By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The state’s annual MEA conference will be held this Thursday and Friday. It’s the biggest professional development event for teachers in Minnesota.

It means there will be no school for Minnesota students, which had Anna from Crystal wanting to know: Do students go to school more or less than in the past? Good Question.

According to Education Minnesota, the Minnesota Education Academy (MEA) has been held on the third Thursday and Friday of October since the 1970s. Education Minnesota says 7,000 educators are expected to attend this year’s event in St. Paul.

Since the mid-1960s, American children have been going to school between 170 and 180 days a year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.  The number has gone up from the 1950s, when it was 160 and the 1940s when it was 152.

In Minnesota, middle and high school students are required to receive a minimum of 1,020 hours of instruction each year. That translates in 170 days, but most school districts provide more than that. According to the MN Department of Education, the average length of the Minnesota middle and high school year in 174 days.

Each Minnesota school district creates its own calendar and must take this state law into consideration. Each district also negotiates its own teachers’ contract. According to Education Minnesota, teachers must work an average of 183 days a year. That means a district will generally set aside five to 10 days for teacher professional development.

In Edina, a committee of 12 to 15 people meet every two years to decide on their school calendar. The committee starts from scratch with a survey given to teachers, students, parents and administrators with questions about preferences for scheduling. It asks questions like: Should there be a week of break at Thanksgiving? Should teacher development be a few hours or a full day? Is a three-day school week better than a two-day?

When it came to whether teacher development should be a full week or staggered throughout the year, the Edina survey results were clear.

“The teachers overwhelmingly said it would be better to stagger it out so that they could try some different pieces and then come back and have conversations and continue their learning that way,” says Gwen Jackson, director of human resources and operations at Edina Public Schools. “When we talked with parents, many of the parents said we don’t mind having a Friday here or a Monday here.”

Jackson says the school district makes careful choices and tries to balances everyone’s interest as best it can. They must also take into consideration when to schedule parent-teacher conferences and start dates for the school year. It can take weeks or months for a committee to decide on a final schedule.


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