ST. PAUL (AP) -- Many Minnesota schoolchildren will spend fewer days in school this year -- up to three days fewer.
A state law passed in May allows districts to convert the class time to professional-development days for teachers still struggling with the Profile of Learning, the state's graduation standard.
But the three days are the classroom days that were tacked onto the school year three years ago by a Legislature seeking to prevent students from slipping academically.
In addition, some of the districts cutting back on classroom days now also are cutting back on their Profile requirements, another option allowed by this year's Legislature.
The Hastings School District, which has reduced the number of required Profile standards from 24 to none, is taking two staff development days. Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan, which is requiring just four standards, will take all three days.
Parents who just learned of the schedule changes could find themselves trying to figure out where to send their kids on their additional days off.
But the class-for-staff-time deal has won acclaim from state education groups and from district officials who objected to the extra three classroom days in the first place, and to what they saw as the rushed implementation of the Profile.
"(Districts) were building this plane as it was going down the runway," Sandra Peterson, co-president of Education Minnesota, the state's teachers union, said last week of the Profile.
The Profile is a counterpart of the state's basic-skills tests, requiring students and teachers to shift from lectures and textbook lessons to projects emphasizing practical skills and teamwork.
Officials of 10 school districts contacted last week bemoaned the loss of student days. Each district, however, made the deal.
This year, during deliberations to amend the Profile, legislators agreed to let districts phase it in and offered the three classroom days for professional development. In addition, at the urging of Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, the Legislature approved $39 per student in additional teacher-training funds.
The late legislative action led many districts to revise schedules after the 1999-2000 school year ended. Bloomington traded in three instructional days; its new calendar was mailed to parents three weeks ago. Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan schools sent news of its changes last week.
Minneapolis schools will convert 2 1/2 classroom days to professional-development use this year. Eric Schneider, high school coordinator in the district's Office of Teacher and Instructional Services, said that while it may be considered "counterintuitive" to reduce student contact and yet expect students to thrive under the Profile, he believed that teacher training was essential.
In the town of Hawley, about 20 miles east of Moorhead, where about 65 teachers serve a K-12 system with about 925 students, teachers plan to use the development days to review how Profile tasks are blended into the curriculum, Hawley High School Principal Mike Martin said. The new funds provided by the Legislature will help pay teachers to write curricula after hours, he added.
One of the Hawley staff development days will be Monday, Oct. 23, following the annual state teachers' convention.
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