More lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer for Ohio students?
In the ed reform world, we’re accustomed to hearing, and making, calls for students to spend more time in school -- especially those students who are lagging behind their peers academically. But a bill pending in the Ohio General Assembly would make it possible for students to spend far less time in school than they do now.
House Bill 191, co-sponsored by Rep. Patmon (a Cleveland Democrat) and Rep. Hayes (a Republican representing rural east-central Ohio), would change the definition of a school year from 182 days (of roughly 5.5 hours in length) to 960 hours for K-6 (excluding half-day kindergartners) and 1,050 for 7-12, define a school week as five days in length, and eliminate calamity days.
The bill would also make true for Buckeye teachers the old joke that “there are three good reasons to become a teacher: June, July, and August” by prohibiting schools from operating between Memorial Day and Labor Day and banning extracurricular activities over Labor Day weekend. Such proposals are offered in the legislature here every year or two, pushed by the state’s two large amusement parks and other summer tourist destinations that want cheap, teenage labor available for the full summer, not to mention more summer days when families can visit. (Rep. Hayes readily admits he sponsored the bill in order to boost the state’s tourism industry.)
Much of the clamor over the bill, which has been panned by several newspaper editorial boards and education groups, regards the fact that districts could essentially shave five weeks off the current school year if they adhered to the minimum hours. That’s certainly a risk, though perhaps not as likely as critics worry. Charter schools in Ohio are required to offer only 920 hours of instruction annually but most outpace that by at least ten percent. And with all of the new accountability provisions for schools and teachers that were put in place via last year’s budget bill, school leaders would be foolish to drastically curb the amount of time students spend learning and teachers spend teaching.
My problem with the bill is that while it unties districts’ hands in one regard, it shackles them in others. Changing to a school year based on hours could provide schools a tremendous amount of flexibility in scheduling. For example, charter schools relish the ability to schedule frequent half-day professional development sessions for teachers but still get “credit” for the several hours of instruction provided to students the other half of the day, while district schools are limited in the number of such PD days they can offer and “count” as school days. The bill also admirably eliminates calamity days, requiring schools to make up missed instructional time.
But requiring that a school week lasts five days removes the opportunity, as just one example, for districts to save money on transportation and energy by moving to a four-day week. And it’s well-documented that students slide back academically over summer break. Lengthening that break (few, if any, districts in Ohio currently adhere to a Labor-Day-to-Memorial-Day schedule) would only worsen the regression. Changing those provisions could make this bill a model for states providing true flexibility and autonomy to districts when it comes to how and when they offer instruction.
Category: Ohio Policy
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