Alarmed by the latest round of assessment figures for New Jersey students, a state senator is pushing legislation that would permit certain districts to extend the school day or the school year.

A bill from Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, would establish a three-year pilot program within the Department of Education that would award funds, on a competitive basis, to districts with students demonstrating a high level of need for academic support.

A school district selected for participation would utilize the funds for any costs associated with the implementation of a program to increase the length of the school day or academic calendar.

The bill was introduced on Oct. 3, according to the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services.

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This past Monday, the "Nation's Report Card" was released, exposing the learning loss caused in New Jersey and elsewhere by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to this year's National Assessment of Educational Progress, New Jersey recorded its lowest math scores since 2003 and its lowest fourth-grade reading scores since 2005. Eighth grade reading scores held their own, ranking first nationally as they had in 2019.

“The NAEP confirms what we have all suspected – that our students’ learning suffered greatly from being out of the classroom for more than one year during the pandemic," Turner said. "The extra instruction time that an extended school day or school year can provide to the students who need the most academic support will help them to regain academic ground and increase their chances of remaining in school and graduating.”

New Jersey received $6.2 billion in American Rescue Plan funds and $2.76 billion was to be used by individual school districts to address learning loss, Turner's office noted.

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