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Kennedy Addresses School Reform at the Center for American Progress

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American Chronicle |

Kennedy Discusses Benefits of Expanded Learning Time and the Massachusetts Model Washington, D.C. Today, Senator Edward M. Kennedy discussed the critical importance of improving student performance and closing the achievement gaps for all students through expanding time for learning and enrichment at the Center for American Progress. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the first state to undertake a systemic initiative to expand school schedules. The Center for American Progress sponsored a study to close achievement gaps by expanding learning time in the classroom, and Massachusetts is the furthest along in adopting and implementing this type of reform. Senator Kennedy co-sponsored legislation establishing the Commission on Time and Learning, which called for leveraging more time for learning in schools and was a significant factor in establishing the federal role in afterschool programs. This year, as part of the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, Senator Kennedy will introduce the Teaching Fellows for Expanded Learning and After-School Act of 2007, to establish a new, highly-trained National Service Corps to advance expanded-day and after-school learning opportunities. This Corps will work in partnerships with school districts and community-based organizations to lead a dynamic education reform effort, and enrich students’ opportunities to learn. Senator Kennedy’s remarks are below, as well as a summary of the Teaching Fellows for Expanded Learning and After-School Act of 2007. The Teaching Fellows for Extended Learning and After-School Bill (T- FELAS): Senator Edward Kennedy The 19th century school calendar of 180 days per year and 6.5 hours per day does not meet the educational demands of our 21st century economy. Extended learning time in after-school hours or the summer are an important but often overlooked resource to advance school success. Engaging young people after-school lifts the educational attainment of low-income students, while also decreasing juvenile crime and high risk behavior. Historically, high need schools and after-school programs have been hard-pressed to recruit and retain dynamic educators and leaders. Studies document high rates of turnover and low levels of training among staff. The nation needs a new strategy to recruit talented front-line educators to serve in extended learning and after-school environments, to assist experienced teachers in the classroom and facilitate the success of students in need. The Teaching Fellows for Extended Learning and After-school Bill: Establishes a new National Service Teacher Corps • Recruits Extended Learning and After-school Teaching Fellows to coordinate enriching and academically oriented extended-day programs for students and to assist teachers during the school day during their two years of service. • Prepares Fellows to administer extended learning or after-school programs through intensive, experiential training by experienced community based organizations of high quality after-school programs. • Enables Fellows to pursue a graduate level degree in education to increase knowledge and skills and expand opportunities for future involvement in public education. Promotes Extended Learning Opportunities • Adds 25-30% more time to the school day to help students meet higher performance standards. • Recruits and engages community mentors and volunteers to provide relevant real world experiences and promote stronger adult-child relationships. Improves After-school Programs • Links school day and after-school program learning objectives through efficient and effective collaboration between teachers and fellows. • Provides dynamic, recent college graduates to engage students with after-school programs that emphasize motivation, perseverance, teamwork, and other values that are critical to school success. Senator Edward M. Kennedy: Center for American Progress Event on Extended Learning Thank you, John, for that generous introduction, and for all the impressive work you do at the Center on so many issues facing our nation. I’m especially pleased that you’re focusing today on education a topic so critical to the strength and the future of our democracy. I commend my friends from Massachusetts joining us this morning to discuss the important work underway to improve public education in our Commonwealth. We’re proud of the efforts of Dave Driscoll, Chris Gabrieli, Jennifer Davis, and many others who have worked over the years to improve our schools and keep them strong for the future. Thanks to your efforts and to leaders like Jim Caradonio, Robin Harris and Paul Toner, we’re well on the path to building an outstanding education system for all parents and children in our state. Now, more than ever, the strength of America depends on the strength of our public schools. Education has long been the key to opportunity and a strong economy. Our schools and teachers prepare young Americans to compete and succeed in an ever-changing economy. Education is key to our national security. We cannot protect America and maintain our progress in the world without skilled and well-trained citizens. Education is the key to good citizenship. Good schools can shape the character of our citizens, and train Americans to participate in our democracy, and to serve our country and our communities. More than a basic value or a founding belief, education has been a force to move America forward. It has been the engine of the American dream. Today marks the fifth anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Act. When we crafted that important piece of legislation, we sought to modernize and reform our public schools, and reaffirm the original commitment made in the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act. ESEA was a landmark achievement crafted as part of the War on Poverty and signed by President Johnson. It sought to strengthen America’s schools and their capacity to provide a good education for all students. It allocated a new federal investment to help offset the harmful effects of poverty on education, and it recognized the importance of establishing America’s classrooms as a haven of learning that provides opportunity to enable all students, even the most vulnerable, to succeed. No Child Left Behind advanced those noble goals, and recognized that new reforms were also needed to confront the challenge of closing the achievement gap. It required every state to implement standards specifying what children should know and be able to do, and urged states to establish high-quality assessments to measure students’ progress. It expanded support for early reading and literacy, re-affirmed the importance of after-school programs and reducing class size. It offered extra tutoring to students in struggling schools, and required a highly-qualified teacher for every child. Later this month, we will be discussing in greater detail plans for the reauthorization. Today, I am meeting with the President and my colleagues in the House and Senate Senator Enzi, Chairman Miller, and Congressman McKeon to begin a bipartisan discussion on this important legislation. I am hopeful that we can move forward this year to create a blueprint that will help us succeed in meeting the promise made five years ago in the No Child Left Behind Act. We’ll need to provide the resources schools need to see these reforms through. No child means no child, and we must be willing to make the tough choices and the hard sacrifices to invest in and improve education in America it’s the key to future opportunity and success for every one of our children. We need a strategy that helps our schools advance not retreat to respond to the challenge of providing a good education to all students and closing the achievement gap. We need to hear from those working each day to meet this challenge and consider new and creative solutions so this law works for our students. We need new strategies for attracting and keeping good teachers in our neediest schools. We’ll consider incentives to attract the best teachers to the schools that need them the most, and we’ll explore increased salaries for those with a track-record of success that want to help their peers improve and succeed in their teaching ability. We’ll need more effective ways to measure student progress, and better plans to hold schools accountable for fulfilling the law’s promise that every child counts Black or White, Hispanic or Asian, rich or poor. At the same time, we need to create incentives for states to ensure that their standards are not just nationally but internationally competitive so our graduates can be successful in our global economy. We’ll also need to do more to respond to the non-academic needs of students, which make such a difference for how well children learn in school. In this reauthorization, we’ll look to support community programs that address children’s social, emotional, and physical needs. We’ll also make parent involvement a top priority, and offer support to schools to better engage parents and families in their child’s education. We’ll need to help states and school districts develop an infrastructure to respond to the over 9,000 low-income schools identified for improvement under No Child Left Behind’s accountability standards. We’ll need to do more to help shape a roadmap for success in those schools. And we’ll need effective strategies to help turn-around struggling schools. Today, we are here to learn about and applaud an initiative in Massachusetts that has advanced one of these key strategies, by reviewing the school schedule and providing the time needed for all students to reach high standards. In Massachusetts, we have a long history and a pioneering spirit on education. John Adams included a specific provision on the issue when he drafted the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, proclaiming that the education of the whole people was “necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties.” Since then, Massachusetts has been home to legendary reformers such as Horace Mann, who first recognized that public schools could be the “great equalizer” that delivers opportunity for all to fulfill their potential.We’ve taken the ideals of John Adams and Horace Mann to heart, and tried to follow their spirit ever since to provide a quality education for every citizen. The Education Reform Act in 1993 charted a new course for education in the state, by emphasizing high standards, rigorous accountability, and teacher quality. We need to build on that foundation in Massachusetts and at the federal level as well by implementing strategies and policies to succeed in our reform efforts so no child is left behind. Soon after the enactment of our landmark education reform in the state, the Massachusetts Commission on Time and Learning convened to develop a plan to bridge the crucial gaps in student learning and enable students to succeed in school. The Commission’s recommendations resulted in a greater share of school hours devoted to teaching in core subjects, and some changes to school scheduling. Most notably, it launched efforts to expand after-school opportunities, which have now grown to include over 120,000 students in our state. Today, that strategy has evolved into a new plan to give students the extra time and opportunities they need to master 21st century skills in a new, global economy. Today’s workforce demands a fresh look at the time spent in school. The six hour school day once relevant in agrarian societies no longer fits the demands of our new economy. American students spend 80 percent of their waking hours outside of school, but must still compete with those across the world spending an average of 30 percent more time learning and mastering subjects in school. Expanding and adjusting learning time in school is not merely sound policy it’s a necessary imperative to maintain our competitive edge. It addresses teaching and learning the elements that matter most in our nation’s schools. Extra time gives students the room they need to master challenging subjects. It gives teachers the time they need to cover material in greater depth. It also helps students with the greatest need. Those at risk of being left behind are often those who need one-on-one help to bridge the gaps in their learning and to reach high standards. It opens new opportunities for children to improve their learning. We hear a great deal about narrowing the curriculum in today’s schools, and we know students need a fuller educational experience to develop and grow. A recent study shows that students participating in after-school enrichment in the arts, foreign language study, and physical education were more likely to be promoted to the next grade, master standards in reading, writing, and math, and attend school more regularly than those who did not receive such services. It also gives teachers greater opportunities for planning and improving the curriculum. We know that common planning time for teachers helps develop more consistent and complimentary lessons among grades and subjects. A study of teacher time conducted by Stanford University found that elementary school teachers in the nation are allotted only 9 percent of time to spend preparing for classes, planning with other teachers, and developing curriculum and assessments. Middle and high school teachers spend 15 percent of their time on such activities. But our European and Asian counterparts spend 44 percent of their time on planning and preparing for lessons. We can do better. With an expanded day, three Massachusetts schools are now providing a dedicated block of time for teachers every Friday to meet, plan lessons, and share best practices, while students participate in enrichment activities. I’m proud of the partnership in Massachusetts to support schools in their efforts to adopt this 21st century reform. Massachusetts 2020 played an essential role in convening teachers, parents, superintendents, and school leaders to consider the importance of adjusting the school day and tapping its potential for student learning. With bipartisan support, our state made this a priority. We’ve followed this issue for years at the federal level, first with the Nation at Risk report and later with the National Commission on Time and Learning. Its significance is even greater today as we consider needed reforms in the No Child Left Behind Act and renew our commitment to closing the achievement gap. Later this week, I will introduce a proposal to establish a new, highly-trained National Service Corps to advance expanded learning opportunities in our nation’s schools needing the greatest assistance, resources, and help. This corps of 20,000 dynamic and aspiring educators will work in partnerships with school districts and community-based organizations to lead a dynamic education reform effort, and enrich students’ opportunities to learn. Talented recent college graduates will be recruited as Americorps volunteers, receiving a stipend, as well as scholarships for graduate studies, to serve as a resource in schools seeking to expand the school program to include enrichment activities tied to the school’s curriculum. These enrichment activities can take many forms. Programs in Massachusetts like Citizen Schools link high school students with real world experience through apprenticeships with lawyers, doctors and other professionals. Other programs partner with community organizations, including museums, art programs, Boys and Girls Clubs, and universities, creating unique learning experiences that build on what they have learned during the school day. I commend Hilary Pennington and the Center for the paper being released today that provides insight into the Massachusetts initiative. I thank my friends here today from Massachusetts for their work in our state. And I thank each of you for all you do so well to advance the great goal of providing a quality education to every student in America. I look forward to working with you all as we move forward to ensure that No Child Left Behind is not a political slogan, but a moral commitment to our nation’s children.

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afterschool, Center for American Progress