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Superintendents longer school year

Minnesota state lawmakers add five weeks calendar summer break.

Rochester Superintendent Williams proposal.

200 day Association of Administrators' legislative platform, Pawlenty students state federal testing curriculum requirements.

China, India, Australia, England Japan

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Superintendents seek longer school year

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota superintendents will press state lawmakers to add five weeks to the school calendar over the next four years, mostly by slimming down summer break.

Rochester Superintendent Jerry Williams is in favor of the proposal.

"I like it, he said this morning. "I believe some pieces of the plan really need to be worked out yet, but conceptually I favor it."

The 200-day school year goal is a key plank in the Minnesota Association of School Administrators' legislative platform, which was approved Wednesday by a 20-member board of directors. Gov. Tim Pawlenty gave the idea a warm reception.

Rochester students will be in class 176 days this school year. Williams said additional class time could really benefit many students. And more days would help teachers address the growing list of state and federal testing and curriculum requirements.

"Basically, each year were squeezing more expectations each year," he said.

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Williams said he believes there would probably be "widespread support" of the plan by teachers.

Two potential problems with the plan, he pointed out, is high school students who work during the summer months and teachers who attend summer classes. Williams said that if the longer year were enacted, colleges would need to change their schedules to accommodate teachers taking summer courses.

The state proposal reignites a debate Minnesota and many states had in the 1990s amid concerns that American students were losing ground to children in other countries.

In 1991, state lawmakers passed a law to gradually build up the school year until topping out at 190 days in 2004-05. But two years later they repealed the law, leaving it up to local districts to decide.

Minnesota children now spend 170 to 175 days in school.

Students in China, India, Australia, England and Japan all spent more than 200 days in class, said Charlie Kyte, head of the school administrators group.

"If our state recognizes that the way we're going to compete in the world is by having better-educated kids, we have to take some pretty drastic steps here and this is one of them," Kyte said.

The Education Commission of the States, which tracks education trends, reports that at least 32 states have school calendars of 180 days or longer.

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