Saturday, October 18, 2008

Instructional time in High School classes in Seattle

Check out this article in the Seattle Times:

Think about "Two Million Minutes" and the finding that in China students spend about twice as much time studying at the high school level than do USA high school students.

Here is a link to the SPS blog on this topic.

The State of WA supposedly requires 150 hours of instructional time for each high school credit.

Consider half days, assemblies, etc.
Now there are supposedly 150 school days.
If a class is 50 minutes, that is 5/6 hour.
So 180 days of class x 5/6 hour/class = 150 hours.

What is the chance that the class actually runs for 50 minutes per day for 180 days?
This is yet another example of the State Board of Education failing to connect with the reality of the current state law.

It is a bigger example of the failure of this nation to connect with international reality.


Anonymous said...


In my opinion instructional time should be a key issue when discussing how to improve student learning. Seems to me from discussions I have with school board members and administration personnel the issue is not important.

Michael Rice said...


Here is what I wrote at Save Seattle Schools:

There is an article in the Seattle Times today about the number of hours of instruction a student receives in the 10 comprehensive high schools. Only 2 of the schools meet the criteria of 150 hours of instruction per class per school year.

I have to say that this is one of my biggest gripes. At Rainier Beach, we have twenty 2-hour late arrival and early dismissal days during the year. On those days, each of the 6 periods only meets for 35 minutes. I don't feel that is enough time for any sort of new instruction, so I have these days be "work and review" days. I hate this for a couple of reasons. The students get cheated out of instruction and the time the teachers spend in the morning or afternoon is usually very unproductive. Last year, for example, most of the twenty days was spent on district-mandated training for a Language Arts program called Reading Apprenticeship. Now I'm sure this is a fine program, but when I talked to our LA teachers about it, they kind of rolled their eyes and told me they were already doing all of these techniques. Of course, as math teacher, I found those days to be a total waste of my time. Is reading important? Absoulutely, it is. I have a sign in my room that says: "Reading is Freedom." I believe that totally and completely. However, I strongly believe that all that time could of been more effectively used, if the math teachers were meeting, working on how to be more effective teachers of math, not more effective teachers of reading.

In the article, there were many comments about how the methodology used to calculate time spent in the classroom was incorrect. Well, that may or may not be true, but the big picture question about instruction time is very clear. Students don't spend nearly enough time in class. At Rainier Beach, we have a 15 minute break in between 2nd and 3rd period and then we spend 20 minutes at the end of 4th period doing Student Silent Reading. All we need to do to have a 7 period day is do away with those two things and add 15 minutes to the end of the day. Now the students would get significantly more instruction and the students who are struggling in reading or writing or math could take a support class to help bring them up to grade level. That would be a much better way to increase student learning.

dan dempsey said...


Thanks for your thoughts. I completely agree time on task during the school day needs to be increased if significant learning improvement is to come about. It seems like the reform movement's emphasis on process over content produced this current emphasis on professional development. When content coverage and skill development are not important I guess the students do not need to be in class. I think content knowledge and skills are important and emphasis on this has been seriously lacking. seriously

Anonymous said...

The content needs to be improved first. Students are off-task because they can't make sense of the content. Granted students need to be in-class, but they also have to be on-task or at least at-school.

Anonymous said...

?Why would you increase class-time, if kids aren't learning anyway. It seems they would be more off-task and therefore more likely to fail class? Work smarter, not harder. Open a textbook and read it, this doesn't require more thinking, kids need better curriculum.