The concept behind the number of days students spend in an educational setting is one based on experience, research, policy, and custom. The 180 days used in many states and educational communities has served as a benchmark for years despite educational change, testing requirements, and societal developments. But unlike the manufacturing process school systems are based on, the use of this benchmark is as ineffective as it is outdated. Even the amount of hours at school is based around transportation and public convenience rather than educational research.
If however, one was to simply ask students, parents, and teachers the answer to the question, “How many totally effective schools days are there in a school year?” the answer would be significantly different from the number given by the states. If school were a manufacturing plant, where production goes forward despite other activities that occur during the day, given the fact that in the minimum number of production days, in this case 180, their product must be ready for shipment, then perhaps the number of days set at 180 would be an acceptable amount. However that would mean in school, despite a holiday assembly in the theater, the teacher would remain in the classroom and pressed on with the day’s lesson utilizing every minute of the 180 days, then we could say that in theory the time was used as required by law. Unfortunately unlike the assembly line where the product stays on the line, in this case the student leaves the line and heads to the theater.
Over the course of more than 20 years of educational experience to include raising four children through various educational systems to include DODDS, and input I’ve gathered from thousands of teachers over the years, the answer to the question raised about totally effective production/classroom days hovers more accurately around 155 effective school days.
That number may be further distorted based on the date testing is administered. Again using production facilities in comparison, the measurement of success is at the end of 180 days the product produced is what was promised at day one: In the educational process we measure the success of production using standardized testing 30 to 45 days before the promised delivery date. Effective educational time therefore, the amount of hours spent by students in an educational setting not to be confused with the amount of time teachers spend in comparison,is certainly a questionable amount. If standardized testing is based on an educational production time of 180 days then we are measuring success of students and schools before the paint is dry.
The solution therefore is an examination of the educational structure, the administration of that structure, and an educational calendar based on the reality of schools and not the perception. To be honest even the term Total Effective School Days is an improbable standard given the fact that the educational system is as much a social preparatory school as it is an educational one. Measurement of one’s social progress is almost as difficult as effective measurement of one’s educational progress. The question therefore goes back to the number of days given by states as a standard, is that an effective amount of time given the needs of society, the requirements of standardized testing, and the amount of quality educational time allocated to each teacher in our schools? If we are going to change the curriculum of schools across the country, we owe it to everyone to change the amount of time necessary to teach that curriculum.