The state will underwrite costs for schools that keep students in class an extra 300 hours per year, according to a top proposal floated today in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s third “State of the State” address.
Extended learning time was one of several proposals Cuomo mentioned during the education section of his speech, which lasted more than an hour and covered a variety of non-education issues, including a strict ban on assault weapons, decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, raising the minimum wage and a new plan to build casinos in upstate New York (the revenue of which will mostly go toward state school aid).
The proposals were part of a “more and better” approach to education reform that Cuomo is crafting for 2013, a year after he targeted education “lobbyists” and school bureaucratic inefficiencies. Cuomo said he also wants to invest in expanding early education programs and creating schools that provide health and social services for poor communities.
Cuomo is making the funds available in the form of competitive grants, which he has used in the past in an attempt to fast-track education reforms. The grants would only be eligible to districts and schools that craft plans that adhere to best practices prescribed by Cuomo.
The previous grants have encountered resistance, both from union officials, the Board of Regents and State Education Commissioner John King. They all agreed that a $250 million mini-Race to the Top grant would be be better used if it were redistributed into the state’s general school aid formula.
Update: Officials from the state education department did not respond to requests for comment. New York State United Teachers President Dick Ianuzzu and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew praised the proposals.
“We … applaud Gov. Cuomo for proposing a way for school districts to increase learning time for students through a creative grant program, one that districts could use to restore their enrichment programs in music and the arts,” Mulgrew said in an emailed statement.
For the second straight year, Cuomo also touted the importance of boosting and rewarding teacher quality. He proposed a plan to give accomplished “master teachers” $60,000 bonuses over four years to train other teachers. Cuomo said he’d seek to replicate the model used by the New York City-based Math for America, a fellowship organization that boast 380 math teacher fellows.
All of the education proposals were previewed last week, when an education reform commission that Cuomo convened last year released a preliminary round of recommendations. Cuomo touched on all of the recommendations in today’s speech.
It was the extended learning time proposal that Cuomo headlined with his education speech. The proposal was based on a Massachusetts initiative that added 300 instructional hours to 19 schools since 2006. Students from those schools who participated in the initiative saw their math scores spike 20 percent and their English scores increase by 8 percent.
In New York City, which extended its 6.5-hour day by an additional 37.5 minutes on most days for many students, schools have for years been able to extend and rearrange their day if teachers agreed to do so. Brooklyn’s Generation School added an extra 20 days to its school year by staggering work schedules and vacation periods so that no teachers work more than the legally-required minimum of 180 days. Another school, Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, voted to extend school periods to 65 minutes and eliminate the five minute hallway break between periods.
Cuomo’s proposal will reward schools that submit similarly-creative plans, which are designed to minimize costs. Cuomo did not mention how much it would cost, but the extended learning initiative in Massachusetts costs the state about $1,300 per student per year, 7.5 percent of the average per pupil cost, according to National Center on Time and Learning, which oversees the initiative.
Chris Gabrieli, chairman of NCTL, said most schools with extended learning models “found their own way to doing this” and applauded the top-down policy directive that Cuomo was putting forward.
Cuomo gave himself a pat on the back for creating a law that tied state funding to districts that hammered out deals on evaluation plans before a Jan. 17 deadline. New York City, which has 40 percent of the state’s 2.7 million public school student, is among the nine districts out of 700 that hasn’t submitted a plan. Without mentioning New York City’s absence, Cuomo declared the funding incentive “a success story,” as getting districts to come to a deal.