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A Snag for New York State's Extended Learning Time Grants

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's $24 million dollar grant program to lengthen the school day or year is running into snags, according to an article this week in Capital New York.  

Only 25 of the state's nearly 700 school districts applied for a grant and three of the nine winners decided not to accept the money because they were notified too late to get the programs up and running in time for the current school year.

The state was supposed to announce the grantees last January, but districts didn't learn if they won until June, as Education Week reported at the time, giving them just weeks before the school year began to prepare and implement the programs.

"If you don't have that planning period, you are not likely to have the educational impact," Jennifer Davis, the founder and president of the National Center on Time and Learning, told Capital New York.  She added that because of the delay, some districts "felt that they just didn't have the time and capacity to do it well."

Under the Extended Learning Time Grant Program, which we also wrote about when it was announced in October 2013, districts had to increase the school day or year by 25 percent, or about 300 hours a year, and focus that additional time on efforts to improve student learning.

A growing body of research shows that providing academically at-risk students with additional learning time boosts academic achievement, if it's implemented properly.

Although disappointed that the New York program has hit some snags, Davis also praised Gov. Cuomo for his forward thinking.

In her blog yesterday on the NCTL website, Davis wrote, "This movement is without question one of the most promising educational strategies available to schools today as they embark upon higher standards, improving teacher quality, and broadening educational opportunities for students."

She pointed out that the Rochester and Syracuse school districts are already seeing early evidence that extended learning time is having an impact. Last year, in ten of its elementary schools, the Rochester City School District lengthened the school day from six to eight hours through an NCTL initiative called Time for Innovation Matters in Education, or the TIME Collaborative.

In an interview with Education Week last month, Rochester Superintendent Bolgen Vargas said the district is "seeing improvements in student attendance, student behavior, and student performance." He said the results are so encouraging that he plans to add another five schools to the program next year.

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