A study by the Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability of 94 of the 101 elementary schools that landed on the list of lowest reading scores in the state of Florida showed that adding one hour to the school day of these schools is helping struggling students.
Erin Kourkounis, reporting for The Tampa Tribune, wrote that 61 of the 94 schools raised reading scores enough to be taken off the list in 2013-2014. Also, students at 19 of the “extra hour” schools outperformed similar students in schools that did not participate.
“What made us successful is what we did with that time,” Dover Elementary Principal Kayla Forcucci said. “We were very intentional with what we did with the extra time.”
The one downside to offering a longer school day is that districts do not receive extra money to accommodate the additional school time. In Hillsborough County, the extra hour is costing the system about $8.5 million for the current school year. The money has to be taken from the supplemental academic instructional budget and reading comprehension monies.
Dover Elementary improved its grade from D to a C last year, allowing students to return to a normal schedule when school began this year, to which students took some time to adjust. Many teachers wish they could still have the extended hour to complete all that is required in a school day.
Sen. David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) has, since 2012, made efforts to give students an hour of extra time in order to improve their reading skills. First, the effort was to be initiated in the 100 lowest-performing elementary schools, writes Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel. This school year, 300 schools with the lowest reading scores will have the extended hour. Simmons wants the 300 schools to continue the extended hour during the next school year along with the addition of summer school attendance.
The reason for studying in the summer is that kids from low-income families regress tremendously in their reading skills during the time away from school. Although administrators are quick to support more school time, they fear the program will be costly and individual districts will be footing the bill.
In Arkansas, when students across the state returned from Spring Break, they were met with a new, longer schedule. Because of numerous snow days this winter, many districts decided to extend school hours rather than tacking on days at the end of the school year.
“It’s a challenge to keep students engaged throughout the school day and now that we have another hour on the school day it’s going to be an even bigger challenge, Assistant Principal of Bauxite Middle School, Maro Foster.
Students’ extended schedule will mean later sport practices, later homework time, and when the young people can eat and snack, according to Laura E. Monteverdi reporting for KTHV-TV.
When UP Education Network restarts a school, the school gains, measurable and intangible, are a result of UP’s philosophy of academic rigor and a pervasive sense of joy and enthusiasm in the classroom, writes MassLive’s Laura Newberry. Most teachers and administrators are replaced when UP restarts a school, according to CEO Scott Given. So far, there have been five UP restarts in Massachusetts. Marshall Elementary School principal Lana Ewing explained:
“Our teachers are a passionate, dedicated group of individuals. And all our schools are like that. They have to believe in what we’re doing.”
The average school day for UP teachers is nine hours, while at regular Boston schools teachers are contracted at approximately 6.5 hours. The UP school year is five days longer than regular school’s. Also, one day each week, students get a half day off so teachers can work on curriculum and attend professional development seminars.
The extra time is a must if the achievement gap is to be closed, say UP officials. When asked if longer hours for regular school wages was a burden, a UP representative said the “rapid and dramatic growth” among students would not occur without this kind of structure.