The deputy assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education spoke at the left-wing think tank Center for American Progress this past week. After his remarks, several leaders of afterschool nonprofit programs participated in a panel discussion on the expansion and value of afterschool programs.
Jonathan Brice, deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Education, told the audience, “In education, everything matters. Curriculum matters, assessments matter, professional development for teachers, access and opportunity to higher level coursework matters for all children.” He pushed for extending the normal school day in order to increase “the role that community partners play to make schools successful.” He thought that all educators should believe that“every child…has both the access and opportunity to quality preschool to postsecondary experience.”
One measure of success, for him, was a “focus on early learning schools” and giving schools access to new technology like broadband Internet. Brice pushed for “state-developed, college and career-ready standards” that will help in “high-paying and rewarding” jobs in the future. “So,” he said, “extended learning time matters.”
He said that snow days and standardized testing take valuable time away from the classroom, at least in the state of Maryland. He claimed that standardized testing took about ten class days.
Brice also argued, “Extended learning matters because in some cases it could be the only reason young people come to school.” He added that it “exposes young people to individuals” whom students would not have been exposed to previously without afterschool programs; and is “a way to get kids to learn, but having them think it’s all about fun.”
“Learning does not have to be rote memorization, not something boring, something that is a lot of fun,” Brice argued. “It is a great opportunity to take stock in the fact that these opportunities can be the difference, the tipping point.” He said that in his own experience in Baltimore, Maryland, “we were able to change the culture and climate in our district.”
Brice said schoolteachers and educators cannot discount the impact of mentors outside of school, and gave the example of local architects helping students expand their creative horizons. He pushed the idea that “as long as the work is aligned” between classroom instruction and their afterschool programs, it will be an effective education tool and would be fun and enjoyable for the children. “Unless we make it fun, it has to be different than the traditional day,” Brice said.
With “over $1.16 billion” dedicated to providing “additional access” to young people, Brice said that the U.S. is “100% committed” to extended learning programs. And, to his last point, he added that “We think we can create a cadre of young people…at some point, the light bulb goes on and other people in their lives are pushing them into advanced placement courses, inter-baccalaureate courses.” He concluded, “Extended learning, by far, is one of the most important things that we do” and he felt, there are “some things that matter just a little bit more, and extended learning is one of them.”