Across the country, there is growing recognition that the traditional six-hour school day and 180-day school year fail to provide enough time to prepare young people for the challenges of the 21st Century. While wealthy families can invest in additional instruction in a broad array of subjects and personalized support outside of school, other children often lack access to such support, widening the gaps in opportunity and achievement.
In an effort to enhance educational opportunity for hundreds of Bloomfield Public Schools students, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving has awarded a one-year grant of $395,798 to support an extended school day and increased year-long support for student learning. The primary mechanism for achieving these goals will be through the significant expansion of Bloomfield Public Schools’ family and community partnerships.
Bloomfield Public Schools’ plan is to make “extended learning opportunities” available to every Bloomfield student. Administrators are working with parents and the surrounding community to design an approach to integrate traditional schooling and a well-rounded curriculum with after-school and out-of-school learning opportunities. Bloomfield is seeking to develop more “anytime/anywhere learning opportunities” recognizing that many learning experiences exist outside of traditional K-12 schooling, including online learning, afterschool programs, summer camps, libraries or museums. All of these opportunities give children the skills and experiences they need to develop to be successful in school and life.
“Across the nation, hundreds of schools have begun to offer the type of extended learning opportunities planned by Bloomfield Public Schools, with impressive results.” said Sara Sneed, director of education investments at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. “The Hartford Foundation’s aim is to increase educational equity through this very type of systemic change. Our goal through this investment is to help every Bloomfield Public School student experience the best educational opportunity possible, so that they graduate well-prepared for college, career and civic participation.”
In April 2014, the district received a planning grant from the Hartford Foundation to determine how to increase family, school and community partnerships to support its students. Bloomfield Schools used Foundation funds to research a variety of extended learning models and to engage both families and the surrounding community in conversation about the possibility of a district-wide initiative of extended learning for all students.
To develop and implement the plan to extend the learning day and year, Bloomfield school administrators formed a steering committee consisting of central office leadership, seven parent representatives (one from each BPS parent teacher organization), school administrators and teachers, a board of education member, and an after school program partner. Focus groups, surveys, and a number of special meetings were convened to diverse perspectives in the development of a district-wide extended learning initiative.
The district also conducted two “community provider fairs” to offer school and district staff the opportunity to ask potential partners questions about their capacity and willingness to develop a long-term partnership. Each Bloomfield school sent a team of five persons to each fair, including parents.
"Extended learning opportunities have been a key driver in Bloomfield Public Schools' efforts to improve student performance and significantly narrowing the academic achievement gap in Connecticut,” said Dr. James Thompson, superintendent of Bloomfield Public Schools. “This support from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving will enable our district to work in partnership with Bloomfield families and community resources to enhance our enrichment programs and better prepare students for college and meaningful careers."
Over the next five years, Bloomfield Public Schools plans to develop and implement new extended day, week and year programming to all students in its district. The first year of this effort will be focused on system and school-level capacity building.
The first year of the plan, supported by the Hartford Foundation, is limited to the district's two elementary schools, Laurel and Metacomet -- and dedicated to infrastructure planning, including:
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. In 2015, the Foundation celebrates 90 years of grantmaking in the Greater Hartford region, made possible by gifts from thousands of generous individuals, families and organizations. It has awarded grants of more than $620 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.
[Photo, left to right: From Bloomfield Public Schools, Stacey MCann, Director of School Improvement & Intervention, Elisa Pierce, District Grant Specialist, and Dr. James Thompson, Superintendent.]