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Extra Hours for Remedial Work Added in S.F.

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Beginning next month, nearly 4,000 students in the San Francisco Unified School District will be required to give up four hours a week of their free time to attend special sessions designed to improve their reading and writing skills.

Under the new policy, announced last month by Superintendent of Schools Ramon C. Cortines, students in grades 6 through 9 who score in the bottom quarter on state standardized reading tests will be required to attend the tutorials.

The sessions, for which students will receive a grade, will be held four days a week after the school day ends.

"By extending the school day, we're giving these students an opportunity to improve their academic skills," said Thomas Sammon, an executive assistant to the superintendent. "We feel there's enough educational literature to show that a longer school day has positive results.''

Mr. Sammon said the policy is an outgrowth of a Saturday-school program launched by the district last year. Nearly 2,500 elementary-school students attended the voluntary weekend classes last year.

School officials said test scores for those students rose an average of three points in reading and two points in mathematics.

"And we think we'll have even better results this year," Mr. Sammon said.

In recent years, a handful of school districts across the country have moved to extend the school day to provide extra help to students who are having academic difficulties.

Most notably, the Houston Independent School District in 1988 began requiring nearly 40,000 students to attend twice-a-week tutorials in subjects they had not yet mastered. (See Education Week, Feb. 17, 1988.)

In San Francisco, Mr. Sammon said, the new policy will also enable the district to give extra attention to the growing number of students whose native tongue is not English. He said the school district enrolls more than 4,000 new students each year, most of whom do not speak English.

District officials estimate that the special classes, which will operate from Oct. 1 to May 16, will cost $750,000 this school year. Participating teachers will be reimbursed at the $25-an-hour rate the district pays its summer-school teachers.

Reaction to the policy, which does not require approval from the school board, has been limited, according to Mr. Sammon.

"I imagine there'll be some aversion to it from students who don't want to go the extra class period," he said.

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