Today, we updated our 50-State Comparison on Instructional Time Policies. The newest version includes developments from the 2019 legislative sessions, adds Puerto Rico and includes more information on school start and/or finish dates. Because instructional time policies continue to be of high interest to policymakers, parents and school district administrators, we update this 50-State Comparison regularly and have done so for over 35 years. Even minor adjustments in instructional time requirements may be of interest because small changes can mean big changes in flexibility for districts.
Generally, state regulations around school day requirements can be used to help ensure consistency across districts. Though these requirements may be set to guarantee a minimum amount of student instruction, they may also constrain district flexibility. To help capture district flexibility, our updated 50-State Comparison now shows instructional time requirements in minutes or hours, where applicable, in a way that reflects the wording in statute. Previous versions converted instructional time specified in minutes to hours. Since our last update in 2018, Arizona passed S.B. 1022, which changed the required number of instructional hours per year for seventh and eighth graders — to 890 hours, rather than the previously required 1,000 hours. This change aligns with the requirements for fourth, fifth and sixth graders. The annual instructional hour requirements remain the same for other grades.
Almost every state allows local districts to choose their start dates and/or finish dates, but some states place guidelines. Two states made changes to their start and/or finish date requirements for the school year: Maryland enacted both H.B. 679 and S.B. 729 (2018), which allow schools to set their calendars five days beyond June 15 without special approval. And in Virginia, H.B. 1652 (2019) requires school start dates to be no earlier than 14 days before Labor Day. Previously, Virginia school districts couldn’t start earlier than Labor Day.
This update includes more information on school start and/or finish dates. The start and/or finish dates data now identify which governmental entity is responsible for setting the calendar when it is specified in statute. Previous years stated “district option” when no start and/or stop dates were mentioned in statute.
We hope you find the additional details informative. For more information, see our Instructional Time Trends report — although last updated in 2016, much of the information still holds true — or contact us.