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How Does Length Of MN School Year Stack Up?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- For most Minnesota children, Tuesday is the first day back to class. But, among 10 percent of Minnesota school districts, students started last week or earlier.

So how long do Minnesota students go to school? How do we compare? Good Questions.

State law requires Minnesota elementary schools to instruct students for at least 935 hours per year. It's 1,020 hours per year for middle and high school students. That equals out to 156 and 170 days, respectively, when the school day is measured as six hours. The state also requires a minimum of 165 days for all schools.

According to Josh Collins, a representative with the Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota students go to school for an average of 174 days. Given Minnesota is a local control state, each district sets its own calendar.

In 2013, the Education Commission of the States collected data on the minimum requirements for other states. It found 33 states, including the District of Columbia, have minimum requirements of 180 days. Wisconsin requires middle and high school students to receive instruction for the hourly equivalent of 190 days if the school day is six hours.

"Here is a Minnesota, we have a long tradition of having our summers for our tourism industry," said Collins, when asked why Minnesota's minimum requirements are fewer days.

He also pointed out the importance of the Minnesota State Fair and that some older school buildings don't have air conditioning. Minnesota does require schools to get a special waiver -- or have $400,000 of school construction -- to start before Labor Day.

According to Collins, the research on whether a longer school day correlates with higher student success is mixed.

"We know the risk during the summer is the summer slide," he said. "But we also know there are opportunities to learn in the summer and for kids to be kids, which can be very valuable."

In 2013, Minneapolis Public Schools decided to move its start date to the week before Labor Day. At the time, school officials said the hope was it would have a positive impact on achievement. But, according to spokesman from Minneapolis Public Schools, the district has not been able to make a direct correlation between the two. Later this year, the district will discuss moving the start date back to post-Labor Day.

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