The Role of Expanded Learning Opportunities in Preparing Youth for College and Career Success

The Role of Expanded Learning Opportunities in Preparing Youth for College and Career Success
The Role of Expanded Learning Opportunities in Preparing Youth for College and Career Success


AYPF hosted a field trip to Boston from October 12-14 for a group of federal policymakers to examine, “The Role of Expanded Learning Opportunities in Preparing Youth for College and Career Success.” Participants included congressional staffers, members of the U.S. Department of Education, and leaders of national education organizations. The visit, co-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the W.T. Grant Foundation, enabled participants to learn about Boston’s efforts to expand the school day. Included on the trip were site visits to three different middle schools, each of which incorporate expanded learning opportunities (ELOs) in unique and different ways. For more information about AYPF’s work on ELOs, including a detailed definition, please consult our recent publication Learning Around the Clock.

Boston has long led the way in efforts to provide ELOs for its youth.  The issue is of primary importance to longtime Mayor Thomas Menino, who created the Boston 2:00-6:00 After-School Initiative in 1998 to explore ways to engage students after the school day ended.  The initiative eventually became part of Boston After School and Beyond, a public-private partnership that, “seeks to advance the development of a unified system of high quality and engaging opportunities that meets the needs of Boston’s youth.”

More recently, Massachusetts has garnered attention for its Massachusetts Expanded Learning Time (ELT) Initiative. After 16 districts received planning grants in 2005, the Massachusetts legislature and Governor Mitt Romney appropriated $6.5 million for 10 schools to add 300 hours to the school year in 2006.  ELT schools are given $1,300 per student to implement the plan designed by each school during the planning process. There are now 22 schools in 11 districts serving more than 22,000 students that have expanded their schedule to include the extra time.

Boston Public Schools (BPS) has implemented a variety of expanded learning opportunities-based reforms in its efforts to close the achievement gap.  In 2006, the district opened the Department of Extended Learning Time and Afterschool Services (DELTAS) to coordinate and oversee expanded learning.  DELTAS runs a Management of Information System (MIS) that provides members with access to data, including academics (grades, test scores, school attendance, etc.), demographics, risk behavior statistics, and program quality measurements.  Additionally, four BPS schools have expanded their school day under the ELT Initiative.

During the trip, participants met with state and district leaders, and these meetings provided time to delve deeper into the strategies and policies designed to use expanded learning opportunities as tools to close the achievement gap. The group met with students, teachers, and school leaders to hear about their on-the-ground experiences with implementation and participation in various expanded learning models. Meetings and site visits helped provide context to the panels, discussions, and presentations on the trip.



Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE)

(click here to view presentation)

Massachusetts ESE Commissioner Mitchell Chester spoke of two major concerns for the state of Massachusetts: closing achievement gaps and college and career readiness. He pointed out that while Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) scores have significantly improved since 2001, large gaps still exist among minorities, low-income students, special education students, and students with limited English proficiency (LEP). As to his second point, he noted that 38% of Massachusetts public school graduates who end up in public universities have to take at least one non-accredited class, a sign that these students are not prepared when they embark on their postsecondary education.

The Commissioner also expressed concerns for the survival of expanded learning opportunities in the near future due to the state of the economy. He said that since having various programs funded by different funding streams leads to competitiveness even in good economic times, recent struggles could eliminate some existing programs as state revenue continues to decline. Finally, he articulated his desire to see more collaboration among programs in the state, as many currently exist alone in “silos.”

Karyl Resnick, the state’s 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) Coordinator, spoke to the group about the results of services provided to the 16,420 students in grades K-12 from 41 districts at the 184 CCLC sites in the state. Resnick said Massachusetts is using its 21st CCLCs to focus on the children “in the achievement gap:” 66% of students served by the centers receive free or reduced price lunches, 20% have a disability, and 16% are LEP.
Massachusetts worked with the National Institute on Out of School Time to create their Survey of After-School Youth Outcomes (SAYO), a tool used to evaluate the state’s CCLCs. The results show positive gains in all eight academic and six intermediary outcomes. The survey also showed that students within the aforementioned subgroups made statistically greater gains than students not designated in those subgroups.

Massachusetts also allocated $1.95 million for an After School and Out of School Time (ASOST) Quality Grant to, “increase and enhance comprehensive after-school and out-of-school time programs for children and youth during the school year and summer months.” ASOST funds 46 grants to after-school programs and organizations, and $100,000 is required to be allocated for students with disabilities and students who are English Language Learners.

Sarah McLaughlin, the state administrator of the Office of Expanded Learning Time, Pilot, and Readiness Schools, oversees the Massachusetts Expanded Learning Time Initiative, and she spoke of the strong partnership her department has with Massachusetts 2020, a private non-profit organization that has advocated with the state legislature for ELT programs. Currently there are 22 schools that have used ELT money to expand their school day. According to McLaughlin, 30 more have expressed interest in joining the program for the next school year. Roughly two thirds of the students in ELT schools are low-income, and one-third of these students do not speak English as their first language. McLaughlin noted the Commissioner’s focus is not just providing more time, but more quality time. She emphasized that two keys in ensuring ELT is a success are providing time for teacher collaboration and bringing in community partners and embedding their services in the school day.

One question raised by a participant was whether any schools have chosen to expand the school year by more than the 300 mandated hours. Jeff Riley, the Academic Superintendent of Middle and K-8 Schools at Boston Public Schools (BPS), said that due to some issues with buses and transportation, BPS schools using ELT funds have indeed had to expand their day even longer. BPS is subsidizing the extra cost for these schools. Commissioner Chester also pointed out that while the ELT Initiative leaves open the possibility for schools to extend the school year into the summer months instead of adding hours to the day, thus far no schools have chosen to do so.


Carol Johnson, Boston Public Schools (BPS)

BPS Superintendent Carol Johnson discussed some of the key challenges facing the school district. She began by telling the group that, “the monopoly is over,” and whatever entitlements public schools once had are gone. She said parents are demanding more services and expanded services and pointed out that many charter schools have figured out a model for providing more hours of instruction during the school year.
Johnson identified three major topics that are critical in looking at expanded learning: more opportunities, equitable opportunities, and quality opportunities. She emphasized the need for building relationships with partners and voiced concern that some teachers viewed an expanded school day as an extension of regular school, an approach that may not respond to the achievement gap that exists for many students. Johnson stated that she wants to encourage a different approach than a mere continuation of the school day, one in which community-based organizations (CBOs) such as libraries, community centers, and parks partner with schools to create academic and enrichment opportunities.
To that end, Johnson spoke of her concern with the way Supplemental Education Services (SES), as provided under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), are allocated and the limited accountability for external agencies that provide SES. She expressed a desire for parents to form collaboratives and together select an SES provider instead of leaving the decision up to parents who may not be able to assess quality. The current model, according to Johnson, lacks the accountability that would be present if providers had to answer to a ‘school leadership council’ instead of individual parents.
Superintendent Johnson also agreed with Commissioner Chester that the focus needs to be on providing more quality and that more time is not sufficient in and of itself. She cited the example of 10 so-called “Superintendent’s Schools” designed to focus additional time on the lowest performing schools. These schools were identified as the 10 most underperforming in the district, and an extra hour of instruction was added to the day at each school. Only one of the 10 schools showed improvement. She stated, “This is not a discussion about time, it’s a discussion about how to use time to transform systems that engage learners and accelerate performance.”
For that reason, Johnson said the four initial ELT schools in Boston have been given autonomy similar to that given to charter schools. Each school creates agreements with its teachers about how to expand the day and create an appropriate schedule. Concerns remain that the teachers union in Boston is seeking to determine a maximum number of hours that teachers can work even in these ELT pilot schools. This will no doubt be an issue in the district’s teacher negotiations when the current teacher contract expires in August of 2010.

Dishon Mills- Department of Extended Learning Time, Afterschool, and Services (DELTAS)

(click here to view presentation)

Beginning in 2000, BPS supported a full-time staff led by Dishon Mills dedicated to afterschool time; this culminated with the formation of DELTAS, whose focus is on student support infrastructure, extended learning opportunities, and student wellness. The department does this by managing sites of the Triumph Collaborative, a network of expanded learning programs that have, “similar infrastructure and have agreed to adhere to a common standard of quality.”
DELTAS works with the Triumph Collaborative, which began with 40 sites, on capacity building, systems and evaluation, and partner engagement. Mills said the goal is for schools to have the ability to identify what educational services and social supports students need and the necessary infrastructure in place to connect students and families to the appropriate resources for those needs. Each school that has a Triumph Collaborative site has a ‘bridging professional’ who handles collaboration and coordination. The MIS system allows afterschool providers to access the same student data as BPS teachers and fosters communication and sharing among all involved entities.
Even with the increased focus of collaboration, Mills still said principal involvement and engagement is key to any successful ELO, even going so far as to say that without a commitment from school leadership, “we will fail.” The Triumph Collaborative also has a resource team meet monthly to discuss implementation and logistics. This collaboration and partnership with community organizations is key. Before the Collaborative organized various providers, Mills said, “we had many different resources, but they existed in silos.” Finally, the district has developed a composite learning index used to calculate a risk assessment for every student in a school. This information is used to inform decisions about what services, in addition, to instructional support, need to be provided at each site.


State Senator Thomas McGee

Massachusetts State Senator Thomas McGee has served the Third Essex and Middlesex District since 2002. In 2007, Senator McGee co-chaired the Massachusetts Special Commission on After School and Out Of School Time which culminated with the release of a report titled, “Our Common Wealth: Building a Future for Our Children and Youth” later that year. The 36-member special commission held 10 hearings across the state to hear from various stakeholders; Senator McGee said it was the voices of students that had a particularly profound impact on him.
Throughout his presentation, the Senator continually stated his belief in giving students the opportunity to, “tap into their true potential.” His work on the special commission convinced him that as a country there is a need for increased opportunities that will keep kids in school past 2:30pm. Echoing a message heard throughout the trip, Senator McGee also asserted his belief that partnerships with community-based organizations, including from the private sector, are necessary. The Senator also spoke briefly of his commitment to see physical education return to school days, and cited the National Football League’s NFL 60 program that works to add an hour of physical education to the school day as an example of a positive partnership with a private organization.



Panel Discussion on State-Level Advocates for Afterschool and Expanded Learning Time

(Click here to view MAP Presentation)
(Click here to view Mass 2020 Presentation)

This panel featured two organizations working at the state level. Gwynn Hughes, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Afterschool Partnership (MAP), spoke about the necessity of helping youth be more ready for the workplace. She noted that in addition to the achievement gap in academic subjects, employers are rating high school graduates as deficient in soft skills such as professionalism and work ethic. She also emphasized to the group that parents are the key constituency, and they are demanding programs that will lead to college matriculation and career success.
MAP works closely with the state on both 21st CCLCs, which are federally funded, and the ASOST Quality Grant, which is state funded and affects students at all levels of the K-12 system. Hughes noted that at the high school level, dubbing the programs ‘afterschool’ can be misleading as they often focus on career training and development. The ASOST Grant prioritizes direct services, and so far partnerships are believed to be the most efficient method for delivering quality programs. Moving forward, Hughes said there is a need to connect state and federal funding streams to increase leveraging of resources.
Jennifer Davis, the Executive Director Massachusetts 2020 (Mass 2020), spoke to the group specifically about the creation and implementation of the Expanded Learning Time Initiative. She began by explaining the need for ELT, saying that teachers at traditional schools are struggling with a narrowed curriculum, and there is not enough time to meet the instructional needs of all students. She pointed out that many of the highest performing charter schools, such as the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), have up to 60% more time than traditional public schools.
The ELT Initiative came about as the result of a partnership between Mass 2020 and the Massachusetts ESE, along with the support of the governor and state legislature. Data analysis showed that many students who could benefit from afterschool programs were not involved in any, and ELO programs often lacked a consistent funding stream. As a result, the ELT Initiative was started after a study was conducted to identify positive attributes of seven schools that had already lengthened their school days.
In order to receive an ELT grant, schools must negotiate with their teachers and undergo a year-long, data-driven planning progress. As part of its plan, any school wishing to participate must include time for enrichment opportunities, teacher planning and professional development, and core academics. Partnerships with CBOs are encouraged, and so far the 22 schools that are part of the program have partnered with more than 150 organizations. Some CBOs provide services to students throughout the entire school day.
After three years, ELT schools are outpacing state averages in MCAS proficiency scores and the state’s Composite Proficiency Index (CPI). Parents have reported seeing benefits in having more learning time, and low-income parents show stronger support for more time spent on core academic subjects. As a result of Mass 2020’s success, Davis launched the National Center on Time & Learning in 2007 and is working with 30 states to support similar initiatives.

Panel Discussion on the Role of Local Intermediary Organizations

Chris Smith, Executive Director of Boston After School & Beyond, spoke about his organization’s efforts to coordinate the vast number of afterschool opportunities available throughout the city. His organization was founded in 2005 as a result of Mayor Menino’s 2:00-To-6:00 After-School Initiative, which called for increased opportunities for the 83% of children who were not part of afterschool programs.
Boston After School & Beyond now works to meet the need for collaboration and alignment among the more than 600 organizations running more than 1,500 programs in Boston. Smith’s organization manages the Boston Navigator, a searchable database for parents, staff, and other stakeholders to find available programs. They also coordinate a network of youth-development professionals, particularly at the high school level. Boston After School & Beyond is also an integral member of the Triumph Collaborative.
Boston afterschool advocates Neil Simon, Alex Oliver-Davila, Eric Schwartz, and Chris Smith.Eric Schwarz founded Citizen Schools 15 years ago after volunteering at a local school to start a student newspaper. Citizen Schools now serves more than 4,400 students at 37 campuses in seven states. They provide a ‘second-shift’ of educators who come in to work with the students on hands-on learning projects and internships that connect to real-world skills. Citizen Schools staff is largely comprised of teaching fellows paid by the AmeriCorps program, and teachers are volunteers from partner organizations.
A Policy Studies Associates study found that Citizen Schools is working with the most at-risk students, and a positive correlation was found between participation in the program and both school attendance and graduation rate. Citizen Schools holds a staff-to-student ratio of approximately 1:15, and in some schools has integrated itself as a period during the school day. In one Boston school, Citizen Schools runs one class period a day for every sixth grader at the school.
Schwarz also had several policy recommendations related to expanded learning. He would like to see the ELT model expanded to provide a longer school day for all students, but he said the actual cost of the longer day in many schools is closer to $1,800 per student which is substantially more than the $1,300 provided by the state, and therefore funds should be increased. He supported Superintendent Johnson’s proposal to allow for a parent advisory group to select an SES provider instead of requiring parents to select individually. And while he supports the TIME Act, Schwarz would flexibility in the legislation to allow expansion of the school day for an entire grade instead of mandating it take place throughout the entire school.
Alexandra Oliver-Davila is the Executive Director of Sociedad Latina, the longest running youth Latino organization in Boston. Her organization, located in the Mission Hill neighborhood, focuses on four key areas: education, civic engagement, arts and culture, and career development. Sociedad Latina partners with the seven ‘Colleges of the Fenway’ to provide mentors for high school youth, and the organization employs 150 young people a year.
All high school students involved with Sociedad Latina participate in the Mission Possible program, which provides two hours per day of college readiness tutoring, college exposure, and academic support. The program also holds family workshops in Spanish on information such as applying for student financial aid. Mission Possible has helped 36 participants enter college, and they provide follow-up support and assistance during the first year. Oliver-Davila said they would like to support students for more years into students’ college careers, but they currently lack the funding to do so. Sociedad Latina also hosts a Mission Enrichment Program that provides 90 middle school students a year with academic support. The organization also has an ‘Efforts to Outcomes’ database that serves as a performance management system.
Despite Sociedad Latina’s successes with students, Oliver-Davila expressed frustration that her organization and similar ones are too often ‘not invited to the table’ when policy is made. She would like to see more grass-roots organizations involved in policy development. Finally, Oliver-Davila said the DREAM Act, which would provide conditional residency to illegal immigrants who graduated from U.S. high schools in order to pursue postsecondary education and access financial assistance, is crucial to the success of many of the youth Sociedad Latina serves.
Neil Sullivan, the Executive Director of the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC), spoke directly about youth employment and career preparedness. Sullivan brought up a striking statistic: In 2000, 52% of 16-19 year olds worked summer jobs, but in 2009 that rate was 33%, representing a 19% drop. Sullivan attributes this downward trend to two major events: the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the recent economic recession. Sullivan said there needs to be an emphasis from a policy perspective to ensure there are afterschool activities and summer jobs for disadvantaged high school youth; he pointed out that middle and upper class families already understand this necessity, and their children are already benefiting from these services.

School Visits

Washington Irving Middle School

The group’s visit to the Washington Irving Middle School allowed for an understanding of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant. The Irving partners with organizations such as the Alliance for Inclusion and Prevention (AIP), an organization that provides afterschool programming and academic help for youth with social and emotional problems. Irving students also participate in Tenacity, an SES-approved program that combines tennis instruction with literacy classes (Tenacity’s presenation). The Irving also has a full-time mental health professional on site. The Irving’s funding from 21st CCLC expired after several years, so the school applied for and received an afterschool exemplary grant from the state. As part of the conditions of this grant, the Irving must provide assistance to other providers and schools. Finally, as a Triumph Collaborative site, the Irving uses the MIS to share student data between teachers and afterschool providers.

John W. McCormack Middle School

After seeing a 21st CCLC at the Irving, the group went to the John W. McCormack Middle School in Dorchester, MA, to see a school that partners with Citizen Schools. Megan Webb, the Citizen Schools campus director at the McCormack, said 84 of the 630 students at the school participate in Citizen Schools, and there is a wait-list for students who want to get involved. Students participate in two “apprenticeships” per semester with Citizen Schools and produce a final ‘WOW’ project at the end of each 10-week course. In addition, all eighth grade Citizen Schools students make college visits and learn about the Massachusetts high school selection process.
Citizen Schools is an SES-approved program, but it provides its full range of services to all participants, not just the academic enrichment that SES targets. Pat Kirby, Managing Director of the Massachusetts region for Citizen Schools, said their cost per student is about $1,800. As part of Citizen Schools’ partnership with BPS, the district provides the organization approximately $600 per child, and Citizen Schools raises matching funds for the remaining $1,200 from private philanthropy and some other public sources. This results in a net gain of 360-555 hours (depending on the program) – an increase of 33-50% more instructional time – at a cost of $600 to BPS.
An important part of Citizen Schools’ model is its capacity to engage volunteers to teach the ten week skill-based apprenticeships. Citizen Schools recruits and trains more than 500 volunteers each year from corporations and colleges, 38% of whom return to teach another semester.

Mario Umana Middle School Academy

The group’s final stop was at the Mario Umana Middle School Academy, one of the schools participating in the ELT Initiative. Students at the Umana attend school from 7:20 am to 4:00 pm and have an early dismissal on Fridays, during which the school holds professional development for staff. The extra time is used for two extra math and ELA classes twice a week and two elective classes twice a week. Students are placed in cohorts in each grade, and electives are based on these assignments.
The state provides the school with $800,000 to implement the ELT model, and that money is matched with $1.5 million from community providers. The Umana’s partner organizations include Tenacity, the YMCA, Boston Ballet, and more. Some programs, such as Tenacity, are implemented as classes during the school day. Corbett Coutts, the Umana’s assistant principal, highlighted the benefit of partner organizations by pointing out that Tenacity does an exemplary job communicating with parents, a task that is sometimes difficult for school staff to find time for. Coutts offered this as an example of a resource that partner organizations can provide for the school in order to increase the efficacy of the entire institution.
Coutts also highlighted several policy obstacles with the ELT funding. He said that while the state provides $1,300 per student, no extra money is given for students for special needs. In the Umana’s case, the school serves a group of high needs students whose IEPs are not valid after the end of the regular school day. The school is therefore unable to draw from funding from the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act for these students, whose cost to house and instruct is significantly higher than that of the average pupil. As a result, the Umana has to spend a disproportionate amount of its money on meeting the needs of these students, and Coutts said it would be help for legislation to recognize that these services still need to be provided beyond the regular school day.

Conclusion and Takeaways

Expanding the school day appears to be a promising reform that can help close the achievement gap. All aspects of this trip, however, made it clear that simply adding time to the day is not enough. Money provided to schools to expand the school day needs to be used to partner with community-based organizations that can incorporate themselves seamlessly into the school day. Extending the current school day without any efforts to collaborate may lead to more of the same failed model. Additionally, if schools are given money to expand the school day on a per-pupil basis, then those funds need to reflect the higher cost of educating high-needs students.
Another common theme that arose on the trip was frustration with the Supplemental Education Services provision of No Child Left Behind. As the law is currently written, parents of children who attend schools that fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress may select from an approved list of SES providers to supplement the school’s instruction with out of school time academic tutoring. Frustration from presenters in Boston stemmed from the fact that parents had to select providers individually and could not act as a group in the selection process. This limited the accountability of SES providers and made it more difficult for successful programs, some of which were integrated into a school, to acquire appropriate funding for the services they are providing.


Trip Agenda

Presenter Biographies



AYPF Boston ELO Fact Sheet

Massachusetts 2020 Home

Massachusetts Afterschool Partnership

The Massachusetts Expanded Learning Time Initiative

Citizen Schools Home

Boston After School and Beyond Home

Sociedad Latina Education & Career Exploration Home

Boston Private Industry Council Home

In March of 2009, AYPF published Learning Around the Clock:  Benefits of Expanded Learning Opportunities for Older Youth.  This publication identifies and describes Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELOs) that improve academic performance, college and career preparation, social and emotional development, and health and wellness outcomes for underserved youth.  The compendium is an excellent resource for policymakers and practitioners alike; it provides both an analysis and a general overview for those looking to understand the key issues and programs related to ELOs.


The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan professional development organization based in Washington, DC, provides learning opportunities for policy leaders, practitioners, and researchers working on youth and education issues at the national, state, and local levels. AYPF events and publications are made possible by contributions from philanthropic foundations. For a complete list, click here.