Pharos-Tribune

April 8, 2013

House considers bill to shorten school day

By Maureen Hayden
CNHI Statehouse Bureau

INDIANAPOLIS — Legislation that would have freed the state’s high-performing schools from the mandatory 180-day school year has been amended in the House with a provision to shorten the school day instead.

The amended version of Senate Bill 189 would let the state’s top-graded high schools opt out of a state regulation that requires them to provide students with six hours of instructional time each school day.

As the bill reads now, high schools that receive an A grade under the state’s A-F accountability grading system would be eligible to offer a shorter school day for their students.

All other high schools would have to apply for a waiver from the State Board of Education to escape the state’s current instructional time requirement. Elementary and middle schools would still be required to meet the current five hours of instructional time each day for students.

“We think this gives Indiana high schools more flexibility to create innovative (school) schedules that best fit their students’ needs,” said Rep. Todd Huston, a Republican from Fishers who authored the bill’s amendment.

The full House may vote on the amended Senate Bill 189 as soon as today.

Huston, along with House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning of Indianapolis, opposed the Senate-approved version of the bill that would have allowed the state’s top-achieving school districts to reduce their academic year to less than 180 days.

But they support other measures in Senate Bill 189, which was authored by state Sen. Mike Delph of Carmel. Those measures, still in the bill, would give high-performing school districts more leeway to develop curriculum and guidelines for teacher and staff evaluations.

The House-amended version of the bill still requires schools to complete 180 full instructional days, but gives high-performing high school more flexibility in how to define what a “full” day is.

The amended version of the bill also uses different parameters than the original bill to define what a high-performing school is. Under the current bill, high schools that receive an A grade from the Department of Education and have at least 85 percent of their students passing the math and English portions of ISTEP would qualify.

The bill also requires the State Board of Education to develop guidelines that would allow all other high schools to apply for a waiver from the state’s current requirement that they provide six hours of instructional time each day.

Huston said the shorter school day would reward schools that are doing well, while giving students more flexibility to pursue internships, career and vocational training, or advanced-level classes.   

Senate Bill 189 is still subject to change. If approved by the House, it will go to a joint House-Senate conference committee, where legislators from both chambers will have to work out the differences between the two versions of the bill.

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.