The state school superintendent proposes adding as much as 2.5 hours to each school day and requiring two foreign languages for high school graduation.
State Superintendent for Public Instruction Scott Bean believes the changes will help students keep up with increased educational demands.His planning recommendations, which were released Monday, carry a $112 million annual price tag.
An additional $118.5 million would be needed for 11 proposed applied technology training institutions, which would incur $13.7 million in annual operation and maintenance costs.
The recommendations, however, offer no strategies on how to extract the cash from the Legislature, which last year gave $2 billion - one-third of the state budget - to public education.
Bean won't answer questions about his proposal until after State Board of Education discussions, said Eileen Rencher, spokeswoman for the State Office of Education. The state board meets Friday.
"He's proposing serious initiatives for educational improvement for Utah schools," Rencher said. "He's always been pushing for time on task and pushing for the principles he believes in and what research shows helps students learn."
For years, Bean has talked about adding 20 or more days to the 180-day, 990-hour school year. This proposal, however, is his first to map out specifics.
"Basic literacy now includes technology and information that didn't exist 20 years ago," the recommendations state. "Increased instructional time is a necessity for students to acquire the basic literacy skills and understanding they should possess upon exiting high school. It is time to seriously consider increasing the length of the instructional day."
Students in the first through 12th grades now are required to receive at least four hours of daily instruction. Kindergartners must receive 2.5 hours a day, or 450 hours in 180 days.
Bean's proposal would add 30 minutes to a kindergartener's school day, one hour to the day for first-graders, two hours for second- through sixth-graders and 2.5 hours for seventh- through 12th-graders.
Additional time in kindergarten and first grade could be used to improve language arts, reading and numeric skills. Second- through sixth-graders could learn an international language and increase fine arts instruction.
Seventh- and eighth-graders could use the time for international language instruction, career exploration, life skills and supervised study sessions.
High school students could meet additional graduation requirements, including competency in three international languages (English being one of them), two applied technology courses and two healthy lifestyles courses in addition to the basics.
Applied technology centers in nine service regions also would multiply.
ATCs "established under the State Board of Education" would be in Salt Lake City, south Salt Lake County, Utah County, Price, Moab, Cedar City and Nephi or Delta. Programs could be established in rural high schools for outreach purposes.
Other recommendations include:
- Allowing students who pass competency tests to receive credit for specific class requirements.
- Considering middle-school courses for credit toward high school graduation.
- Doubling to 10 the number of non-teaching days per teacher per year while retaining full teacher compensation.
- Instituting family English immersion programs in at least one school in every district or service region.
- Establishing magnet high schools where district populations permit.
- Establishing specialized summer institutes for selected high school students before their senior year.
- Setting possible consequences for schools falling below set performance levels.