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20 N.Y.C. Middle Schools Lengthen the Day for Literacy

Sixth grade students at 20 high-needs middle schools in New York City are taking part in a $20 million, three-year pilot project to expand learning by two and a half hours a day, starting this week.

The new initiative, called MS ExTRA, is spearheaded by The After School Corporation, the New York City education department and the New York City Council, and HarvardED Labs and targets students who are low income and at risk of academic failure. The 20 schools, parceled out evenly in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, will each work directly with a community-based organization to add the time.

The Robin Hood Foundation and Carson Family Charitable Trust are lead investors in a $10 million private fundraising effort, matched by $10 million in public funding.

Students, who just began the new school year, will have two extra class periods a day and will be provided supper daily, under the new schedule. One of the periods will focus on enrichment activities—like arts, music, or sports—to be determined by each school site and community partner. For the other class period, students who struggle in reading and literacy coursework (determined by testing assessments early this fall) will be provided small-group literacy tutoring, built on a model used by HarvardED Labs in Houston and Denver. For nonstruggling readers, the schools will provide other additional academic content, such as extra math or science support.

The MS ExTRA initiative is part of a larger project in the district to improve literacy instruction at middle schools, called Middle School Quality Initiative, which I blogged about last spring on Beyond School. HarvardED Labs will be performing an evaluation of the MS ExTRA project over the course of the three years.

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