Buffalo School Superintendent James A. Williams doesn't waste time, thankfully. His latest plan, for extending classes into July for pupils struggling with English by third grade, deserves immediate support. This added mandatory month for struggling students is long overdue.
As the dismal statistics show, currently 64.7 percent of Buffalo's first-graders are below grade level in English, and the number grows to 73 percent in eighth grade. That's not a problem, it's a community crisis. Williams wants to extend the school year in all 40 city elementary schools by the time it is fully implemented in 2007-08. Williams has an innovative idea that he believes can be implemented without new cash. He would redirect $38 million in federal funds to this program.
Extended hours for struggling students, of course, would mean extended hours for teachers and staff. Many educators are already going over and above the call of duty, and they deserve our praise and thanks. But more is needed.
Predictably, Buffalo Teachers Federation President Philip Rumore offered thumbs down. Rumore contends that money Williams would redirect to pay for the extra school days is better spent reducing class sizes during the regular school year and rehiring guidance counselors, attendance teachers and others who were laid off during the past five years. But students were still doing poorly academically during that time with those resources in place. Rumore needs to get behind efforts to help his real charges: the students. Williams wants to raise all city students to appropriate academic standards, starting by getting them to read and write at an early age. The children deserve nothing less from the administration, the teachers and their union. This is a plan worth working out.