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School Clock Keeps Ticking Under Literacy-Focused Pilot Program

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One of the most popular ideas for reforming education is to make the school day longer for kids who need extra help. It's also one of the most expensive ideas. So the city, and some big name partners, have set out to prove it's worth the investment. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

A group of sixth graders at Thurgood Marshall Academy Middle School in Harlem recently learned the scientific process by collecting and analyzing pulse rate data. It's the kind of lesson that takes time: Time that teachers often don't have during the regular school day.

Thurgood Marshall Academy is one of 20 schools that has lots of extra time with a school day for sixth graders that's two and a half hours longer.

"I think these extra two periods are good for us because it helps us improve on what we need help with," said Cierra Johnson, a student at the school.

And that's how it works. Sixth graders at these schools have two additional class periods, focused on improving their literacy. It's a very structured pilot program based on years of research by The After School Corporation and Harvard Ed Labs. It's funded by the DOE, City Council and Robin Hood Foundation: Six million dollars a year to extend the day and study the results. Each of the schools is partnered with a community-based organization.

"We're really trying to get it right this time. We're trying to figure out how do we partner with all of these different folks who have real expertise to help us design the right curriculum, to bring in those CBOs that can do enrichment that we might not have enough of during the regular school day and connect our teachers into it as well," said DOE Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky.

On a recent visit, students were learning media literacy, working in groups to design and advertise a soda product.

"I get to re-teach things, re-visit things, support my kids in a fun way, not just hitting certain points in a classroom and having to move on because we have a curriculum," said Linda Rose, a teacher at the school.

And some kids are getting even more extra help. As part of the program, students who don't qualify for extra reading help during the regular school day but still struggle with comprehension get special small group tutoring in the afternoon.

The partner organizations provide support including a full-time program director and teaching aides.

"I'm here from 10 to 6, I share an office with the middle school director, so we actually have a great partnership," said Program Director Javier Garcia-Perez.

They're hoping to get enough funding to continue the study for three years, which they say will be long enough to know whether two extra hours each day makes a big enough difference.

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