Good Question: Is Minnesota’s School Year Too Short?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota school kids start school later than kids in any other state, by law, it’s after Labor Day. So do Minnesota kids spend less time in the classroom than in other states?

“If you look purely at the numbers, Minnesota does spend a little less time in the classroom than other states,” said Charlene Briner, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Education.

Minnesota’s legislature passed an education law during the special summer session, unifying the minimum hours of classroom instruction per year:

• 425 hours for kindergarten (equivalent of 170 days @ 2.5 hours)

• 935 hours grades 1 – 6 (equivalent of 170 days @ 5.5 hours)

• 1,020 hours grades 7 -12 (equivalent of 170 days @ 6 hours)

Lunch doesn’t count, so it works out to 170 days. In Iowa, and Wisconsin, and most of the nation the minimum is 180.

The average for Minnesota public schools, according to Briner, is 174 days.

“Some have more, some have a little less,” she said.

Most schools throw in a buffer so they don’t have to make up snow days.

Of course, different states have different definitions for “classroom instruction,” but Minnesota’s law is similar to Iowa and Wisconsin. In-service training doesn’t count, lunch doesn’t count, only when school is open, students in all grade levels are there, and teaching is happening.

So is the school year in Minnesota too short?

“That is an ongoing debate,” said Briner, “A couple years ago, President Obama proposed making the school year longer.”

Some were pushing for a national minimum of 200 days of education.

Finland is in school 190 days a year. Australia spends 200 days in class, their summer break is a month and a half from mid-December to late-January. Japan is in school 243 days.

“We have to remember, longer school years take more money,” said Briner. “With all the economic pressures we’re under, building more time into the school year is a challenge we have to grapple with.”

When looking at Minnesota compared to the rest of the country, Briner pointed out, “We lead the nation in ACT scores, obviously we’re doing something right in the classroom.”

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  • Redneck Purist

    Wrong Question: If the school year hasn’t changed for generations and the money we spend on education keeps going up while the results get worse, is this even a question worth asking? Here’s an even better question: If per pupil spending has doubled in recent years and results have gone the other direction, can’t one argue that maybe we should try spending less to make improvements in performance??
    Insert collective liberal gasp here…….LESS MONEY FOR EDUCATION TO IMPROVE IT?????

    Absolutely! Time for the liberal educrats to start defending why more and more cash down the sucking maw of public education is ALWAYS the answer for them. Yet it NEVER helps anything. How about a real discussion about how we could actually do more with less? Doesn’t it stand to reason that doing the same things with poorer and poorer results is insane?

    I think we need to start asking different questions. Instead of constant defending the need to reign in education spending, let’s require education advocates to justify more of our cash even as they do less and less with it. Let’s talk about the obvious correlation between higher spending and poor results. Talk amongst yourselves.

    • ?

      Per pupil spending has doubled in recent years? Not that I am aware of. Have results gone in the wrong direction? If you raise standards, scores will naturally be lower. Test scores have actually been getting better in most cases. Believe what you want to believe I guess.

      • Redneck Purist

        Since 1985 according to the DOE federal education spending has increased 138% adjusted for inflation. D.C. schools are among the worst in graduation rates and literacy scores and are among the highest in per pupil spending. That’s just one example. The tip of the iceberg. I haven’t even reached the surface, let alone scratched it. But by all means believe what you want to believe I guess.

        • what planet are you from

          Dimwit, the primary source of education is from property tax at the local level. This became inadequate long ago and the states began to contribute heavily. While the Federal government is great at saddling the school systems with mandates, they actually contribute very little financially to local school districts. Real per pupil spending has not doubled in recent years. Not even close.

  • Doug T

    Scores down?? The only answer then is we need to Spend More!!

    Like pouring money down a rat hole. Let fix the system and get the Unions out of education. Heck – lets get the government out of education and then we will have better results!

  • Maddog

    they shoouls have more days off. They should be at home doing chores. That’s how you get a real education.

  • sabrina

    Those of you who purely look at how much funding has increased for public schools are really naive. Busing costs, special ed costs, heating costs have increased immensely as well as cost of teaching our kids to be efficient in a tech-savvy world. Remember, 30 years ago we all used pencil and paper in the class which was significantly cheaper than computers and the technology that goes along with them. Some naive people look purely at the increase in money going into education without realizing all of the factors that may go into it. Please, don’t bash something you obviously know very little about.

  • Doug T

    sabrina – really? naive?

    The schools are a joke – they are too busy teaching nursery school ideas, pc foolishness and litlle if anything about the real world 0- as it is…

    How about teaching math and reading and the fact that this really is the greatest place to live (or it was before the silly noobs decided to hate America first and “celebrate” other failed cultures… )

    Noooo – they get pc nanny state bs, required volunteerism, (?) and learn about being dependent upon the great State….

    Get the unions and government out of schools – that along would produce better students at a lower cost.

    • Paul Solinger

      I’ve noticed that the people most critical of what schools are doing haven’t set foot in a school since they dropped out, aged out, or were kicked out. Allow me to correct your misconceptions, Dougie.

      1. More time is spent in school teaching reading and math then any other subject.
      2. There are no lessons that talk about “hating America” currently in our public schools.
      3. Schools do encourage diverse ideas, as does the real world (see your paragraph 2).
      4. If we got the government out of schools, then by definition, people would have to pay to send their children. That means only people with money would get an education. The result would be MORE people dependent on the government for welfare and other needs. They would be uneducated and unable to find work.

      5. Finally, on average states with strong unions have a better education system then states with weak unions. Minnesota has a better education system then Alabama. That’s a fact.

      Hopefully I was able to clear up your misconceptions.

      • SFN

        Gosh – it seems like a real parent has posted an informed comment. Goog for you Paul

  • Doug T

    And yes I went to government schools – and this is another in a long line of Dumb Questions

    Thats what we call them at my house – Look it the Stupid Question of the Day! Usually some over simplified question of a more complex situation dumbed down to a level of idiocy, as if we are all a bunch of simpleton sheep…..

    No wonder people are fleeing such new sources in search of something that is less insulting to our intelligence.

  • Redneck Purist

    Too true Doug! Don’t liberals ask a lot of stupid questions? Oops, my bad. There are no dumb questions: Only dumb people who ask them.

    Another thought for Sabrina while she kneels at the alter of the temple of out of control spending. What’s this fascination with computers and technology in the classroom these days? That does zero to improve test scores, make students fat and lazy, and the data kids glean from it to do their studies is at least half inaccurate and incomplete. The public schools have been cranking out dumbed down drones for decades now, who can’t read, do math, and their only knowledge of science is the Rain Forest and melting ice caps. Their idea of history only goes back to 1964. Too bad huh?

    • go back to your cave

      What’s this fascination with computers and technology? Are you serious? Are you posting from Siberia? And you think the main objective of public education is higher test scores? We’ve been turning out dumbed down drones for decades? That’s why we’re the planet’s most powerful superpower? You must be speaking only for yourself. With each post you one finger peck you make dumbed down drones appear ever more brilliant.

  • justaxnspend

    So…..How come it would cost more to keep schools open longer? The Teachers are salaried, also Admin people and the building is paid for…..
    Oh, I guess the janitor would get in more hours?
    Maybe Tom Dooher can give us the answer…..Ah…Never mind.

    • Paul Solinger

      The teachers are salaried for a certain number of days per year. Would it be fair to ask them to work an additional 30 days without compensation?

      Would you work an additional 30 days at McDonalds without pay? Would Dougie continue his Dog-Walking career an additional 30 days without pay? Would Redneck Purist continue his maile escort service an additional 30 days without pay?

      Did somebody mention “stupid questions” earlier?

      • Doug T

        Key word here is “work” – not sure if union personnel understand this word…

        • find a new scapegoat

          You two morons have no idea what teachers do, what happens in the classroom, or where education money comes from. The idea that all our social problems can be blamed on public education truly reveals the depth of your ignorance. Behind every successful student is a good parent or parents that insist their children’s education is a priority. What has changed over the last fifty years is the American family. Even magic can’t compensate for a willingness to abdicate parental responsibility. Why are Asian students stereotyped as super students? Because the cultures and societies they come from value education and it is considered a family;s responsibility. That would be too much to ask from morons like you two. How much easier to use public education and teachers as a whipping post to cover your own failure and ignorance.

      • Redneck Purist

        Great point, extending the school year is a bad idea because the teachers would have to spend more hours in the faculty lounge without compensation discussing their next protest.

        As to your other false premises: kids in schools spend about half their time either standing in line, riding the bus, smoking in the can, eating lunch, and at recess, rather than on academics. Fact. Probably another 20 percent or so is spent in phy-ed, home-ec, health class (or how to put on a condom and still get a girl pregnant and catch a disease) and other idiotic pursuits. Trying to reach the tiny of sliver of time devoted to academics for is like running an obstacle course of pure waste and fluff.

        If we got the feds out of education kids would still have schools, only they’d be better because they’d be paid for at the local level where people can actually see their dollars pay for it and decide what they want and don’t want. The feds could give us our cash back and let us decide how best to spend it.

        And your last argument is pure scare tactics: Give us more money and control and responsibility for your kids or they’ll be criminals or on welfare. Like blowing vast sums of education dollars has kept anyone off welfare. That is what we rubes and hick conservatives call bovine scatology.

        Let’s turn that argument on its head for once and ask you to prove that it isn’t our failed public education system that has given us all the crime and government dependence we have today.

        You guys have been working your magic on America’s youth for about fifty years now. DEFEND THE RESULTS!

  • Kevin

    Oh God please! Its not too short! The union teachers need their rest from the jobs! In fact they would love to have a 90 day school year so they could enjoy more winter sports…..and see fall colors…..

  • xxx

    Simple answer.
    Have children attend school for 365 days out of the year.
    Then, we can began to compete with the rest of the world.

  • SFN

    I think the school year is long enough – start after labor day and end my memorial day! But I think time is lost during the school year – and that should be fixed. We have early release days (10 or so). they count as a whole day because the kids stay through lunch – but they leave immediately after lunch so school insturction hours are lost. Our school has block scheduling – so these early relase days are especially disruptive.

    My ohter comment is about the time in the spring after all the big tests are completed. Teachers are forced to focus on the tests – once they are completed everyone seems to slack off and the rest of the spring is poorly used.

  • why can't we

    Answer: Year-round schools. Not 365, but at least 200. My kids love the year-round concept. They excel academically. Minimal time is spent reviewing concepts at the beginning of the year.

  • Iowa Schools don't have more time

    Iowa schools may start earlier, but they also end much earlier than other schools here in Minnesota. They also have early outs or late starts about 4 times per month, close early for hot days, and cancel school for cold days and snow.

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