5 Manatee elementary schools with worst reading scores to have one hour added to school day

eearl@bradenton.comAugust 9, 2013 

MANATEE -- The five Manatee County schools on the state's list of lowest-performing schools for reading scores will have to keep students in class each day for an extra hour of reading.

The Florida Department of Education will require students at Samoset, Daughtrey, Oneco, Palmetto and Orange Ridge-Bullock elementaries to have a longer school day this year. The extra hour of reading each day is designed to help students bring up their reading scores and prepare them for the next grade level.

Deputy superintendent of instruction Diana Greene said the extra hour will most likely be added to the end of the school day to accommodate the district bus schedule, although Greene said schools can also design their own plan to add the extra hour.

"Their teacher will also teach the additional hour, although I would also like to have a reading specialist," Greene said.

The additional hour is required for the entire 2013-14 school year for the five elementary schools, and students may have to miss out on after-school clubs and activities to meet the reading program requirements. The longer days will begin Aug. 19, the first day of school.

The district will fund the extra hour of instruction each day through the normal operating budget and Title I revenues.

According to a release sent from the Florida Senate, districts with schools on the state's 100 lowest performing list will be required to submit a detailed account of expenditures and student outcomes for each of the participating schools to the Florida Senate by September 2014.

Not all students will be required to spend that extra hour in reading classes.

"Students who scored a 5 for reading can opt out," Greene said.

State officials will not be checking in, Greene said, although the district will be required to send documentation to prove to the state the district is meeting the requirement.

"We are required to monitor," Greene said.

In her role as deputy superintendent, Greene will be checking in on the progress at each of the schools, along with the district's instructional specialists and Verdya Bradley, the director of school improvement.

"We will meet with the schools monthly," Greene said. "Part of the school improvement process is looking at data and figuring out what is and isn't working."

Mary Price-Avirett, a fourth-grade teacher at Oneco Elementary, said that while she thinks the extra hour could be effective, she worries about young children having a longer school day. The existing school day is about seven hours.

The extra hour applies to all grade levels, kindergarten through fifth grade, at the five elementary schools.

"Personally, I'm excited to have the children for an extra hour because there is never enough class time, but I worry about the children's stamina," Price-Avirett said. "It is a long day for them. However, with the population we serve at Oneco, an extra hour would give more structure than what they may have at home. We can't control what goes on at home."

Each of the Manatee County elementary schools on the 100 lowest performing in reading list is a Title I school.

Price-Avirett said that an extra hour of instruction personally affects teachers.

"I love what I do, but for others, and for me too, it will be a shift in how we treat our personal lives," Price-Avirett said. "It impacts our own schedule. Most of us have children and second and third jobs."

Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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