Fighting Poverty with Passion
“By the time a child from a low-income family reaches sixth grade, he or she has spent an estimated 6,000 fewer hours learning than a peer from a wealthy household” (Anatomy of a 6,000-hour Deficit, The Hechinger Report).
This fact is astounding; it is horrifying. And this fact is entirely real for an overwhelming number of children in the U.S. and within the city of New Orleans. This fact should make every single person who hears it wonder: “Is someone doing something about this?” I know it’s February: there are elections, there are parades, and there is King Cake; but let’s stop and think about this fact. According to The After-School Corporation (TASC), the organization responsible for this data, a tangible breakdown of these hours looks like this:
-220 fewer hours being read to by family members
-1,395 hours not spent in pre-kindergarten, which poor children access at much lower rates
-3,060 fewer hours doing after-school and extracurricular activities in elementary school
-1,080 fewer hours in camp and other summer programs
-245 fewer hours visiting zoos, museums and the like
(For more on this number, visit http://hechingered.org/content/anatomy-of-a-6000-hour-deficit_6457/ for the full article.)
Earlier this month I traveled to TASC headquarters in New York City for a 2-day national convention. Everyone invited to this convention was somehow involved in the implementation of Expanded Learning Time (ELT) Schools in New York, Baltimore and New Orleans. Prior to my arrival, I assumed this convention was merely a time to discuss the performance of ELT Schools across the country. But within the first hour of the first day, TASC aired its promo video and I realized it was about much more than exchanging stories about what it’s like to do ELT. Part of TASC’s video was a rundown of the state of education in the U.S. and it was during this segment that the figure – 6,000 – flashed across the screen in bold letters. Even after the video ended, this figure lingered in the room. And its presence permeated every discussion of ELT that followed. We simply couldn’t discuss the implementation of ELT schools in inner cities without anchoring it within this larger question: will Expanded Learning Time help shrink the colossal opportunity gap between low- and middle-income students?
What can we do for these low-income children who are already 6,000 hours behind their peers? Well, they “either need more time in school to catch up, or they need to ask the wealthier kids ahead of them, ‘please take Thursdays and Fridays off,” says Harvard economist Roland Fryer (The Hechinger Report). Three years ago, the brains at TASC decided to take the former route to address this problem. In 2011, they launched ExpandED Schools by TASC in New York, Baltimore and New Orleans. The ExpandED School model has a unique design because not only does it give students an extra three hours of learning time, it also completely reinvents the traditional school day. At an ExpandED School, expanded learning time is implemented throughout the whole school and students engage in skill-based academic and enrichment opportunities throughout the day. Each school partners with a community group to provide enriching and innovative classes such as band, dance, sports, cooking, creative writing, and videography. The school and community partner share responsibility for the delivery of enrichment classes. The result: schools with stronger social ties to the community and students with better attendance, grades, and test scores; stronger work habits; and more positive social behaviors.
Learn more about the ExpandED School model and see what it looks like in action. Visit http://www.tascorp.org/.
At the end of this two-day convening, the consensus in the room seemed to be a tentative, yet hopeful: “yes” to the question posed above. Yes, ExpandED Schools by TASC do help to chip away at those 6,000 hours. TASC has implemented a model that is effective and that gives low-income students the additional time and opportunity that they need and deserve. What is more, ExpandED Schools may also serve as a national model as to how to close the nationwide opportunity gap. So, y’all can go back to your King Cake and watch the parades while comforted by the fact that yes, that number is horrifying but someone is doing something to make it smaller.
Above is a photo of one of the many arts enrichment classes offered at an ExpandED School.