Don’t Reduce Classroom Time

Meeting the state requirement of 182 days of classes has been difficult for some Ohio school districts in the past, particularly during years in which inclement weather was common. Complying with the new standard should be relatively easy.

Too easy, perhaps.

Among provisions totally unrelated to state spending inserted into the state budget law, enacted earlier this summer, was one concerning the classroom time mandate. Again, it had been stipulated as 182 days of classes. Thoughtful educators had suggested the formula be altered to requiring certain numbers of hours of instruction each year.

That makes sense. One benefit is that school districts have more flexibility. Instead of having to make up whole days of classroom time, they can, in emergencies, add an hour here, and hour there to the school day to get back into compliance with the mandate.

New requirements are that students in grades 7-12 receive 1,001 hours of instruction a year. Those in lower grades are supposed to be in class at least 910 hours, while half-time kindergartners must be in school 455 hours a year.

That sounds like a lot of exposure to teachers, and it is, by some yardsticks. But it is less than some school districts already provide.

The new 1,001-hour standard for middle- and high-school students could be met over 182 days with only five and one-half hours of instruction a day. For younger pupils, only five hours a day would be necessary.

Especially in light of tight budgets at many school districts, that could tempt some boards of education to actually reduce the amount of classroom time provided for students. And when inclement weather is a factor, it could prompt some to simply skip makeup days (or hours) altogether.

Obviously, that was not the intent of those who promoted the change or of legislators who approved it.

Cramming all the information young Ohioans need to succeed in a competitive world is difficult enough without reducing the time they spend in class. East Ohio school officials should continue insisting on as much instructional time as possible, using the new hour-based rule solely for the flexibility it was meant to provide.