ELOs: Looking outside the school day for a transformation in education

What if the biggest opportunity for improvement in education happens outside of the school day?

National Education reform discussions focus on a search for an elusive magic bullet that will somehow transform the traditional 8am–3pm school day—and eliminate our educational achievement gaps. Decades of experience suggest we shouldn’t hold our breath.

What if there was another way? A more effective, less expensive and more enriching way to improve educational outcomes—particularly for low-income kids? One that is already showing results in Nebraska and ready for a scale-up?

There is. It’s the high-quality, hands-on learning that happens afterschool and
during the summer.

The school day is not enough.

Between the bells at 8 and 3, between the months of August and May, there’s only so much learning that can be crammed in. Schools are increasingly forced to focus instruction on a few key areas—those that are tested—leaving other, equally important areas unexplored.


However, kids spend only 18.5% of their waking hours in a classroom setting (Learning in Informal and Formal Environments Center). And our focus on classroom instruction misses other major learning opportunities—after school and summer. The type of learning that happens after school and in summer learning programs is different. It’s more hands-on, with more room for student directed exploration, in-depth digging, skill practice and social-emotional growth. It’s not just an extension of school that matters. It’s an expansion of learning time, learning type and quality.

That’s why we call afterschool and summer programs Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELOs). elolist


An Expanded Learning Opportunity—or ELO—is a high-quality afterschool or
summer educational experience that takes place outside the context of the regular school day. These hands-on, experiential, enriching chances to learn that build on, but don’t duplicate, what students are learning during the school day, and allow new and exciting ways to interact with the subject matter.



Nebraska Children and Families Foundation supports children, young adults and families at risk with the overall goal of giving our state's most vulnerable kids what they need to reach their full potential. We do this by building strong communities that support families so their children can grow up to be thriving, productive adults.

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Posted in Middle Childhood

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