State Superintendent of Education Sandy Garrett earlier this month shocked many Oklahomans by proposing a plan that would add an hour to each school day and five days to the current school calendar. According to Garrett, Oklahoma students don't “spend enough time learning” in the classroom. Her plan, if adopted, would add time to the day and days to the year in an effort to alleviate the problem.

The measure met – not unexpectedly – some resistance from educators, parents and thousands of Oklahoma students who would be spending more time in the classroom and see their summer vacation shortened by a full week.

If raising test scores and improving Oklahoma schools is Garrett's goal, we applaud her in that regard. Spending more “quality” time in school is a a terrific idea. But is it necessary to lengthen the school day and calendar year in order to accomplish that goal?

Of the 180 days on the current school calendar, five are set aside for professional development, with no students in the classroom. The remaining 175 days are called “student days” or “class days,” and are the only chance teachers have to actually teach.

But the fact is, in today’s educational reality, that many students spend nowhere near 175 days in class learning Trigonometry, English, Biology or anything else. With some school attendance policies allowing students to be absent one day every week, students can miss one-fifth of the school year (nearly 40 days) and still pass. Add on the dozens of days many students miss for various school activities, and you begin to understand the frustration of many teachers who have full classrooms less than half the school year – and yet are still expected to educate students in preparation for state-mandated testing.

No one wants to eliminate baseball, softball and basketball games, or do away with FFA, FHA, FBLA or interscholastic meets. But Oklahoma students are getting credit for a lot of days they never see the inside of a classroom.

Before we lengthen the school day and add days to the school year, why don't we step back and examine how many of the current "in class" days are not being utilized?

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