Bill loosens instructional time mandate for schools

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(The Center Square) – Schools may soon have more scheduling leeway in Pennsylvania.

The state House unanimously approved legislation that would no longer require districts to schedule 180 days and 900 or 990 hours – for elementary and secondary students, respectively – of instructional time.

Instead, House Bill 1507 offers districts a choice between the two metrics. Rep. Jesse Topper, R-Bedford, said he sponsored the proposal because the current standard is “outdated.”

“This ties our school districts, intermediate units, and career and technical centers to rigid schedules, rendering them unable to customize schedules for various groups of students based on their abilities, interests, and grade level,” he said.

Pennsylvania is one of 18 states that still count “seat time.” The bill’s supporters agree that the metric of total hours learning, rather than individual days spent in a classroom, shifts the focus from quantity to quality of education.

The change would also allow educators to facilitate more customized schedules for their students and make it easier and more transparent for cyber school students, who work largely at their own pace, to track instructional hours.

Other supporters say the change allows for focused instruction, varied class lengths, hands-on technical learning, and the opportunity to ditch mandatory in-person make-up days for weather cancellations.

“Though it may seem like a minor adjustment in accounting for instructional time, this change will give teachers and administrators the opportunity to better meet the needs of students,” Topper said.

“As I have toured school districts across this Commonwealth, I’ve heard the request for increased individualized education, student support and more focused workforce development,” he added. “This bill will help in all those areas.”

The proposal advanced to the Senate Education Committee for consideration, but no hearings or votes have yet to be scheduled.

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