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D.C. Mayor Wants to Fund Longer School Day in Lowest-Performing Schools

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In his annual "State of the District" address this month, Washington Mayor Vincent Gray announced a proposal to help the city's 40 lowest-performing schools extend their school day, using funds from his budget plan for fiscal 2015.

Money for extending the school day will come from a new fund set aside for the district's neediest students. In total, Gray is proposing a $116 million increase to the district's public education budget. In his speech, Gray did not provide specifics on how much money might be spent on extending the school day nor how much time might be added.

"This will not simply be more time in school," Gray said during his March 11 speech, delivered at Kelly Miller Middle School in Northeast Washington. "With this funding, we will implement and expand programs to give students the comprehensive academic and enrichment programming that will allow them to meet 21st-century learning standards. Regardless of enrollment numbers, every [district] middle-schooler will be able to take algebra, a foreign language, art, music, and physical education."

The District of Columbia school system provided aid for a longer school day at nine public schools this academic year, using money from a DCPS innovation fund called Proving What's Possible. The cost is about $300,000 per school and the extra time has been used for more literacy or math instruction.

According to a DCPS statement, students in extended-day schools in the district improved their reading scores on the 2013 DC CAS by 7.2 percentage points and their math scores by 10.6 percentage points, compared with 3.9 percentage points in reading and 3.6 percentage points in math for students districtwide.

Students in the nation's capital are improving their performance on national tests. District students showed bigger gains than those in any state in the country on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The District of Columbia's students also showed the most improvement in the country on the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA), which compares urban school districts on NAEP.

But D.C.'s NAEP scores are below the national average—only 17 percent of 8th graders scored proficient or better in reading (versus 34 percent of 8th graders nationwide) and just 19 percent scored proficient or better in math (versus 34 percent nationwide). And, Gray noted, there are still achievement gaps between different racial and socio-economic groups and different sections of the racially- and economically-divided city.

In proposing funds for a longer school day, Gray is joining political leaders like Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York in betting that more hours spent in school can increase academic achievement.

Gray will submit his budget proposal to the city council in April.

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