CRREO discussion brief focuses on time in school

CRREO discussion brief 14The Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) at SUNY New Paltz has released its 14th discussion brief, “Erosion of Instructional Time.” The discussion brief notes that although time in school has long been considered one of the most important factors in student learning, there are widely misconceived notions about the amount of time students spend in school.

Author Robin Jacobowitz, Ph.D., director of education projects at CRREO, reports that despite New York State regulations that specify “180 required days of instruction,” many public school students are actually in school for fewer than 180 days. Through a review of the literature, an analysis of bell schedules, school calendars, and teacher contracts in six school districts in the Hudson Valley region, this brief finds that in one sample school district, students lost between 9.5 (elementary school) and 14 (high school) instructional days due to weather, state-mandated testing, professional development, and time to communicate with families.

“We find that allocating time in school is an intricate balancing act of instructional needs of students, professional development for teachers, communicating with families, and accommodating the demands of statewide initiatives (testing, for example),” said Jacobowitz. “But to be clear, this brief is not advocating for more time in school for students. It is about using the time that we have well.”

According to Gerald Benjamin, CRREO director and associate vice president for regional engagement, “International comparisons have brought much attention to the question of whether American elementary and secondary students spend enough time in school. Meanwhile far less scrutiny has been given to how the days that our students are mandated to be in school are actually spent.”

He added, “This provocative study shows that a significant proportion of New York’s required 180 days of instruction in selected Hudson Valley school districts is not devoted to teaching and learning, and suggests that education might benefit if we pay closer attention to how we use this scarce and expensive resource.”

CRREO was established in 2007 to further engage SUNY New Paltz with communities, governments, not-for-profits, and businesses across our region. CRREO conducts and publicizes research on regional topics; creates and directs select institutes focusing on specific topics of regional interest; connects and partners with local governments, not-for-profits, and businesses to initiate reforms and advocate for best practices; contracts to assess the performance of public and not-for-profit agencies and programs; and works to foster intergovernmental collaboration and community engagement.