Boston Public Schools: A Study of Expanded Learning Time

Expanded learning time (ELT) is a school improvement strategy in which time is added to the regular school day for additional instruction or enrichment activities for students, and collaboration and professional development for teachers. ELT is a growing practice across the country and a key component of the U.S. Department of Education’s School Improvement Grant turnaround and transformation models. Since 2006, Boston Public Schools (BPS) has been implementing ELT. In 2015, with support from the mayor’s office and the teacher’s union, BPS began an ambitious three-year initiative to expand the school day by 40 minutes in 60 elementary, middle, and K–8 schools.

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Although ELT is a widely adopted practice nationwide, there is limited rigorous research evidence demonstrating its relationship with student outcomes. Even less is known about how best to leverage ELT to improve student achievement. BPS and AIR are collaborating to conduct research about ELT. The goal of this research is to more fully understand ELT practices, how these practices affect student outcomes, and keys to the sustainability of effective practice. BPS seeks a deeper understanding of ELT to guide continuous improvement and refinement of the district’s ELT initiatives. BPS will also increase its own capacity to integrate research into practice. AIR seeks to contribute to the wider field about ELT, as well as to increase its capacity to conduct research that is directly actionable by practitioners. Funding is being provided by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences.

Reports and Key Findings

Boston Public Schools Expanded Learning Time Research Collaborative: Year 1 Findings Report (2016, PDF)

  • The district lacks centralized information about schools’ time usage, a potential barrier to understanding ELT implementation.
  • The amount of time added varies by ELT policy and funding type, with no single districtwide system. Allocation of time also varies, with some relationship to instructional focus.
  • The greatest reported strength of ELT—teacher satisfaction about its potential for student outcomes—is at odds with the greatest reported challenges—lack of teacher buy-in and teacher burnout.

Boston Public Schools Expanded Learning Time Research Collaborative: Year 2 Findings Report (2017, PDF)

  • A statistically positive impact was found for all students in English language arts and mathematics in each of the first two years after ELT implementation. The improvements were larger in mathematics than in English language arts, and no impact was found for science achievement.
  • The data show a positive impact in each of the first two years after implementation for several different demographic groups in both mathematics and English language arts, including Black, Hispanic, female, and male students. Some gains were observed for economically disadvantage students and English language learners, primarily in Year 2. No impact was found for White or Asian students or students with disabilities.