman is the Senior Researcher at the National Center on Time & Learning. He has authored several studies examining the impact of time on different facets of learning, as well as papers related to the policy implications and public understanding of expanded-time schools. He holds a B.A. from Brandeis University and a Ph.D. from Brown University.


The author wishes to thank Blair Brown at the National Center on Time & Learning for reviewing the manuscript.



Responses to this Article:

Mike Feinberg, Commentary on "Expanded Learning Time in Schools" (October 2012)