Advertisement
  1. Education

Low-performing Pasco schools aim to add hour of reading in same class time

John Legg
Published Jul. 23, 2014

LACOOCHEE — Even before the directive arrived, principal Latoya Jordan intended to add more reading to her students' day at Lacoochee Elementary.

Her plan called for stragglers to get a half-hour of daily remediation while high achievers receive enrichment.

Then she learned that Lacoochee, which improved its state grade from D to one point shy of B, had landed on the state's list of 300 lowest-performing schools in reading. That triggered a state mandate to provide 60 minutes of daily reading instruction on top of what students already got.

But when the Pasco School District set its school bell schedules for 2014-15, the start and end times for Lacoochee hadn't changed. The same was true for the district's two other elementary schools on the lowest 300 list, Cox and Gulfside.

Hoping to avoid paying an estimated $975,000 for additional bus routes and teacher time, Pasco district and school leaders said they will infuse the lessons into the existing class day — not extend it.

"You can use your school day more effectively and efficiently to make this happen," said Rayann Mitchell, a senior supervisor in the district's Office of Teaching and Learning. "We're looking at every single minute of the school day. We have easily found an hour."

The question remains whether that's acceptable.

Florida law states the schools must "provide an additional hour of instruction beyond the normal school day for each day of the entire school year for intensive reading instruction."

Department of Education memos to districts explain that schools may provide the lessons at any time, but any plan must result in 60 extra minutes of instruction for any student who didn't earn a 5 on FCAT reading.

Senate Education Committee chairman John Legg said lawmakers intended more time learning in class.

"The idea was that perhaps in some of these schools they could benefit from an extended school day," he said.

Lawmakers didn't write any accountability system into the law, though. The Department of Education has no specific authority to monitor how districts implement the extra hour (unlike other programs where districts must submit plans and get approval).

"It is the districts' responsibility to adhere to the law as approved by the Legislature," DOE spokesman Joe Follick said.

Other districts, including Hillsborough and Pinellas, have extended the days of their schools on the list.

"It's expensive," Hillsborough schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia said. "But of course you have to do it."

The requirement means juggling transportation schedules and reorganizing staff time. The state pays for the program through its supplementary academic instruction and reading funds. Busing costs extra.

This year Hillsborough plans to add four weeks of classes to the 24 schools on the list, spokeswoman Tanya Arja said.

Pinellas schools are changing bell times at schools on the list, cutting back in other areas, spokeswoman Donna Winchester said.

Pasco officials are still working on the details.

One of their first inclinations was to limit the cost.

Transportation department schedulers determined that adding a half-hour to the day would cost $6,200 at Lacoochee and $7,500 at Gulfside.

An added hour of teacher time beyond the 7.5-hour day, meanwhile, would cost about $963,000 for the three schools. And that was before any contract negotiations took place.

"This is the kicker right here: big money," assistant superintendent Ray Gadd wrote in a note to superintendent Kurt Browning.

Dollar signs in mind, planners began to seek other alternatives. They found a few districts that had reconfigured existing time and found that model appealing.

"We are not cutting lunch," Mitchell emphasized.

Instead, the schools are considering changes to the timing of physical education classes and looking at better ways to integrate reading into other subjects.

At Lacoochee, the extra reading time Jordan had planned would be absorbed into the new model.

"We're just adding 60 extra minutes to our reading block," she said. "We had 90. We were going to have 120. Now because of this we will have 150."

Mitchell said none of the district's plans are cemented.

"We don't have all the bugs worked out," she said. "We absolutely want to do what's best for kids. We have to figure out how to manage it."

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at jsolochek@tampabay.com or (813) 909-4614. Follow @jeffsolochek.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. University of South Florida forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle pieces together a skull that might have been Amelia Earhart's. SANDRA C. ROA  |  University of South Florida
    DNA from a skull found in 1940 could prove whether the famous aviator has been found.
  2. A Hernando County Sheriff's deputy talks to students in the cafeteria of Brooksville Elementary School in 2018. Earlier this month, the school district put forward a proposal to move away from a contract with the Sheriff and establish its own police force. On Tuesday, it announced it would drop that idea.
    Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis spoke out this week against the proposal.
  3. Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco discuss salary and benefits during negotiations on Sept. 18, 2019. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff Writer
    The sides have not set a time to resume discussions on teacher pay.
  4. Vials of medical marijuana oil. [Monica Herndon | Tampa Bay Times]
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  5. The Pasco County school district is considering adopting a policy for student medical marijuana use on district property. [Getty Images]
    The rule will not change the district’s current approach to the touchy topic.
  6. Shown in 2002, Carolyn Hill, then the principal of Kenly Elementary School in east Tampa, celebrated after 78 of her students improved their state scores and were treated to lunch at The Colonnade Restaurant. Hill, now deceased, might be honored Tuesday as the Hillsborough County School Board considers naming a school for her in the SouthShore area. STAFF  |  Tampa Bay Times
    School Board members will select a name on Tuesday
  7. Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, 55, is now in his 11th year leading the fourth largest school district in the nation. Miami Herald
    The charismatic leader of the nation’s fourth-largest school district has a complicated legacy. He almost took over the Pinellas County School District in 2008.
  8. Alachua County school superintendent Karen Clarke welcomes the crowd at a "listening session" Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019 to discuss changes in the Florida's education standards. A similar session is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at Jefferson High, 4401 W Cypress St. in Tampa. The Florida Channel
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  9. The Pinellas School Board recognized James Krull as the district's bus Driver of the Year at its meeting Tuesday. From left are board members Bill Dudley, Eileen Long, Carol Cook, Rene Flowers, Krull, and board members Nicole Carr, Joanne Lentino and Lisa Cane. Pinellas County Schools
    News and notes about K-12 schools and colleges in Pinellas County.
  10. In this image from a telecast by The Florida Channel, Florida education commissioner Richard Corcoran speaks to a Gainesville crowd that came to discuss revisions to the state's education standards this past week. “We’re going to end up with the world’s best standards,” Corcoran said. The Florida Channel
    The effort, ordered by Gov. Ron DeSantis, aims to transform the way students learn in public schools. A “listening session” is set for Tampa’s Jefferson High.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement