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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Extra instructional hour for low-performing Florida schools helped, report states



For many years, some educators and policy makers have contended that students could perform better in school if they spent more time learning. One of the big issues, as you might expect, is the cost.

The Florida Legislature put a limited version of the concept into motion in 2012, mandating that the state's 100 public elementary schools with the lowest reading FCAT scores add an hour of daily reading instruction. Now lawmakers are taking a closer look at whether the idea has worked so far.

The state Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability has reviewed the early results of the initiative, and reports that a majority of the schools involved in 2012-13 showed improvement after implementing the extra hour.

The OPPAGA report shows that 66 of the 100 schools rose off the lowest performer list. Thirty remained on the list, while four closed.

At 73 of the schools, higher percentages of students were reading at or above grade level than the year before, and at 72 they had more students who had been below grade level making a year's worth of gains or more.

Principals interviewed had positive views of extra hour, with 30 of those who had their schools removed from the low performing list choosing to continue the extra hour anyway. Perhaps the biggest problem that the principals revealed in the review was a lack of time to prepare for implementing the extended day. Many did not learn of the requirement until two weeks before the start of the school year.

OPPAGA recommends that the state offer earlier notification to schools that will have to add the hour of instruction. It also suggests making the program multi-year, to give schools more ability to reinforce the student reading lessons and provide added support for students.

The state Senate education appropriations subcommittee will review this report Thursday afternoon. The committee, which oversees public education budgets, would have to decide whether the program is cost effective and whether to recommend continued funding.

[Last modified: Thursday, January 9, 2014 10:01am]


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