Ford Wants a Longer School Day. But It Also Wants to See the Data

The Ford Foundation's K-12 giving is rooted in the idea that the traditional six-hour school day and 180-day school year—schedules that have been the status quo in U.S. public education for decades—do not allocate enough learning time. (See IP's profile of Ford's K-12 funding.) That's especially true for low-income kids, who need the kind of extra help and attention that more affluent kids routinely get on top of school hours. Yet while education has seen a wave of innovations and advances—in curriculum, teaching methods, accountability, and data use — the school schedule and calendar remain stubbornly stuck in the past.

Fortunately, a growing number of schools have experimented with extended school days and longer school years to provide additional learning and instructional time, with the help of Ford's More and Better Learning Time education initiative. Ford hopes to make longer school days and school years "the new normal" in American education. Now, the foundation would like to know about more about the effect that those additional hours and days are having on student learning.

Enter the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, which recently received a two-year, $1.75 million grant to measure the impact of educational initiatives such as extended school days and years. In addition, Annenberg will collaborate with partner school districts and other organizations that are focused on narrowing the achievement gaps that exist in U.S. public schooling, especially in urban areas. Rather than simply relying on standardized test scores as the sole measure of student achievement, Annenberg will use the grant funds to examine how schools and other organizations in cities collaborate to create conditions that expand access to extended learning opportunities. The work will begin in Los Angeles before turning to other cities.

This is not the Annenberg Institute's first Ford Foundation grant. The research and policy analysis organization's initial grant from Ford was awarded in August 2012 to assess the implementation of the More and Better Learning Time initiative.