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Pilot Program To Expand Class Time At Some Schools In NY, Conn.

Classroom (credit: CBS 2)

Classroom (credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – New York and Connecticut are among five states planning to add at least 300 hours of learning time to the calendar for some schools starting next year.

WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau: Program Has Support From New London Superintendent

The three-year pilot program is intended to boost student achievement and make U.S. schools more competitive on a global level. The other states participating are Colorado, Massachusetts and Tennessee.

The program will be funded using a mix of federal, state and district funds.

Education officials say spending more time in the classroom will give students access to a more well-rounded curriculum that includes arts and music, individualized help and opportunities to reinforce math and science skills.

“I agree with that because when they go home, there isn’t much to do and they’re tired and my son goes and plays with video games,” Long Island City parent Mono Oganesyan told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer. “It would be very helpful.”

“The hours between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. are the single most dangerous time of day for our nation’s children,” said Luis Ubinas, of the Ford Foundation. “There are too many kids in communities around the country…in which those adult free hours are filled with crime, with teenage pregnancy, with drug abuse.”

Before any changes are made to the New York City Curriculum, city officials will have to see the results of the pilot program.

The experiment comes in the face of increasing debate over whether the U.S. has fallen behind other nations when it comes to education.

“Maybe to stay competitive we might have to think about increasing our school day or going on Saturdays such as they do in Asia,” said Chuck Whitesell of Wappingers Falls.

“We know that, for low-income students, the more they can get practice in vocabulary and comprehension, the more likely it is they’re going to be successful not just in literacy, but in math and in science and social studies,” New London schools superintendent Nicholas Fischer told WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau.

In New York, educators have tried several reforms to boost student achievement, including student testing, teacher evaluations, charter schools and voucher programs.

New York City schools have had an extended school day since 2006 when they added 37 1/2 minutes to be used for small group tutoring, test prep or small group instruction after dismissal, CBS 2’s Kramer reported.

The National Center on Time and Learning has long advocated for extra learning time. So has National Education Secretary Arne Duncan who once suggested school be open six or seven days a week and run 11 months a year.

The pilot program will affect almost 20,000 students in 40 schools, with long-term hopes of expanding the program to include additional schools – especially those that serve low-income communities.

All told, education officials expect to provide nearly 6 million more student learning hours next year.

Schools will work with parents and teachers to decide whether to make the school day longer, add more days to the school year or both.

It’s unclear how officials will measure the success of the program, but if it is successful it could be expanded to all schools across New York and Connecticut.

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(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)