Fla. lawmakers look to expand day for underperforming schools

Lawmakers call for extra hour of class for underperforming elementary schools


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Does your kid need an extra hour of school? Florida lawmakers are saying yes, if the school is turning in low-level reading results.

The final bell could be ringing a little bit later for some schools and students next year. Florida lawmakers are calling for an extra hour of class for underperforming elementary schools.

"There's $75 million earmarked in the budget that can be used for after-school reading programs," said Wayne Blanton, of the Florida School Board Association.

The program started in 2012 when the legislature added an hour of reading instruction to the 100 lowest-performing elementary schools in the state. The list is based on reading scores of the Florida's Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT.

The budget calls for expanding the number to 300 schools this year.

"Maybe we will be expanding all elementary schools, at some point, into additional time," said Blanton. "We have always advocated longer school days."

Critics said helping kids is great, except the program is too broad.

Stuart Greenberg, former executive director of Just Read, Florida, said the schools don't have a set goal.

"There's not a reading threshold, so there's not a performance issue -- it's a ranking," said Greenberg. "As long as you continue to rank schools, someone will always be in the lowest 100, 200 or 300."

The extra hour doesn't come cheap; it could cost up to $300,000 per school.

"We find out about it in the middle to end of July, which allows us about 15 days to provide information to parents, teachers, work with transportation, and bring in additional sets of material and work on professional development," said Greenberg.

Students who score highest in an underperforming school could opt out of the extra hour.

The list of the lowest-performing 300 elementary schools in the state isn't expected to be out until later this summer.