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Some Sixth Graders Will Have Longer School Days In The Fall

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For the second time in a week, mayoral candidate and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn appeared with a member of the current administration to announce a major initiative, and to put some of the money she controls as Council Speaker behind the effort. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Two-thousand lucky -- or some might say unlucky -- students are about to get a lot more sixth grade. The city plans to launch a pilot program that will require some to attend two and a half extra hours of school every single weekday.

It's a lot of time -- 450 more hours over the course of the year. Time the students will spend trying to become better readers.

"These two things together -- a longer day and high needs intense literacy training -- we know that is part of the solution to getting children reading on level," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said. "When you can read on level, the sky's the limit."

It's a pilot program that will be in 20 middle schools starting in September, and the results will be studied by researchers at Harvard's Education Lab. They have not yet chosen the schools that will participate, but the Department Of Education expects the program to be in high demand.

"One of the things our principals and teachers have been telling us is if we could have the additional resource of more time, if we could have the additional resource of having tutors who can work with young people, who can dig in with them after school and read with them on a regular basis -- that would change the game," DOE Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky said.

In fact, expanding the school day is not a revolutionary idea. When it comes to education reform, it's one of the most popular campaign promises or task force recommendations. But support almost always drops off during budget season.

"This is something that should have been happening for a long time," Parent Leader Lynn Sanchez said. "It's working in other states and it's even working here in New York in other schools."

The pilot program will cost $6 million a year.

Together, the City Council and Department of Education will pay for half, with the rest coming from private donors, like the Robin Hood Foundation.

By focusing on middle school and literacy, the pilot seeks to tackle two of the most difficult areas of education reform.

Programs in other cities and charter schools in New York have had success boosting math scores with an extended school day, especially with younger students. But improving middle school students' reading skills remains a major challenge.

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