Pasco parents question extra hour of reading for fourth, fifth graders
As news spread that 11 low-performing Pasco County elementary schools will offer an added hour of daily reading instruction, parents started questioning the need.
They've suggested that the school day will become too long with the schedule, and wondered whether they can opt out their children -- particularly if they scored well on the Florida Standards Assessment.
"While I am happy with the services Pasco County Schools has provided thus far, ... I want my son to have some sort of life outside of school," one father whose son earned a 4 wrote to superintendent Kurt Browning.
District officials have been looking into the possibilities. But they note that state law restricts their actions.
The law mandates the extra reading lessons, and it requires students who score below a Level 5 -- the best -- to attend. "Students enrolled in these schools who have level 5 assessment scores may participate in the additional hour of instruction on an optional basis," according to the statute.
All other students "fall under compulsory attendance requirements unless special circumstances exist that preclude their participation," a Florida Department of Education guidance document further explains.
The district tried to incorporate the material into its regular school day when planning its approach for 2015-16, but the state made clear that the instruction had to be "beyond the normal school day."
District leaders aren't saying much more on the issue, for now.
But their letter to parents does note that school buses will be available at "both release times." During state testing, superintendent Kurt Browning also acknowledged, but discouraged, that parents can come pick up their children at any time during the day. And attendance is usually taken in the morning.
The superintendent's leadership team is expected to discuss the issue further in coming days.