November 28 — 12:00 am, 2002

5 Things to Know: About New Extended Day Programs

On October 21, 115 of Philadelphia’s lowest performing elementary and middle schools started "extended day" programs targeted for students in grades three through eight who scored Below Basic on the PSSA or the SAT-9 standardized tests in either reading or math last spring.

The extended day program is one of School District CEO Paul Vallas’s primary academic initiatives for addressing Philadelphia public school students’ weak performance on standardized tests. In December, it will be expanded to more elementary
and middle schools (excluding some schools run by education management organizations such as Edison, Victory, Temple, etc.), and will begin accepting students at these schools who scored Basic on the PSSA or SAT-9.

  1. What is the extended day program?
    The extended day program runs for two hours after the regular school day four days a week, usually ending around 5:30 p.m. and offering a snack for students.

    The program is strictly academic; it uses curriculum from two companies, Voyager Learning (for reading) and Princeton Review (for math), which is designed to reinforce what students are learning in the classroom.

    As during the regular school day, classes are divided by grade level. Reading classes are taught on Mondays and Wednesdays. Math is taught on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If a student scored below basic in only one subject, she or he can choose to attend classes for only that subject. Students scoring below basic in both reading and math attend all four days.

  2. Who are the teachers?
    District officials report that the majority of the extended day teachers are from the school in which they teach during the regular school day.

    Teachers who are from other schools are drawn from schools within the region. Teachers do not necessarily teach the same grade level as they do during the regular school day, but all teachers have been trained to administer the program.

    What sets the extended day program apart from classroom instruction during the regular school day is the smaller student to teacher ratio — class sizes are to be capped at 18 students — and a focus on teaching strategies that address students’ different learning styles, including computer based instruction. There are some reports of class sizes exceeding the limit.

  3. Which students are attending?
    According to School District officials, the program is currently serving 12,000 students at the first cohort of

    115 schools, although 25,000 students from those schools have been identified as eligible to participate.

    Students who have been identified as eligible for the extended day program are not required to attend, but District officials say that if those students continue to score below basic on the spring standardized tests, they will be required to attend summer school. If they don’t attend summer school, they could be held back and required to repeat a grade

  4. Are there other options if a student can’t participate or wants altervatives?
    Students who are eligible for the program but are bused to their schools have been given other academic enrichment options in recognition that staying at school until evening is not always feasible. There is no busing after the extended day program. Those students are encouraged to participate in extended day programs at their neighborhood schools or through one of dozens of state-approved providers.

    Parents must submit an application if they choose to participate through a state-approved provider. District officials say that applications have been mailed to all eligible families.

    Students who are not eligible for the program because they have scored above Basic on the PSSA or SAT-9 are not allowed to participate, but have other afterschool options available. All schools are continuing to receive their regular subsidies for after school programs and continue to have permission from the District to partner with community and faith-based organizations. Schools may also continue to offer traditional extracurricular activities.

    Another altervative is the state’s Classrooms Plus program, which offers parents $500 grants for tutoring to students in grades three through six who score Below Basic on state standardized tests.

  5. What about high school students?
    In January, high schools will begin an extended day program program similar to the program in elementary and middle schools. It will be open to all grade levels and offer instruction in reading and math four days a week for two hours after school. School District officials also say that they are looking into expanding programs in high schools that offer help with college entrance test preparation.

         For more information about extended day programs, contact the afterschool supervisor at your child’s school or the School District’s central office at (215) 299-7550. 

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