At a joint hearing between the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee and the House Education Committee, Dr. Rice, Michigan Superintendent of Schools, encouraged legislators to consider additional instructional time in the upcoming academic school year to address foregone student learning.
The joint committee hearing took place last week, where Dr. Rice testified that the current 180 day minimum requirement in Michigan is not and never was enough for optimizing student success, in comparison to other high-performing countries.
Dr. Rice encouraged the state legislature to increase the minimum number of days next school year and also called on districts to assess and reflect on their own unique needs and layer in additional time for students to combat learning gaps. In a recent memo, Dr. Rice asked districts to assess its needs for three additional layers of time: for the district as a whole; for vulnerable students such as those with special needs, English language learners, and new readers; and for individual students who may be struggling.
There were two reasons Dr. Rice listed for the call for increased instructional days: 1) many students did not capture as much learning as they should have this past year, and 2) pre-pandemic, Michigan acknowledged in its ongoing improvement of schools that work would still need to be done. He expressed that even prior to the pandemic, 180 days was simply not enough time, and that considering tacking on an additional five days is reasonable and would be beneficial.
In addition to advocating for a higher statutorily mandated minimum, Dr. Rice also shared other insights he felt came to light during the pandemic, including the importance of home technology to supplement the educational process, social and emotional learning supports and resources to address student mental health, the importance of early literacy, smaller class sizes, and equitable funding.
While it remains to be seen whether the minimum school day requirement will increase, it is crucial for school districts to continue to assess and reflect on the myriad of issues, concerns, and possible solutions as plans for the next school year commence. Needs will of course vary from district to district, and some students will require more time and support than others. By March 1, all school districts are expected to offer the option for in-person instruction.
Dr. Rice’s most recent memo can be accessed here.