Considering that there are between 160 and 180 days of school per academic year, depending on the state, there are 32 to 36 weeks of school based on the 5-day school week, or about 22.9 to 25.7 weeks if you include weekends.
The requirements depend on a number of factors, such as the state in which the school is located, the school district, the grade level, and whether the school is public or private.
However, most states require an average of 180 days of instruction, which translates to 36 weeks in terms of the 5-day school week.
There’s been a trend since the 1980s where the required length of instructional time in schools has been generally increasing.
Since this period, over a dozen states have increased the minimum amount of time their students should be in school, while only a few states have reduced the minimum days or hours their students should be learning.
The 180-day school calendar became the general standard at the onset of the 20th century.
Before, there had been complaints that the academic year was too long and concerns that conducting school during the summer months was problematic.
Officials were concerned about students’ low attendance rates, and they also feared that “excessive schooling” was harmful to their health.
In addition, with concerns about school buildings’ poor ventilation and the belief that the summer heat could easily spread diseases in crowded spaces like schools, officials decided to reduce the amount of time students had to spend in school and increase the length of summer break.
Thus, a new standard was in place – a shorter academic year with a long summer break. But again, there’s been a movement since the 1980s to increase the length of instructional time.
Whether states will continue seeing an upward trend in the number of days or hours of learning over the next few decades remains to be seen.
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Presently, there are seven states (Arkansas, Maine, and North Dakota) with a minimum requirement of 170 to 178 days, or 34 to 35.6 weeks, of school.
Four states (Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, and Missouri) have their own specific criteria for the number of days their students should be in school.
The number of days can be below 170 days or, in some rare cases, above 180 days. This means that some schools can have less than 34 weeks of instruction while others can have more than 36 weeks.
There are seven states that measure their school year in hours, rather than days. These states are Delaware, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, and Wisconsin.
There are currently 29 states, as well as the District of Columbia, that require 180 days – equivalent to 36 weeks – of schooling.
However, some of these states are more lenient than others when it comes to meeting the required amount of instructional time.
For instance, ten of these states give their districts, rather than the state government, the authority to determine how schools are operated throughout the school year.
The districts just have to choose between meeting the minimum number of hours or fulfilling the 180-day, or 36-week, requirement.
These states are Alabama, Alaska, Florida, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Iowa, North Carolina, and Virginia.
Finally, three states have neither required school days nor required school hours. The school districts decide on the amount of schooling their students receive, as well as when the school year begins and ends.
They can also choose the length of the school day. The only limitation is that schools have to start no earlier than August and end no later than June. These states are Idaho, Ohio, and South Dakota.
American students are known to spend less time in school than students in other countries like China and India.
According to a 2017 Pew Research Center Poll, the US still lags behind other countries in their math, reading, and science scores.
Chinese students spend an average of 245 days in school, or 49 weeks if we’re going off the 5-day school week.
However, many schools conduct required math and science classes in the morning, so, based on the 6-day week, that’s 40.8 weeks of school.
Compare this statistic to the US, where students spend 180 days, or 36 weeks (5-day week), learning – not to mention the fact that Chinese students have much longer school days.
A typical school day in China starts at 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. and ends at 5:00 p.m.
In India, the average number of school days is 231, which is roughly equivalent to 46.2 weeks when referring to the 5-day school week.
Officials in India believe that the more time students spend in school, the more they’ll learn.
They hold that this is especially true in rural communities, where students supposedly experience less mental stimulation at home.
They say the ideal amount of schooling is 220 to 230 days, which is the same as 44 to 46 weeks.
Despite the fact that the US has fewer school days and weeks than a number of other countries, some industrialized countries do have about the same amount of instructional time.
One such country is Finland, which sets a maximum of 190 days of school, or 38 weeks. That number is a maximum, however, and most schools in the country hold classes for fewer days/weeks than that amount of time.
Even with its less stringent requirements, Finnish students consistently outperform students from other countries.
This is largely due to the country’s focus on holistic, individualized learning rather than a rigid, one-size-fits-all type of education.
Some argue that the US would benefit from having a more education-centered culture like China or India.
They also believe that upholding individuality and academic independence, like Finland, would propel American students forward in their learning.
Rather than focus on the number of days/weeks in school, they say, officials should focus more on the quality of education in the US and the overall wellbeing of students.