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Some Wisconsin schools might be experimenting with instruction hours

Marylee Williams

Wisconsin Public Radio

Lawmakers heard comments Thursday about a proposed pilot program that would allow schools in the CESA6 region to ditch the state’s mandatory direct pupil instruction hours, or the hours a child is at school learning.

The proposed legislation states only schools and school districts in the CESA6 region that "exceeds expectations" or "significantly exceeds expectations" in their most recent accountability report can participate in this two-year pilot program.

CESA6 represents 40 school districts in Fond du Lac, Dodge, Green Lake, Outagamie, Washington, Winnebago, Waupaca and Waushara counties.

School districts are currently required to meet varying amounts of direct pupil instruction hours and report them to the state Department of Public Instruction:

  • Kindergarten: 437 hours
  • Grades first through sixth: 1,050 hours
  • Grades seventh through 12th: 1,137 hours

Proponents of the legislation say they want this program available to all school districts, but they’re settling for this pilot for now.

During the public hearing, Neenah School District Superintendent Mary Pfeiffer said this program will give school districts desired flexibility to focus on education opportunities outside the classroom, which aren’t counted as "seat time."

"How we lead our students through the learning process really has to be recognized not only during school but before school and after school hours," Pfeiffer said. "It’s a process and it doesn’t just take place during the school hours."

Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, a member of the Committee on Education, questioned the risks of this program moving forward. He said school boards could use this as a cost-saving measure.

"You’re coming with the right ideas of innovation and getting the best education for the kids, I’m concerned about the funding source," he said. "When we keep continuing to cut education, what are the boards going to do?"

This is a limited pilot program, but it also might be redundant because Wisconsin school districts can currently apply to abandon mandatory instruction hours through DPI’s Innovation District program. If school districts can prove a state regulation limits their instructors’ ability to improve education and offer a different education approach, they could be allowed to bypass the specified requirement. 

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