geralt / Pixabay


Our teachers’ union local and district have not been able to agree on a schedule for distance learning, even though the first day of school is in one week.

There are a number of points of contention – one in particular is the number of  instructional hours that would be required each day.

The state has created minimum requirements:

Whether schooling is online or in person, the rules reimpose the state’s minimum daily instructional minutes requirement of 180 for kindergarten, 230 minutes for grades 1 through 3, and 240 minutes for grades 4 through 12.

I may have missed some, but in a quick online search, I wasn’t able to find a district in California who has varied from those minimums, except perhaps by a handful of minutes in some situations.

It’s not unusual for districts to exceed those minimums in “normal” times, but this year is certainly not normal, with all instruction done online, and with likely majorities of our secondary students responsible for providing care and tutoring for their younger siblings and/or working over-or-under the counter at jobs to help support their families during this recession.

It seems that the state, and most other districts in California, understand that rationale.

Our Sacramento City Unified School District, on the other hand, appears to be proposing a fairly substantial increase from that minimum:

Kindergarten – 240 minutes (140 live screen time.)
Grades 1-3 – 245 minutes (185 live screen time.)
Grades 4-6 – 265 minutes (190 live screen time.)
Grades 7-12 – 285 minutes (180 live screen time.)

It’s also important to note that the district has also offered no professional development support to teachers during the summer to assist us with developing skills to be better instructors in this new environment.

Throwing “time” at instruction has been found to not result in greater student learning (see The Best Resources On The Idea Of Extending The School Day) during “normal” times.

What has been found to make a difference is what you do with that extra time –  enrichment activities are where you can get a bang for the buck.

The district is clearly not talking about enrichment activities – it is pushing standards and formal assessments big-time.

And it’s not like teachers are going to have much time for enrichment activities, anyway, since we’re all going to be learning new tech tools and instructional strategies, and spending an enormous amount of time tracking down students, and we all know there will be larger numbers of disconnected ones.

I understand that it can make the district look good publicly to say they are offering more instructional time than other districts.

But are those bragging rights really worth the prospect of tired and “zoomed-out” teachers and, even more importantly, students?

I’ve written before about how lots of great educational ideas sound great, but they don’t really matter if students won’t do them.

Zoom classes do not necessarily work like The Field of Dreams: