Learning Time: In Pursuit of Educational Equity
reviewed by Andrea Hawkman - March 29, 2018
Learning Time: In Pursuit of Educational Equity
Marisa Saunders, Jorge Ruiz de Velasco, & Jeannie Oakes (Eds.)
Harvard Education Press, Boston
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In their edited collection, Learning Time: In Pursuit of Educational Equity, Saunders, Velasco, and Oakes present a valuable resource for individuals intrigued by the concept of expanded learning time, or ELT. Editors ask readers to look beyond traditional notions of schooling to embrace more and better learning time for youth in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty (p. vii). The volume features thirteen chapters divided into three sections.
Section One provides examples of what is possible when school and system leaders look beyond the traditional school day and year to meet the needs of all students (p. 12). In Chapter One, Davis and Farbman trace the history of the National Center on Time and Learning (NCTL). Evidence indicates that the NCTL discovered that with wraparound support for teachers, students, and families, expanding the school day and academic calendar could promote increased learning by students in underserved communities. In Chapter Two, Gunderson, Peck, and Brackenridge call for the use of public funds to provide activities for students in low income communities, particularly programs that support students social and emotional learning and provide access to caring mentors.
In Chapter Three, Fehrer and Leos-Urbel center their discussion on ELT within the Oakland Unified School Districts community school initiative. Through a three-pillar approach of integrated student support, expanded school day/year, and family and community engagement, the community school project provided students more access to high-quality learning opportunities. Essential to the process, authors indicate, was a complete willingness of all stakeholders to reorganize time and resources to meet the initiative. In Chapter Four, McAfee and Pizarek examine Promise Neighborhoods in Minnesota and California and provide evidence that these strategic efforts, based on the Promise Network Initiative (PNI) informed by the Harlem Childrens Zone, can be successful at reimagining systems to meet the holistic needs of students and families by attending to the scope, scale, and sustainability of the initiative. In Chapter Five, Hoachlander, McGlawn, and Stam examine the Linked Learning approach toward ELT. Schools implementing this method focus on what students need to learn to be successful beyond high school by establishing clear and specific expectations while blurring the boundaries between school and after school. The authors conclude with a call for the examination of how public policy isolates academic experiences from those related to career or technical education.
Section Two contains five chapters that explore why approaches that expand and reorganize time have the potential to support the learning that all students deservelearning that is meaningful, complex, deep, and engaging (p. 12). In Chapter Six, Kirshner and Kaplan review three innovative ELT programs included in other chapters, but through the specific lens of learning science. The authors argue that across each case, innovations draw on student strengths, provide wraparound support for all stakeholders, and promote equitable learning experiences. Further, Kirshner and Kaplan call for a revisioning of learning theory that considers the struggles many young people face, affirms their dignity and humanity, and cultivates their capacity to be thoughtful and engaged democratic actors (p. 130). In Chapter Seven, Moje asks a simple question with a complicated answer: what does it take to learn something really well within communities that are typically underserved? By examining the challenges brought forth in two cases of attempted reform in both urban and suburban settings, useful considerations to guide future implementations of extended time programs are provided.
In Chapter Eight, Gándara places ELT in conversation with the needs of English language learners. The author notes that the general goals of extended learning time (e.g., success in school, development of efficacy and self-worth) align with many of the needs of English language learners. While there is no silver bullet to support English language learners, the author adds that with intentional implementation of extended learning time tailored to fit the unique needs of ELLs, there are many opportunities for student and community success. In Chapter Nine, Terriquez and Rogers contend that youth organizing groups should be understood as providing high-quality expanded learning time with lasting implications for youths developmental and educational trajectories (p. 162). Further, authors suggest proponents of ELT consider allowing student choice and decision-making to influence their participation in such initiatives to support a culture of investment and a trajectory of student success. In Chapter Ten, Ong and Ong address ELT through an analysis of urban spatial structures in Los Angeles. Through illustrative data and maps, the authors provide clear evidence to support the argument that space-based inequality has a direct impact on the quantity and quality of ELT experiences for students in Los Angeles.
Chapters in Section Three delve more deeply into the technical, cultural, and political obstacles facing expanding learning time approaches (p. 12). In Chapter Eleven, Frelow and Berry, guided by James Baldwins Talk to Teachers, trace the developments in equity-oriented school reform funded through the Ford Foundations More and Better Learning Time (MBLT) programs in urban communities across the country. Profiling efforts in New York, Los Angeles, and Detroit, the authors identified the following trends across programs: (a) learning was grounded in the experiences of students and within their communities, (b) collaborative partnerships put equity and excellence at the forefront, and (c) ample resources were allocated to support the development of great teachers within the communities. In Chapter Twelve, Valladares and Welner begin with a reminder that the initiatives addressed in this edited book do not operate in a vacuum; rather, they occur in a community, state, and nation rife with politicized efforts regarding educational reform. Drawing upon the concept of the zone of mediation, the authors present nine lessons from which readers can generate a realistic sense of the complicated possibilities of ELT initiatives within public schooling. Finally, in Chapter Thirteen, co-editor Oakes concludes this edited volume with a pressing reminder of the complicated and uncertain political era in which the book was released. Notably, the author details a series of pragmatic considerations given the intense climate of neoliberal and market-driven reform that remains on the horizon.
Overall, Learning Time: In Pursuit of Educational Equity, offers a collection of chapters that successfully provide readers with a foundation for understanding the possibilities, challenges, successes, and implications of enacting extended learning time programs within communities that are traditionally underserved. Readers come away from this text with a greater sense of the variety of ELT approaches while also understanding that implementing such programs requires considerable stakeholder support, willingness to break from traditional practices of schooling, and creative revisioning and allocation of resources. However, the authors and editors do well to ground the potential of ELT programs within the pragmatic realities of the complicated and sometimes confounding system of public education.