New York one of five states planning to expand education hours

New York is among five states planning to add at least 300 hours of learning time to the calendar for some schools starting next year.

The three-year pilot program is intended to boost student achievement and make U.S. schools more competitive on a global level. The other states participating are Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Tennessee.

Beth Kramer of North Syracuse, a former teacher, likes the idea of more time in the classroom for her kids.

"I think the stress put upon our kids as well as the schools to meet all these mandates I think it's way too much," says Kramer.

Her 11th grade son, Stephen Kramer, feels differently.

"I'm not liking that. I'm kind of against it. I like our summer breaks and I hope it doesn't change," says Kramer.

For now, the Rochester School District is the only district in the state taking part in the program. But the North Syracuse Superintendent, Dr. Kim Dyce Faucette, hopes it expands to other districts.

"To me it sends a message that we're continuing to look outside the box and recognize that our students don't all learn in the same way and don't all learn in the same time frame," says Faucette.

At the North Syracuse School District, an average middle school student spends six and a half hours at school a day. That's for 180 days a year which comes out to 1,700 hours. With the 300 hours added on, that would be 1,200 hours at school a year.

Parents seem on board with the potential change. Joanne Dumas is a mother of a high school student in the North Syracuse School District.

"I don't think it would be a horrible thing for our kids to be in school a little bit longer on each given day," says Dumas.

The participating schools will get to decide how to use the time, either extending school hours or cutting down on summer break.

Parents are divided on which method they prefer. Tina Bubniak is a mother of two young kids who will enter the North Syracuse school district this year.

"Everybody loves their summer so I would probably say to do a longer school day 3 or 4pm maybe," says Bubniak.

"Summer breaks I don't think need to be that long. There's too much regression when students come back to school," says Kramer.

"If they could have the children go in at a later time in the morning and stay later I think high school children tend to well or better," says Dumas.

Education officials say spending more time in the classroom will give students access to a more well-rounded curriculum that includes arts and music, individualized help and opportunities to reinforce math and science skills.

A new report revealed some unflattering figures when it comes to the younger generation in New York state.

Sixteen percent of teens and young adults in New York are neither in school nor the workforce, part of a national problem that could lead to "dire consequences" for the younger generation's financial stability, according to the report.

The latest Kids Count report released Monday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation said high school dropouts are having a harder time landing traditional entry-level jobs in retail and fast-food restaurants due to competition from older candidates with more experience. Front-line service providers add that the recent recession has added to the problem.

"You're competing with people that are in the workforce now that have diplomas," said Jeff Nixon, youth services manager for the Buffalo Employment and Training Center. "You've got people with college degrees that are competing for some of these lower-wage jobs. And obviously for an employer, if they have a choice between somebody with a college degree and a kid that's a dropout, that's a no-brainer."

Nationally, there are 6.5 million youth 16 to 24 years old who are neither in the workforce nor in school - about 17 percent of that age group, according to the report. New York accounts for 406,000 of those young people, according to the foundation.

The Baltimore-based group said the young people getting shut out of the market now can face problems as they grow older. "A generation will grow up with little early work experience," missing the chance to build knowledge and skills, the report said.

The Casey Foundation called for more sustained, coordinated efforts to boost youth employment. It praised the work of FEGS Bronx Youth Center, where young people get integrated help with academics and career services along with support services.

"When we tell young people, `We're here to help you; we want to help you,' that means we stay with you through the good times and the bad times," said Courtney Hawkins, the organization's vice president for education and youth services.

Hawkins noted that every youth's needs are different - some have grade-school reading levels or trouble at home - and the process can take years.

In Buffalo, 18-year-old Chelsea Kaylor said she could not have gotten her high school equivalency diploma without help from Catholic Charities of Buffalo.

"They did more than just give me my GED, they encouraged me," she said. "They talked to me about my life after my GED and where did I want to go."

Kaylor's son is about to turn 2, and she is finishing her first semester in college with a 4.0 average. Her goal is to become an accountant.

"There was a lot of work, but I did have a lot of support," she said.

(Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.)