Opinion: Bill seeks to cut classroom instruction time by 20 percent

Under SB 5735 teachers would teach Monday through Thursday, give out homework, then not see students again until the following Monday.
File photo.

Under SB 5735 teachers would teach Monday through Thursday, give out homework, then not see students again until the following Monday

Liv Finne
Washington Policy Center

A bill introduced by Senator Manka Dhingra (Democrat, Kirkland), SB 5735, would cut classroom instruction time for students in public schools by 20 percent.  The bill would use an administrative maneuver to re-define “instructional hour” to include so-called “asynchronous” learning time.  “Asynchronous” is a political euphemism for “homework.”  The bill would treat the time students spend on their homework as active teaching time, and cut class instructional time by one day per week.

Liv Finne
Liv Finne

The insider term “asynchronous” dates from the governor’s shut-down order in March 2020.  At the time the State Board of Education and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) created mandatory “synchronous” learning, a teacher talking to students online over Zoom.  So officials decided that students working without teachers is “asynchronous” learning, commonly known as homework.

Now some lawmakers want to make this emergency measure permanent.  Under SB 5735 teachers would teach Monday through Thursday, give out homework, then not see students again until the following Monday.

The cut in learning time would add to the falling academic standards in public schools.  The latest test scores show 70 percent of students failing in math, and 53 percent are failing in English.  Students have already lost learning since the governor closed the schools in 2020 and many schools have only partially reopened since then.

Our research shows the State Board of Education and OSPI are lowering academic learning standards and weakening high school graduation standards, while devoting more time on racially-based CRT training.

In addition, some school districts are taking three- and four-day weekends, often with no or little notice to parents.

The proposed cut in instructional hours comes as schools are receiving record levels of funding, over $17.5 billion in education spending.  Average teacher pay and benefits is $120,000 a year for ten months, and per-student spending is $16,800 a year, more than tuition at most private schools.

This helps explain why 41,000 families have pulled out of Washington’s public schools.  It also explains the growing popularity of school choice, as families who care about their children’s future look for alternatives.  A different bill, HB 1886, would give families access to up to $10,000 each so children could attend private schools, full-time online school or other schools that provide five full instruction days a week.

All educators know that students learn as a result of time on task.  The more in-person instructional minutes or hours are devoted to a particular lesson the better children learn.  Lowering standards and cutting instructional time, as SB 5735 would do, denies children access to a high-quality public education and to the skills needed to become life-long learners. 

As lawmakers consider a 20 percent cut in learning time, it’s no wonder the search for school alternatives is becoming increasingly popular.

Liv Finne is the director of the Center for Education at the Washington Policy Center.

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Susan
Susan
10 months ago

Are you schitting me? The sponsor, some demonrat bozo from Kirkland, needs to get his/her head out of the deep, dark, stinky hole into which it has obviously been inserted. Why is it that many of these hair-brained ideas come from people whose name you cannot pronounce?

Mariah Mccleskey
Mariah Mccleskey
10 months ago

As a high school science teacher, this is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. We are already struggling to teach the current standards in the time we have, cutting instruction time would be detrimental for students.

Diane C.
Diane C.
10 months ago

SB 5735 does not change the requirement that school districts provide 1080 instructional hour offerings. Nor is asynchronous learning new; it has been the norm in the corporate world for many years, even if the term has been rarely used.

Falling test scores are a result of student disengagement, which in turn are a result of the ongoing stress of the pandemic. Asynchronous learning can help alleviate the “Zoom fatigue” and can offer flexibility to personalize learning to suit students specific needs. 

However, this bill could be improved, by adding a definitions of “homework” and additional examples of “asynchronous learning” to clarify the difference between the two. 

Sue Russell
Sue Russell
10 months ago
Reply to  Diane C.

Maybe at grades 6 thru 12but its ridiculous k thru 5. Teachers that believe this need to worm at disneyland. 1 day less work means 20% less pay.

Ron C
Ron C
10 months ago

A horrible idea on so many levels!! I have to question some of the facts though. As someone who’s been in education for 15+ years I’d love to know where they found “Average teacher pay and benefits is $120,000 a year.”  That’s definitely not the case.

Amanda Stonecypher
Amanda Stonecypher
10 months ago

The asshat who came up with this bill probably has the teacher’s union in their pocket!! This is beyond stupid!!! Is it not enough that our kids fell behind during the zoom period?? Now you want to do this??? WTF??? Putting this in place will push more parents to pull their kids out of public education!!! Or parents like, we’ll enroll them in another state!!!

K.J. Hinton
K.J. Hinton
9 months ago

Looks like the work of a fringe-left teacher union lackey.

So.

We’re punching out semi-literate cretins like movie tickets and they want to reduce classroom time by a fifth.

Since no one else cares about academic outcomes, I’m all for it.

As long as teacher pay/social engineering classes are also cut to reflect that.

And here’s a guess: they’re not.

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