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.
Children being ‘cheated' out of learning
Oklahoma 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' conversation
The 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.
These are the recommendations the task force presented to the state board.
All schools must examination their use of school time based on guidelines to be developed by the State Department of Education.