The 100 worst-performing elementary school in Florida (based on state reading test scores) extended their school days by an hour this year.
The hope was that more reading instruction would help struggling students improve -- and preliminary data suggests it has.
"It's the first stop in the right direction," said Sen. David Simmons, R-
Maitland, who pushed for the $30 million effort last year.
Seven schools in Orange County -- plus a handful in Polk and Volusia counties -- had to offer the longer school day. One of the Orange schools was a charter school that closed before the school year started because it had received two F grades in a row from the state.
Student scores on the Florida Assessment for Instruction in Reading (called FAIR) at the 100 schools show promise, with youngsters improving from the start of the school year.
The improvements aren't visible on every campus at every grade level. But, "I think we see some good news," said Laurie Lee, a reading specialist at the Florida Department of Education.
Pine Hills Elementary School, for example, 18 percent of first graders were "meeting expectations" on one section of the FAIR test at the beginning of the year. Fifty two percent of first graders were at that level when the test was given several months later.