The Iowa House has passed landmark legislation that bars schools from counting the time kids spend at lunch or on the playground as part of the school day. The bill which cleared the House establishes a minimum number of classroom hours that schools must accumulate each year.
Representative Jodi Tymeson, a Republican from Winterset, says it’s time in the classroom that should be counted, not time at a pep rally or recess. “That’s what teachers want. They are frustrated when students miss instruction. Parents want schools to minimize lost instruction time,” Tymeson says. “This bill provides the opportunity to make sure students get the (classroom) time that they deserve.”
Tymeson says many Iowa high schools and middle schools have less instruction time than elementary schools. “And we wonder why our eighth graders are struggling in math?” she says.
Under current law, schools must meet for at least 180 days each year. But when they start late or get out early because of weather, schools often count that as a full day. Representative Cindy Winckler, a Democrat from Davenport, says this bill would bring big changes. Winckler predicts school superintendents would no longer be able to choose the two-hour late start option when the weather’s bad. “We really won’t be able to make up time in two-hour chunks,” Winckler says.
Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, says quality teachers are a better indicator of student achievement. “I think it’s what we do with the classroom time that is the important thing,” Mascher says. “Not how many minutes, but the quality of the minutes you spend.”
The bill now goes to the Senate.