Burns comments on four-day school week rules

Ponca City Now - January 28, 2020 2:37 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Ty Burns (R-Morrison) on Tuesday commented on new rules released by the Oklahoma State Board of Education to govern schools wishing to continue four-day school weeks.

Last year, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 441, which allows school districts, beginning in the 2021-22 school year, to adopt an hours-only schedule – 1,080 instructional hours (and less than the 165-day minimum otherwise required) – for individual schools if those schools meet waiver requirements from the State Board of Education under rules to be proposed to the Legislature this year. Districts seeking a waiver for their schools are asked to prove that the schools are performing above average in certain student performance measures and saving money as a result of the four-day schedule.

“We expected reasonable waiver rules, and we want academic accountability,” Burns said, “but we think the rules proposed are unfair and unobtainable.”

Burns said he’s been assured by the State Department of Education that the formula is fair between rural schools that might have as little as 16 students in a grade vs. for urban districts that could have hundreds of students in the same grade, but he still has concerns.

“We want to ensure these measurements are comparable and that we have a level playing field for our rural districts,” he said. “We think the four-day schedule is working in rural Oklahoma for many of our schools.”

Burns said he’s not opposed to a district being required to operate on a five-day schedule if they are performing low in multiple areas, but that is not the case for many schools in his district. He said several schools in in district received an overall grade of A on the Statewide A-F School Report Card but might have received a D in the academic growth measurement in math or English. These schools would not be able to continue to operate on the four-day schedule, he said.

If the rules are approved by the Legislature in its upcoming session, districts would need to apply for the waiver beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

To keep a four-day-a-week schedule under the proposed rules, elementary and middle schools would have to score at least a C in academic growth for math and English language arts on annual Oklahoma State School Report Cards. Early childhood centers would need to feed into an elementary school that also meets eligible criteria.

High schools would have to score a C or higher in academic achievement, which is based on state test scores, and in post-secondary opportunities on their annual report cards. Their four-year graduation rates would have to meet the state average or 82%.

No school that scores in the bottom 5% on state report cards would qualify for shortened school weeks.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, using 2019 scores (the most recent available), 46 percent of the almost 200 schools that meet fewer than 165 days would be able to request a waiver from the State Board of Education. Criteria for the 2021-22 school year cannot be set until 2020 testing data is available.

Burns said he will recommend changes be made to the rules before a vote on them.


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