The State Board of Education adds flexibility to its instructional hours rules
Monday, September 24, 2018
The State Board of Education has created district-sought instructional hours exemptions for alternative education programs and students on track to graduate.
In 2015, the state board tightened instructional time rules after complaints about schools forcing students into part-time schedules.
The revised rules required that by this school year 92 percent of students in districts and 80 percent of students at each school would be scheduled to meet the state minimums. Grades K-8 must have 900 hours of instructional time, grades 9-11 must have 990 hours and grade 12 must have 966 hours.
The Confederation of Oregon School Administrators expressed concern that the 80 percent rule would hurt districts for having schools that met students’ needs through schedules with less seat time. Districts that don’t meet the requirements face Oregon Department of Education scrutiny.
Under new rules adopted at Thursday’s state board meeting, school districts can request permission from the deputy superintendent of public instruction to exempt an alternative education program. Often students in alternative programs cannot or will not carry a full class load, and districts want the flexibility to keep those students engaged without being punished for not having enough students meeting class time requirements.
The new rules also exempt students who have fulfilled state graduation requirements or are on track at the start of their senior year to exceed those requirements as well as students in accelerated learning classes, college classes and internships. Usually these students are already accomplishing the goals associated with instructional hours, and advocates of the change said it didn’t make sense to require them to take classes they didn’t need to meet district requirements.
School boards must hold a public hearing before approving student exemptions, and the districts must report to their boards the total number of exempted students.
“The board’s ruling on instructional hours was a move to shift emphasis from an across-the-board approach by district to one that is focused on ensuring that each student gets the instructional time they need to stay on track to reach graduation,” ODE Communications Director Marc Siegel said in an email.
The new rules also assure that parents or guardians can request a full schedule unless a shorter schedule is required by a rule or law.
Opponents of the change, including the Parents Coalition, said they worried that districts would take advantage of lower instructional hour expectations to give students fewer classes.
COSA, in a letter to the state board, said the changes struck a good balance between the need to provide flexibility for some students while still holding districts to higher instructional hour standards.
OSBA advocated for the change.
“It was important for schools to have flexibility so they could serve the individual best interests of students,” said Richard Donovan, Legislative Services specialist.