Oklahoma lawmakers to mull rules limiting 4-day school weeks

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Legislature will consider new rules that would raise the student performance standards for schools to operate on a four-day work week.

The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted Thursday in favor of adopting the new standards starting in the 2021-22 school year.

“It’s so important to make sure that we have those student outcomes,” board member Estela Hernandez said. “We understand that local control is very important, but we also need to ensure that best outcomes for our students are there.”

The rules would still need the approval of the Legislature, which opens its session on Feb. 3, The Oklahoman reported.

To qualify for a four-day week, elementary and middle schools would have to score at least a C in academic growth for math and English language arts on annual Oklahoma State Report Cards. The report cards measure school performance across several indicators that include academic achievement and growth, chronic absenteeism, progress in English language proficiency evaluations, post-secondary opportunities and graduation.

High schools must score a C or higher in academic achievement, which is based on state test scores, in addition to post-secondary opportunities. High schools will also be expected to meet the state’s average graduation rate, or reach 82%.

Any schools scoring in the bottom 5% on state report cards would be ineligible to operate on a four-day work week.

The education department created a list of rules in response to the state legislature passing a bill last year, which made it more difficult for schools to operate on reduced work weeks. The measure established the minimum length of a school year to 165 days instead of 180 days, or 1,080 hours. Though the department also crafted criteria to grant waivers for the minimum, if schools meet certain target goals.

Some Republicans said reduced school weeks tarnish Oklahoma's reputation and diminish students’ education.

Education advocates contend that the rules would be unattainable for most districts.

Erika Wright, of the Noble Public Schools Board of Education, said during a public hearing in December that 93% of the 113 public school districts operating on a four-day week would not meet the criteria for a waiver.

“We were promised a set of rules that would be fair and attainable by districts,” said Wright. “The bottom line is we were lied to. The state Legislature was lied to, and these rules are the opposite of fair and attainable.”

Noble Public Schools saved money on operational outlays by eliminating Friday classes and extending the remaining school days, Wright said.

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This story was first published on January 24, 2020. It was updated on January 27, 2020, to correct the performance requirements of schools operating on a four-day week.