The school year will be at least 17 days longer by the 2010-11 school year if the recommendations of the state's Time Reform Task Force go into effect — and seven days longer beginning next year. The task force, which State Superintendent Sandy Garrett called for in July to study the issue, presented 12 proposals to the state Board of Education on Thursday.Comments
Children being ‘cheated' out of learningOklahoma law requires schools to be open 180 days per academic year for six hours a day. But a "school day” isn't the same as a day of actual instruction. Only 175 days must be spent on instruction. The others can be used for parent-teacher conferences and professional development. Take off the days students miss for extracurricular activities like sports, band and agriculture competitions, and some schools have far fewer days of learning taking place. "I don't believe that parents know that they're cheating their child out of a day of instruction when they have parent-teacher conferences,” Garrett said. "Are we for parent-teacher conferences? Yes, yes, yes. ... But we do not think it should take the place of instruction.”
‘The most important' conversationThe task force's goal is to bring Oklahoma to 190 instructional days, plus five days for professional development and two for parent-teacher conferences. At six hours a day, that would bring students' instructional time to 1,140 hours a year. The national average is 180 instructional days of school a year for 6.5 hours each day, or 1,170 hours a year. The decision of whether to lengthen the school day would be left up to individual districts. Garrett said some parents and teachers support extending the school year and others do not, but that there must be a public conversation.
The recommendationsThese are the recommendations the task force presented to the state board. •Time evaluations: All schools must examination their use of school time based on guidelines to be developed by the State Department of Education. There should be three accountability tools for the assessments: They should be part of each school's Comprehensive Local Education Plan; they should be presented to local school boards in open meetings; and they should be included in accreditation reports. •Calendar year: The school year should be extended beginning in 2008-09. That year, there should be at least 180 instructional days, five professional development days and two parent-teacher conference days. In 2009-10 there should be at least 185 instructional days plus the seven others. And in 2010-11, there should be at least 190 instructional days plus the seven others. •Funding needs: The education department and the state Legislature must acknowledge that plans to increase the quantity and quality of classroom instructional time will require additional resources. The projected cost for the seven additional days proposed for 2008-09 is $127.8 million. •Extracurricular activities: School officials should try to move activities, competitions and other events outside school hours. Moreover, schools for students in kindergarten through the eighth grade are not bound by guidelines of the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association limiting the number of activity-related absences students are allowed to have. •Instructional time: State law should differentiate between an instructional day and a school day, and there should be limits on the ability to use instructional days for anything other than student learning. At the meeting, the state school board approved an emergency rule to say that only one parent-teacher conference day per semester can count as a regular school day. •Saturday school: There is a state law that requires schools to get approval from the state board to operate on Saturdays. •Extending days: Local boards should decide whether to extend the school day. •Celebrating success: Schools should be recognized for improved academic achievement.
WHAT'S NEXTThe State Board of Education likely will review and vote on the task force's recommendations at its December meeting. If adopted, the recommendations would go to Gov. Brad Henry and to legislative leaders to consider in the upcoming session.