The largest public school system in the United States began an ambitious tutoring program for students who lag behind by increasing the length of the school day for approximately 350,000 students by 37 ½ minutes. New York City, home to 1 million plus public school students, is scheduling tutoring in core subject areas for groups of 10 or fewer children in each group. Many parents accept the change in schedule, and echo the statement of Mayor Michael Bloomberg – focus on the big picture, and the much needed help the children are getting.
For some parents, the change in schedule is a hardship – if busses are not available, then they must re arrange their work schedules to pick up younger children. For some working poor families, that change hits them directly in the pocketbook. Even more of a concern are logistical snafus that left young children stranded for delays of half hour or more. Most of the missed connections for transportation were in Staten Island. One first grader in Queens did not arrive home until 8 PM, escorted by police to her frantic parents
Another concern is the qualification of teachers providing the tutoring. Teachers certified in specialty areas, such as music and physical education, are providing the tutoring in reading and math – some of them question the effectiveness of this, along with the parents.
While students who need tutoring are staying late or arriving early, students who do well in school are being dismissed 10 minutes early. Some parents have voiced concern that the new schedule shortchanges the children who succeed in school.
The Department of Education has allocated 24 million dollars to smooth out the rough spots in transportation and teacher schedules. While families may find themselves in an uproar over the schedule change midyear, few doubt that changes and extra help were needed system wide. It will be interesting to see what effect this has on test scores and individual students within the following year.