Strengthening school-day rule

October 20, 2013

The West Virginia Board of Education took a step last week that, if enforced, could mean students in some county school systems are no longer short-changed when it comes to instructional time.

The board unveiled a new policy — expected to go into effect for the 2014-2015 school year — that requires counties to develop an annual school calendar guaranteeing at least 180 days of instruction. That has always been the supposed requirement, but the new policy also requires the counties’ calendars to include a plan to compensate for days lost when inclement weather forces schools to be closed. That often was not built in to school calendars of the past.

The new policy, stemming from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s education reform bill, also would require faculty senates to meet during non-instructional days so that schools can’t cancel classes for professional development.

Both changes mark a significant improvement in ensuring West Virginia’s public school students receive the required 180 days of instruction — again, if the new policy is enforced better than the old one.

Even though the previous policy called for 180 days of instructions, many of the state’s 55 county school systems would fall short year in and year out. …

We hope the new policy will put an end to those practices and ensure that students indeed have 180 days of instruction. That’s important, because overall achievement levels of West Virginia’s students generally fall lower than their counterparts in many other states. Shorting the students on instruction time only detracts from efforts to help them do better.

Overall, county school systems have gained more flexibility in developing their own school calendars, a point emphasized by state education officials. It’s good to know, however, that they will be held more accountable for devising calendars ensuring students get the required instructional time.

— The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington