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Terry Spradlin
Center for Evaluation and Education Policy
tspradli@indiana.edu
812-855-4438

Chuck Carney
IU School of Education
ccarney@indiana.edu
812-856-8027

Last modified: Monday, January 22, 2007

Extending the K-12 school year calendar would benefit students and teachers indicates CEEP report

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan. 22, 2007

If lawmakers consider adding professional development days to the Indiana school calendar during the 2007 session, the added time should not come at the expense of student instructional time, say researchers at Indiana University.

Terry Spradlin

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"Professional development done right can be very effective at producing higher levels of student achievement," said Terry Spradlin, associate director for education policy at the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP). "However, there is little research that says it makes sense to reduce the number of days students are present for instruction to supplement with days for professional development. Adequate time for teacher professional development should not come at the price of reducing the minimum instructional calendar. Both student time on task in engaged learning and allocated time for teacher professional development are necessary."

Researchers at CEEP today (Jan. 22) released a policy brief examining a proposed bill in last year's Indiana General Assembly. Senate Bill 194, from 2006, would have allowed school corporations to use three student instructional days for professional development and parent-teacher conferences. That bill failed to pass the Senate.

One legislative proposal the current assembly is considering is Senate Bill 213, which proposes to add days to the school-year calendar for development and conferences and more days for student instruction. The bill would add five days to the school year starting in the fall, up from 180 instructional days. The legislation would require school corporations to have 200 instructional days by the 2010-11 school year.

The CEEP Education Policy Brief "Is it Time to Change Indiana's School-Year Calendar?" reports that professional development might not have a classroom benefit if students miss out on instructional time. The entire report can be viewed at http://ceep.indiana.edu/projects/PDF/PB_V5N1_Winter_2007_EPB.pdf .

Spradlin, co-author of the brief, said students are under more pressure to perform better. "How are we going to achieve that goal if we're reducing the number of days that students are in school?" Spradlin said.

While research does not support professional development in place of classroom time, Spradlin says some evidence does indicate that more time spent in "engaged academic learning" in school relates directly to academic achievement. That evidence is particularly strong for reading, math and science, especially for low-performing students.

The policy brief makes the following conclusions and recommendations:

  • Lawmakers should not take any instructional days away from the 180-day minimum instructional calendar. Indiana's 180-day requirement is the same as 28 other states and the District of Columbia.
  • Lengthen the school calendar, earmarking additional days for teacher professional development. The brief notes, however, that adding days would be expensive, with projections at $20 million per day. An alternative plan could be extending minimum instructional hours per school day.
  • Another alternative could be extending minimum instructional hours per school day (beyond the five hours required for grades 1-6 and six hours for grades 7-12), and the additional time would be allocated for teacher planning, collaboration, and professional development.
  • The brief recommends more study to determine to what extent professional development affects student academic achievement, and the most effective allocation of time for these professional development activities.

CEEP promotes and supports rigorous program evaluation and policy research primarily, but not exclusively, for education, human services and non-profit organizations. Its research uses both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. To learn more about CEEP, go to http://ceep.indiana.edu.

Spradlin can be reached at 812-855-4438 and tspradli@indiana.edu.