Changing K-12 Education

From this week’s House Republican Newsletter:

Have you noticed everyone these days is on an Economic Emergency Diet? Even education advocates, who love to spend.

Lean budget times mean short department agendas especially in education.

Reworking the school year is an issue that might lead to cost savings. Schools want to try a four day learning week rather than the traditional five day week. The proposal converts the 180 day school year into a certain number of hours.

Proponents cite the possibility of higher student achievement because students will have longer learning sessions. There is also the possibility of transportation, salary and utility savings.

Iowa parents, on the other hand, need to hear more because a four-day week means an additional day of child care expenses or day without supervision for their teenager. The change also has the potential to reignite the school start date controversy.

A strong positive aspect of a change from total days total hours is that the state gets away from all the exceptions that currently eat into instructional time. Class time would be class time, nothing else.

Iowa law currently defines instructional time as including time spent passing between classes, parent-teacher conferences, staff development, early dismissals for weather to count as instructional time.

Most troublesome for parents is that Iowa school districts are increasingly scheduling early outs for staff development. Only five other states let professional development count as instructional time. A sixth state, Minnesota, allows professional development to count only if the district adds more days to their calendar.

Across the nation:

  • 30 states, including Iowa, require at least 180 days;
  • Six states have dropped the number of days and require a certain number of hours. Those state are: Deleware, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon and South Dakota.
  • 34 states let the local districts set the school start date.

Looking for more quality time spent in the classroom is a worthy conversation. But only if the first and foremost goal is higher student achievement.

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