A Race Against the Clock: The Value of Expanded Learning Time for English Language Learners

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Wed Dec 17 14:47:22 UTC 2008

A Race Against the Clock: The Value of Expanded Learning Time for
English Language Learners

By Melissa Lazarín | December 16, 2008

Read the full report (pdf):

Time is of the essence for children learning English. Kindergarten
English language learners enter school with a vocabulary of 5,000
English words fewer than their native English-speaking peers. ELLs
must not only learn a new language; they must keep pace with their
English-proficient classmates who are continuing to rapidly grow their
vocabulary and further develop their already advanced literacy skills.
More than two-thirds (69 percent) of English language learners are
citizens by birth or naturalization and begin their education in U.S.
schools, but for those newcomers who enter the U.S. school system in
later grades, time and the constraints of the traditional school day
pose a particularly serious challenge.

Expanded learning time, a schoolwide strategy that entails redesigning
and lengthening the school day and/or year to help support teaching
and learning for all students, can be particularly beneficial for
ELLs. Current efforts to promote the expansion of learning time
suggest increasing the school day by two hours or lengthening the year
by 360 hours—the equivalent of at least 30 percent more learning time.
This additional time can be pivotal in closing both the academic and
language gap for ELLs.

Time plays a unique role in the educational career of the English
language learner. Time affects the facility of learning a new language
and the likelihood of high school graduation, especially among
immigrant ELLs in high school. This report reviews some of the
relevant research findings as well as examples of existing initiatives
that include this population. Surprisingly, only limited research
examines the effect of expanded learning opportunities, including
after-school programs, on English language learners' educational
success. Additional research is clearly needed given the growing
presence of this population in our schools. The little evidence that
does exist suggests that English learners have much to benefit from
expanded learning time. And schools and districts that have
incorporated more academic learning time appear to confirm these
research findings.

While expanded learning time initiatives appear to hold significant
promise for English language learners, it is important to have
whole-school implementation. Unless all students in a school are
involved, redesigning the school schedule to maximize the
opportunities of additional time is unlikely and success will be
limited. Both the research and schools' experience incorporating
expanded learning time suggest that more time is a necessity for ELLs,
but all students benefit from expanded learning time.

This report will examine the role that time plays in their education
and learning, and how the expansion of learning time can be a key
strategy in improving educational outcomes for ELLs. Some schools and
districts have already begun to recognize the valuable role that time
can play in educating students who are learning English and are now
offering before-, after-, or summer school learning opportunities to
this population. This report will highlight some of these examples,
providing insight into how a few districts and schools are approaching
expanded learning opportunities for ELLs and lessons learned in the

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