Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Some Teachers Upset About Extra Hour of Instruction

The Florida Legislature recently passed a new regulation (go figure) mandating that students in the 100 lowest performing elementary schools must go to school for an extra hour per day for additional reading instruction. In contrast with previous mandates, the Legislature allocated $30 million for the implementation of the program. Here is the an excerpt of the law in the Florida Statutes:

 For the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 fiscal years, each school district that has one or more of the 100 lowest-performing elementary schools based on the state reading assessment shall use these funds, together with the funds provided in the district’s research-based reading instruction allocation and other available funds, to provide an additional hour of instruction beyond the normal school day for each day of the entire school year for intensive reading instruction for the students in each of these schools. This additional hour of instruction must be provided only by teachers or reading specialists who are effective in teaching reading. 

Apparently, that is not boding well with teachers in the affected schools. Districts like Miami-Dade are still trying to figure out how to pay for it inasmuch as their allocation of funding (about $3 million) may not cover the cost of paying teachers. Some teachers have lost total confidence in the accuracy of the scores themselves given all of the changes instituted by the Department of Education after the 2012 FCAT season.

Here's an excerpt of the report from Local10.com in South Florida:

On Thursday, Miami-Dade teachers working at those schools learned they’d be working an extra hour. Pay for the additional hour has not been negotiated. The United Teachers of Dade told Local 10 that Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho would fund the extra hour from the current budget without additional money from the state. Of the 100, 11 schools are in Miami-Dade County, 10 of which are public schools.
Many teachers are against the idea because the scores are in question.
“The state has played so many games with scoring that we have no confidence in scores generated," said Karen Aronowitz with United Teachers of Dade. “The bottom line is, they're asking the teachers to pay for this... We do not know how much they will be paid for the extra hour of work."

Even if the teachers receive extra money at their current hourly rate, I question whether this will really solve the reading problems. Reading is something that must be introduced early in the home and valued in the home as a child ages. Reading skills grow with extra practice. If the students are not engaging in independent pleasure reading at home to get that practice, how much impact will an extra hour of instruction have on their performance? I guess we'll have to wait and see at the end of next year's testing season.

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