Student Learning Time Varies Up To 200 Hours By State

Researchers collected data from public schools across the nation depicting how many hours of learning time they enacted, finding that some areas instructed students nearly 200 hours less than others, equivalent to five and a half weeks of school.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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American academics have been on a downward trajectory for quite some time now. Much of this is due to overall learning loss. But what isn’t on such a straightforward path in the nation is the amount of learning time students receive, as this can vary up to nearly 200 hours a year depending on where students are located.

USA Today reported this finding from a recent study by two Brown and Stanford University professors. The researchers discovered that the average public school in America stays in sessions for 6.87 hours a day and 178.71 days per school year, making the average learning time a student receives each year about 1,227 hours. However, when scouring this data, the researchers found that time spent learning can vary up to 189 hours, equivalent to about five and a half weeks.

Some 18% of public schools end their school year with at least a whole week less learning time than the national average. On the other hand, many others remain in session well over a week above that median. Moreover, 13% of schools have days that are at least 30 minutes shorter than the average school.

While the data and differences may read minimal, their significance is crucial to understanding the education gap in the U.S. To put this into perspective, let’s compare student averages in Maryland to other states.  By the time Maryland kids graduate from high school, they will have spent nearly an entire school year’s worth of learning time more than their peers in Florida, Connecticut, and Alaska. 

When considering the wide disparity in learning times students receive across the nation, it conveys just how much students suffer in some areas that for one reason or another don’t offer as many class hours as others. This is alarming to some, especially considering how crucial high-quality instruction time can be.

Research has long proven that the more learning time a child gets, the better their grades. And since the COVID-19 pandemic escalated learning loss throughout the nation, experts now know more than ever how crucial that extra time can be. Some areas, like Dallas, Texas, understand this and have created plans to add more instructional days to their school year for the interim.

But on the other hand, many areas are doing quite the opposite. There has been a surge of schools switching to a four-day school week, cutting back on learning time. Often, the major reason for implementing such major shifts is due to a lack of teachers.

The teacher shortage is driving educators away from the industry. They are burned out and stressed. In order to entice teachers, many schools now promise teachers a four-day work week. 

learning time

Unfortunately, there is little that can likely be done to reverse this diverse learning time gap in America. While the federal department of education can steer and suggest policy and allocate federal funding, it is up to each individual state to create its own policies. Even then, most states typically set just minimums for instruction time requirements, meaning that even from district to district, schools can vary.