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Five U.S. states to try longer public school day, year in 2013

By Daniel Lovering

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (Reuters) - More than 19,000 public school students in five states will have a longer school day and a longer academic year starting next fall as part of a project to improve U.S. education, officials said on Monday.

Each of the schools - located in Massachusetts, Colorado, Connecticut, New York and Tennessee - will add 300 hours to the school year starting in 2013, officials said.

The pilot project is supported by federal and state funding, the nonprofit National Center on Time and Learning (NCTL) and the Ford Foundation, which will provide $3 million annually over the next three years, the organizations said in a statement.

"In tight budget times, these states and philanthropic leaders have demonstrated creativity and commitment to giving students greater academic opportunities," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said.

Schools will be encouraged to develop a rigorous curriculum that includes individual help for struggling students and uses technology to enhance teaching, while boosting collaboration among teachers, offering arts education and promoting a culture of high achievement, officials said.

The program will aim to expand gradually over an initial three years, the organizations said.

More than 1,000 schools serving more than half a million students nationwide have already adopted longer school days and years, up from 655 schools and 300,000 students in 2009, according to a study released by the NCTL that coincided with the announcement. The most rapid growth occurred in traditional district schools rather than charter schools.

The school districts participating in the pilot program include Fall River and Lawrence, Massachusetts; Rochester, New York; Denver, Boulder Valley, Jefferson County and Adams 50 districts in Colorado; East Hartford, Meriden and New London, Connecticut, and Achievement School District (Memphis) and Metro Nashville in Tennessee.

More than 19,500 students will benefit from the expanded school calendar starting as early as September 2013, the organizations said.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Vicki Allen)

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