Sunday, January 21, 2018
Education

Hillsborough principals confident they can add reading time

TAMPA — Extra reading time, a state mandate that has some school districts in knots, has been an easier adjustment in Hillsborough County, administrators say.

While the state's list of 300 low-performing schools includes 26 in Hillsborough, officials say they can adjust to the new requirements without too much disruption.

The list, based on reading scores, represents an expansion of the state effort, which used to target 100 schools for an additional daily hour of reading.

But, even with the large number of schools that are affected, Hillsborough officials say they're in a good position because they already provide more school hours than the state requires.

Students in kindergarten through third grade, even in schools on the list, already spend enough time in school to satisfy the state mandate, said deputy superintendent Jeff Eakins.

More time is needed for fourth and fifth grade in schools on the list, but only 30 minutes.

Within the student day, children will get an hour of reading time beyond what the other schools get, Eakins said. And, although the state does not require it, schools that made the list will provide four more weeks of summer instruction so kids don't regress.

In some cases, adjustments to the schedule have resulted in a day that will actually be shorter.

"We'll be sending students home at 2:45 p.m. instead of 3:30," said Julie Scardino, principal of Sulphur Springs Elementary School, which got a C this year from the state but is on the list.

Sulphur Springs is unusual in that none of its students ride the bus. They'll be able to start their day at 8 a.m., as they did last year.

At other schools, where buses are on a tight schedule, the 30 minutes will be divided into 15 in the morning and 15 in the afternoon.

The state mandate comes at a time when Hillsborough's reading proficiency rate for grades three through five is 60 percent, exactly the same as the state's, according to this year's Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. That's two percentage points higher than the 2013 results.

Scardino said students have plenty of opportunities to get individual help in reading and other subjects if they need it. Extended learning activities are offered before and after school. "The lessons are hands-on and engaging, meant to further develop students' understanding of content," she said. Saturday academies last year helped the students boost their writing scores, she said.

While Scardino looks forward to giving her teachers planning time at the end of the day, Robles principal Bonnie McDaniel is gearing up for an expanded day.

It's a surprisingly easy sell, she said.

"All of the parents who I've shared this with in our community are welcoming it," she said. "Our students will become more powerful readers. My students will be excited."

Rachel Walters, the new principal of D-rated Shaw Elementary, said she doesn't expect to have trouble getting children to school 15 minutes early.

"We're going to encourage them to be there at 7:15 for breakfast," she said.

At Booker T. Washington Elementary, which improved this year from an F to a D, days that run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. are already a fact of life. For years, under a program called EdVenture, Washington and a handful of other high-poverty schools have stretched their hours to make time for music, sports and academic enrichment.

"It's almost business as usual with the extended time for reading," said principal Anthony Montoto. "We can just build that into the existing schedule."

Districtwide, the costs of even a modest increase in reading time add up to $9 million, budget officials said recently as they entered negotiations with the teachers' union.

Training will take place this month for the principals and reading coaches, said Barbara Hancock, the district's general director of elementary education.

"Our goal is always to improve reading proficiency and reading gains," she said. "Every year it does get easier."

Contact Marlene Sokol at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected] Follow @marlenesokol.

Comments
USF leaders move to calm fears over consolidation plan

USF leaders move to calm fears over consolidation plan

ST. PETERSBURG — Holding a piece of computer paper and a microphone, the leader of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg began a Friday afternoon forum by repeating the USF administration’s new mantra.He reassured the crowd before him that t...
Published: 01/19/18

Crews Lake thespians overcome the odds

SPRING HILL — It’s 8:30 a.m. — "homeroom" period in school speak — when kids in the Crews Lake Middle School drama club file into an empty chorus room to begin rehearsing under the direction of language arts teacher Kristen Sykora. There’s only 25 m...
Published: 01/19/18
Cuts hit top school leaders as Hillsborough sheds three six-figure salaries

Cuts hit top school leaders as Hillsborough sheds three six-figure salaries

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins on Friday announced the first in a series of belt-tightening moves that include the elimination of three six-figure positions.Jobs now held by Wynne Tye and Larry Sykes will no longer exis...
Published: 01/19/18
Tampa Bay schools warn parents about flu activity, dangers

Tampa Bay schools warn parents about flu activity, dangers

The Florida Department of Health has reported a sharp increase in flu activity in the last several weeks, prompting area schools to send out letters warning parents about the virus. At least two districts, however, say that flu activity in their scho...
Published: 01/19/18

More than 400 apply to Pasco technical high school

School choice for 2018-19 is in full swing, and district officials said they’ve been pleased with the interest they’ve seen so far.The window for applying to the district’s magnet schools closed Jan. 12, except for applications for the new Wendell Kr...
Published: 01/18/18
Read the report on the fatal FSU frat party: ‘The most intoxicated’ they had ever been

Read the report on the fatal FSU frat party: ‘The most intoxicated’ they had ever been

"On Nov. 3, 2017, the Tallahassee Police Department responded to 1012 Buena Vista Drive … in reference to a death investigation."So begins a charging document in the case of Andrew Coffey, the 20-year-old Florida State University student who was foun...
Published: 01/18/18
In St. Petersburg, skeptics sneer at plan to concentrate USF power in Tampa

In St. Petersburg, skeptics sneer at plan to concentrate USF power in Tampa

In the state capitol on Wednesday, lawmakers breezed through the bullet points of a higher education bill. They skimmed past a hot-button proposal to consolidate the University of South Florida System into a single university without a peep of pushba...
Published: 01/18/18
Lithia Springs Elementary gets kids up with standing desks

Lithia Springs Elementary gets kids up with standing desks

VALRICO — Fifth-grade math teacher Melissa Forsythe walked around her Lithia Springs Elementary School classroom on Tuesday with zeal.She stopped at each station and listened with a big smile on her face as her students told stories about their new s...
Published: 01/17/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Five things to know about teacher pay negotiations in Hillsborough

Five things to know about teacher pay negotiations in Hillsborough

TAMPA — They were hoping to receive between $15 million and $17 million in scheduled pay raises. But the Hillsborough County school district says it can’t afford to give its teachers anywhere near that much, while the teachers say they deserve nothin...
Published: 01/17/18
Updated: 01/18/18
Young Pasco teacher faces cancer with support of students

Young Pasco teacher faces cancer with support of students

NEW PORT RICHEY — At age 28, things were really shaping up for Joel Santos-Gonzalez. Fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a teacher, he had just completed his third year at Gulf Middle School."I always liked to talk to people on an intellectual ...
Published: 01/17/18
Updated: 01/18/18