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Reinventing School: Summary and Materials from 6,000-Hour Learning Gap Forum

Date Added: 

November 4, 2013

Decrying not just an achievement gap but a “justice gap” and a “dream gap” between students from lower and higher income families, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker opened a forum on October 31, 2013 that introduced leaders in business, education and philanthropy to a three-year, public-private project to expand learning time in 20 New York City middle schools, with a focus on small-group literacy tutoring.

In Middle School ExTRA schools, sixth graders stay for an extra 2.5 hours a day (two periods plus supper) for academic support, sports and hands-on learning in arts and other subjects. A sub-group of these sixth graders who can read the words on a page, but struggle with comprehension, also meet for one hour a day, every day, with a literacy tutor.

Robin Hood Chief Program Officer Michael M. Weinstein estimated that, by employing ReServists as tutors, it costs about $10,000 to tutor four middle school students in reading every school day for three years.  If one student who otherwise would not have graduated from high school goes on to earn a diploma, he said, the benefit to society will be at least $200,000 in higher wages and greater life expectancy. Do some simple math, Mr. Weinstein said, and “you’re talking about a benefit-to-cost ratio of about 10-to-one.” He called this “a monstrously important, powerful intervention.”

“Reinventing School: The 6,000-Hour Learning Gap Stops Here” was co-hosted by Ford, Robin Hood and TASC. This summary page includes video presentations, papers, slides and informational graphics presented at the forum.

Opening Panel

TASC President Lucy Friedman noted that poor children are likely to enter middle school 6,000 hours behind their middle class peers in learning time (video and infographic).

New York City Department of Education Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky described how Middle School Quality Initiative supports these schools. Teams of teachers who share the same students meet regularly to discuss students’ academic and social/emotional progress. They use a simple reading inventory to pinpoint specific weaknesses in students’ reading skills. Teachers and principals get extra training in meeting new, higher literacy standards. They work with partnering community agencies to tailor activities and interventions. When all those pieces work together, he said, “I think you have a shot at using the expanded time in a meaningful and useful way.” He described the approach as “something we can scale much more broadly” if results are positive.

NYU education professor Pedro Noguera, who visited one of the participating schools, said he was struck by how compelling students found the books they were reading. Guests at the forum read a chapter and practiced being tutored on one of those books, “The Circuit” by Francisco Jimenez.

Roland G. Fryer, Jr., the faculty director of Harvard EdLabs, described how his team devised the small-group tutoring approach based on research. His full remarks are available through this video.  Harvard EdLabs provides more detail on the tutoring through this infographic.


In a workshop on “A Day in the Life of a Student at an MS ExTRA School,” PS/IS 109 Principal Dwight Chase and Global Kids Executive Director Evie Hantzopoulos described some of the projects students are exploring with teachers and Global Kids staff in the expanded hours. Those include Playing for Keeps, which puts students to work designing and building online games that address community challenges.

In a workshop on the Five Biggest Myths About Funding More and Better Learning Time Ford Foundation Program Officer Sanjiv Rao and TASC Vice President for Policy and Research Saskia Traill explored how to blend public funding streams. The full presentation is available here. TASC distributed a new fiscal map publication that documents 38 public sources that New York schools can tap to expand learning.


The president of The Wallace Foundation, Will Miller, closed the session by discussing the need for schools and community partners to collaborate to close opportunity gaps (a process he described as “not easy.") The full presentation is here. More research and ideas on expanded learning can be found through the Wallace Knowledge Center.

Resource Type: 

Commentaries, Policy Briefs, Videos