Massachusetts Schools Getting Money for Extending Student Day

10 schools in Massachusetts will be paid by the state with state funds to lengthen their days, a pilot program dubbed “Expanded Learning Time” that people believe will improve test scores and opponents say is too costly.

The $25.2 billion state budget Gov. Mitt Romney signed Saturday included a $6.5 million item for the program that will increase anywhere from one hour, 45 minutes to three hours a day of instruction and other programs for all students at selected schools in Boston, Cambridge, Fall River, Malden and Worcester.

“These districts are undertaking the enormous challenge of completely redesigning the school day,” Education Commissioner David Driscoll said Tuesday in a statement. “To do this right, they will have to not just add time to the school day, but rethink their teaching practices, curricula and what they can do to better engage each child in their learning.”

To cover the extra pay and other expenses, the five cities will receive an additional $1,300 per student on top of their other state aid. The program is guaranteed funding for only a year, and will be evaluated by an outside consulting firm.

State education officials said the principals at the affected schools could adjust their schedules this fall, after hearing parents’ reactions to the extended day.

In April, eight districts submitted detailed plans to redesign the school day with extra time for core academic subjects and programs such as arts and music. The ten elementary and middle schools approved by the state Department of Education last week have a total of about 4,700 pupils.

In some communities, teachers or unions balked at the proposal.

Springfield’s plan to extend the school day at Homer Street and White Street elementary schools was initially approved by the state Education Department. However Springfield Education Association President Timothy Collins said the union rejected the proposal because it would put a drain on the school system. He said the cost of maintaining the program would increase overtime.

Department spokeswoman Heidi Perlman said districts that could not show their local bargaining unit was on board were not considered.

“This is simply an initiative that cannot work without the full support of everyone involved,” Perlman said.

The department also rejected plans submitted by Lowell and North Adams, but Perlman said she had no details on the rejections.

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