A growing number of public schools have adopted reforms that increase the amount of time students spend in school, but researchers don't yet understand the potential costs. To fill this research gap, Fran O'Reilly co-wrote an article on the findings from a resource-cost study conducted in four schools that participated in the Massachusetts Expanded Learning Time Initiative.
Researchers identified the resources schools use to implement their expanded-time programs by citing all program resources used to produce observed effects. This method, called the "ingredients method," included resources that were contributed or donated from sources outside the school. This study revealed large differences in per-pupil costs among schools, which was unsurprising given the differences in schools' programs. In fact, the differences in cost were associated with how schools used and staffed the additional time. None of the programs in any of the schools offered a cost-neutral approach, which highlights the need for additional research into the potential costs of such programs, as well as available funding sources.
These findings raise questions about the cost feasibility of expanded time reforms in public schools based on existing Federal, state, and private funding initiatives. Lack of quality information about cost may result in errors when decision-makers estimate the resources needed to implement these programs.