Charter schools like Alain Locke and KIPP schools (a network of some 80 schools that are often lauded for their success with at-risk students) have made big gains in closing gaps in student achievement, partly through expanded schedules. Other schools have been making strides, too – notably in Massachusetts and in the New Orleans system.
"If you want to look at schools where [the achievement gap is narrowing], they're saying they couldn't do it without the added time," says Jennifer Davis of the National Center on Time & Learning in Boston. "Even when you get good teachers into schools, you need added time."
According to studies, low-income students lose more than two months of reading skills over the summer. One conclusion from the studies: More than half the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income students can be accounted for by the differential in summer learning opportunities.
"It's over the summer months that disadvantaged kids fall behind," says Karl Alexander, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "If you have parents who themselves didn't succeed in school and aren't highly literate, kids aren't going to get those skills at home."