Longer school year on the table

LANSING, Mich. - Michigan lawmakers may mandate a 170-day school year over concern that some districts are shortchanging students, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Michigan used to mandate 180 days of instruction, but lawmakers revised that five years ago to 1,098 hours, the Free Press reported. The idea was to help districts economize by lengthening the school day but decreasing the number of days, which resulted in savings on facilities use, bus runs and support staff payroll. The average school year in Michigan is now 171 days, but some districts operate on 160-day or shorter schedules, the Free Press reported.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Flanagan told the Free Press that students need more learning time in order to compete globally. The state House has approved a new mandate of a minimum of 170 days; that proposal is now before the Senate.

The Obama administration is backing an even longer school year as part of its school reform platform, the Free Press reported, though University of Michigan education professor Brian Rowan said that studies show the number of days spent in school doesn't predict international differences in achievement.

The Detroit Free Press, "Push is on to add days to Michigan school year," June 11, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Year-around schools give parents, students another option," Sept. 6, 2006