Extending the school day by an hour for low performing schools in Florida is being touted as a way to fix reading scores. However, educators caution that the amount of time is not all that matters,but the quality of the time and how it is used.
The “Lowest 300” program is now in its fifth year. “The more time, the better, but you have to be able to plan before you do anything,” said Michelle Zayas, a second-grade teacher at Hillsborough County’s Robles Elementary School, which has been on the list since 2014. “It’s what you’re doing with that extra hour.”
If it is done well, that additional hour can improve children’s reading skills significantly, say officials.
Almost a decade ago, State Senator David Simmons started advocating for longer days, by creating a pilot program adding an hour at four schools in Central Florida. One school jumped from a grade of F to an A, and the others improved dramatically as well. He has been promoting the concept ever since.
In 2012, he convinced colleagues in the state legislature to require 100 elementary schools with the lowest reading scores to add an extra hour. Two years later, the number of schools expanded to 300.
“They just need a little extra time and attention,” Simmons said of the students. “If we give these children a helping hand, they’ll be able to do great things.”