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Focus on quality, as well as quantity, of class time

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Focus on quality, as well as quantity, of class time
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Some students and teachers across the country are looking at an extra 300 hours in the classroom. New York is one of the states that announced some of its schools plan to add the time onto the 2013 school year. The Rochester City School District is the only one in the state taking part in the program, but a growing number of districts nationwide are experimenting with adding hours. Our Sarah Blazonis tells us why educators say it's not necessarily the extra time that should be the focus.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It's a number sure to dampen the spirits of school children in the affected districts: An extra 300 hours in the classroom. The extra time is the amount the National Center for Time and Learning pinpointed as being able to make a substantial difference to students.

"It's not to suggest that 300 hours is somehow a miracle number. It's just to try to make it clear that this is about a major change," said Elena Silva with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

"It's not just the time, it's how the time is actually being used, or not, that will make a difference in student learning," Dr. William Silky, director of the Le Moyne College Educational Leadership Program.

Parents, teachers and officials in affected districts will decide whether to add that time onto the school day or lengthen the school year. Some say educators should consider taking time away from summer break because of research documenting learning regression during those months.

"That loss accumulates and it ends up being up to grades, the equivalent of a grade or two grades worth of learning. So if that's true, we shouldn't be surprised when we have some kids who are reading behind grade level or falling way behind their peers," said Silva.

Another consideration is the extra cost that comes with adding time. It's an expense that could be difficult to afford for cash strapped districts.

"The teacher unions in particular with added work time would demand salary increases, salary changes and that's going to cost more money," said Silky.

The new pilot program's cost will be covered by federal, state and district funds. While these are issues only a few dozen schools are dealing with right today, they're likely laying out a road map many more will follow in the future.

"We're talking about different ways of delivering education, blended learning models, which is a K-12 and higher issue and an inevitable one. We're seeing the way education is delivered change before our eyes," said Silva.

The three year pilot program will affect almost 20,000 students in New York, Connecticut, Colorado, Tennessee and Massachusetts. And districts won't have to cover the extra expenses themselves. Federal and state funds, along with money from the Ford Foundation and National Center on Time and Learning, will also go towards the program.

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