Here's How Ford is Trying to Reinvent Public Education

The Ford Foundation and Pink Floyd would strongly disagree on this point—instead of “Hey, Teacher, leave them kids alone,” the foundation is pushing a rather different mantra: “Hey, Teacher, keep them kids for 300 more hours each year!"

With respect to the gentlemen who gave us The Wall, Ford is committed not just to more hours but better programming for students including after-school, out-of-school and anytime/anywhere learning opportunities that do not necessarily feel like school but still allow students to learn.

Ford also wants to change how the work of teachers, students and community partners is organized. Its stated goal: “To reinvent public schools through more and better learning time in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, so that students are prepared equitably for college, career and civic participation.”

That’s why Ford just dropped $3.1 million on the National Center on Time & Learning to provide capacity building and technical assistance to the TIME Collaborative, which was launched in 2012.

This large investment is a part of a much broader portfolio of investment in extended learning time (ELT) that spans from capacity building and technical assistance to advocacy and program demonstration. Ford has given six and seven-figure gifts to nearly forty organizations at various points along the ELT continuum.

It should be noted that the Wallace Foundation has also invested in ELT initiatives across the country as well, and many other funders are operating in this space in one way or the other. The Natonal Center on Time and Learning itself has had an array of other funders beyond Ford over the years, including the Broad, Carnegie, Gates, Joyce, Kellogg, Noyce, and Yawkey foundations. 

The TIME Collaborative is a multi-year investment in the development of high-quality and sustainable ELT schools in five states: Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee. Schools and districts in the collaborative engaged in an intensive redesign process to completely rethink the school day/year and add at least 300 hours to learning schedules.

The TIME Collaborative is now embarking on the rollout of its second cohort, which is now underway with its planning and redesign process.

Research and experts in the field seem to indicate that the success of ELT is dependent on a few key contextual factors: cost, contracts and implementation. ELT can be very expensive as it also expands the workday for adults and requires extended use of facilities. Related: Contracts need to be reconfigured, which can be politically problematic as well as costly.

Finally, the devil is in the details. Most analyses of ELT programs seem to come down to the conclusion that when it comes to “more and better” learning time, the better is likely the key dependent variable.