Length of the Instructional Day
The Task Force recommended that the local districts continue to determine the length of the school day (note that Iowa Administrative Code 281-12.1(9) requires a minimum of 5.5 hours of instructional time per school day). [p. 9]
Length of School Year
The Task Force determined that each additional day of instruction costs about fifteen million dollars (so moving from 180 days to a 220 day school year would cost about six hundred million dollars per year), so they are not recommending more time for all students.
The Task Force is not recommending a mandatory change in school year calendars but are recommending the offer of funding as an incentive to adopt innovative calendars and that the State Board of Education should have the power to approve and revoke approval of innovative calendars. [pp. 9, 12]
However, research on year-round schooling (same numbers of school days distributed differently) suggests switching to the year-round calendar “has essentially no impact on academic achievement of the average student.” [HT: Marginal Revolution]
The Task Force is recommending a switch from counting minimum instructional time in days (180 days) to hours (1080 hours). [p. 9] Note that they have apparently calculated the conversion at a six hour school day [6 hours times 180 days equals 1080 hours] even though the administrative code sets the minimum instructional time per day at 5.5 hours [5.5 hours times 180 days equals 990 hours]. This recommendation would add the equivalent of just over sixteen days of instructional time (at the 5.5 hour day).
The Task Force comments that:
When students are not achieving proficiency, school districts must be given the authority to require their attendance in extended/supplemental learning opportunities. [p. 8]
The Task Force also suggests staggered school days or school years as a way to increase time in school without having an increase in costs in contract time for teachers. [p. 12] Presumably this would result in larger class sizes (at least part of the day) and students being required to spend more time in school than any of the adults are required to spend there. I think it is concerning that some kids could be compelled to spend more time in school than others (at district discretion) or that all kids could be compelled to spend more time in school than the adults working there are willing to be there. If a 7:30 am to 5:00 pm day is too long for the adults, it is also too long for the children.
The Task Force was unable to reach a consensus about the start date issue. The majority came down on the side of local control (having semesters end before winter break or matching calendars of local college/university) and the minority in favor of the tourism/summer job argument. [p. 11]
All in all, I’m still not convinced that children ought to be required to spend more time in school.