Increasing learning time is one of the requirements of both the transformation and turnaround models of the School Improvement Grant (SIG) and districts propose fulfilling this requirement in myriad ways. About half of high schools receiving SIG funds are adding minutes to the school day and/or adding days to the school calendar—by design, increasing learning time for all students. Nearly three-quarters of high schools provide before or after school tutoring services, as well as Saturday school or summer programs, for students identified as needing additional support. These programs provide a range of academic interventions, including additional time to master required material and access to advanced courses that are not provided as part of the regular school day.
Although many rural districts have similar plans for extending time, they face unique challenges. For example, in Dakota Prairie—a 900-square mile district in North Dakota—some students board the school bus before 7 am and don’t return home until after 5 pm as a part of their normal school day. Thus, rural districts have turned to optimizing the time that students are in school and reducing the time spent in transit. For example, Yupiit School District in Alaska will use SIG funds to hire a permanent certified substitute teacher who can be flown out to any of the district’s remote locations with short notice to deliver the same rigorous instruction that would be given by the schools’ regular teachers. Davidson County, North Carolina is one of several rural schools using SIG funds to provide additional transportation. Previously, many students in Davidson County had to take two busses, one to a central location and then to school or home. With SIG funds, students will be bussed directly to school, reducing travel time and allowing for more classroom time to focus on literacy-based instruction.
Regardless of location and district circumstances, second round applicants for SIG have a diverse range of strategies to draw from as they develop their own plans for increasing learning time.
Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.