Panel Paper: Is More Always Better? Final Outcome Findings from a Multi-Year Study of the Massachussetts Expanded Learning Time (ELT) Initiative

Friday, November 9, 2012 : 8:20 AM
International A (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Melissa Velez1, Amy Checkoway2 and Tamara Linkow1, (1)Abt Associates, (2)Abt Associates, Inc.

There is nationwide attention to alternatives to the traditional school calendar in order to improve academic performance; recent federal funding opportunities including the Race to the Top initiative and School Improvement Grant programs include focus on underperforming schools providing additional instructional time for students. There is some evidence that extending school time can effectively support student achievement, although generally research designs to look at effects are not rigorous enough to permit casual inferences (Patall, 2010).

The Massachusetts Expanded Learning Time (ELT) initiative provides grants to selected schools to redesign their schedules by adding 300-plus instructional hours to the school year to improve outcomes, broaden enrichment opportunities, and provide teachers with more planning and professional development time.  Nineteen ELT schools are currently funded within multiple districts.  All funded schools have now had at least three years to implement ELT; two cohorts have had four years; and one cohort has had five years. This five-year Abt evaluation, focuses on three questions: How has the ELT initiative been implemented? What are the outcomes of ELT for schools, students, and teachers? What is the relationship between implementation and outcomes?

The study collected annual implementation and impact data from ELT and matched comparison schools.  Teachers and students were surveyed about their perceptions and attitudes, and key ELT stakeholders were interviewed about detailed aspects of program implementation.  Longitudinal student-level achievement data and student-level demographic and behavior variables were provided by ESE. The impact analysis used a difference-of-differences approach that leverages pre-program data and data from matched comparison schools to produce estimated effects representing differences between ELT and comparison schools beyond what one might expect given pre-program measures and other secular initiatives affecting all schools.

One of the study’s key contributions was to integrate information from implementation and outcomes using an index based on principles of effective ELT operation; this implementation index provides a measure of fidelity that can be used both to understand school-level implementation and to explore relationships between implementation and outcomes. In the initiative’s fifth year, all funded schools implemented major ELT elements, with substantial variation across schools. There were no statistically significant effects of ELT after one, two, three, or four years of implementation on student achievement outcomes, except for a significantly positive effect on 5th grade science scores after four years of implementation.

Full Paper: