Florida Department of Education clarifies extended day rule for lowest 300
The Florida Department of Education on Friday issued a memo to school districts advising that the term "beyond the normal school day" means just that when it comes to how the state's 300 lowest-performing elementary schools expand their reading instruction. Commissioner Pam Stewart wrote:
"For purposes of compliance with this requirement, a school year is understood to be comprised of 180 instructional days, section 1011.61(1)(c)2., Florida Statutes, and the additional instructional time requirement is understood to be additive relative to the current minimums of 720 hours per year for students in grades K-3 and 900 hours per year for students in grades 4 and higher, section 1011.61(1)(a)1., Florida Statutes.
"Therefore, each school identified as one of the 300 lowest performing elementary schools in reading will be required to schedule a minimum of 900 annual instructional hours for students in grades K-3, and 1080 annual instructional hours for students in grades 4 and higher, through an additional hour of reading instruction provided each day during the regular 180-day school year."
Schools that already meet that mandate don't have to add more.
Questions about the provision arose this week as the Pasco County school district announced it would add the reading lessons but had no plans to lengthen the school days at three schools that landed on the Lowest 300 list. The law had no accountability measures attached, leaving DOE officials to say that it was up to districts to follow the law as written.
In the memo, Stewart made clear the state's expectation, and also asserted that the state does indeed have enforcement abilities.
"Pursuant to section 1008.32, Florida Statutes, the State Board of Education shall withhold funds from a school district that fails to comply with this requirement," Stewart wrote.
The Pasco School Board is scheduled to set its start and end times for all schools on Tuesday. So far, its three schools on the list -- Lacoochee, Cox and Gulfside elementary schools -- are not slated to add to their days. Stay tuned.