Oregon school district ignoring students’ pleas for more class time
BEAVERTON, Ore. – Students in the Beaverton, Oregon school district are literally begging school board members for more class time, so they can learn more.
Board members, however, are content to take a wait-and-see approach to a recent state ruling reaffirming the minimal instruction time, in an apparent attempt to skirt the law, The Oregonian reports.
“I feel I am unprepared compared to students in other states,” Page Hall, a student at Sunset High School, recently told the Beaverton school board. “I want to go off to college fully prepared.”
Beaverton is among numerous Oregon school districts impacted by a recent state ruling that reaffirms minimal standards for instructional time in high schools – 130 hours per class, and at least 990 hours per year.
That’s roughly 165 days of school for students with six class hours per day, far below the national norm of 1,080, or 180 days. Several school districts that fall short of the state-mandated minimums are readjusting their schedules and adding school days to comply with the state ruling, but not Beaverton, the news site reports.
“ … Beaverton is taking a wait-and-see approach on the 130-hour rule. Wait and see if a parent formally files a Beaverton-specific complaint with the state. Wait and see if the state allows school districts more wiggle room on what counts as instructional time or its equivalent,” according to The Oregonian.
The district’s decision not to take action is especially egregious considering the academic performance of its high school students, fewer of whom are graduating when they should.
“Beaverton’s on-time graduation rate slipped last year, even as the state’s rate inched upward. At Aloha High, the graduation rate fell five points to 68 percent. Southridge saw a five-point drop to 83 percent. In this context, it’s hard to see how the district could be so ho-hum about class time,” The Oregonian opined.
The newspaper suggests that the district has been too distracted with a proposed $680 million bond measure and current negotiations with the local teachers union.
“Actual class time for actual students has felt like a lower priority, which is disconcerting,” according to The Oregonian.
The district’s lack of sufficient class time means low achieving students are falling further behind, and high achieving students don’t have enough class time to learn the material, the newspaper wrote.
The Oregonian’s reasoning implies that school officials should simply increase class time, but it’s not so simple.
District officials must negotiate the added time with union officials who are typically reluctant to agree to increase work for their members without a corresponding increase in compensation. In other words, more class time will cost more money, unless the union agrees to special concessions.
If Beaverton students and parents want what’s best for students – specifically to add class time in a district far behind the national norm – they’ll not only have to confront school officials, they must also convince the teachers union it’s in their best interests.
That will be difficult, unless taxpayers are willing fork over a lot more for labor costs.