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50-State Comparison: Instructional Time Policies

Instructional time policy is critical to education service delivery because it dictates the amount of time students are learning in the classroom. Instructional time policy is often used by states to set minimum education requirements for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. Each state defines instructional time differently, and states have varying requirements in policies that reflect the needs of their state and their students. However, some states also allow their local school districts to determine their own requirements for instructional time. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, some states enacted more flexible measures to meet instructional time requirements, and as of recently, some states are moving back toward the traditional requirements while others have made statutory changes.

This resource provides an overview of state instructional time requirements for kindergarten through grade 12 — including days or hours/minutes per year, hours/minutes per day, start and/or finish date parameters where they exist in state law, and information on year-round schooling. Education Commission of the States researched requirements in state statutes and administrative codes to create this 50-State Comparison. When applicable, state-level policy and guidance set outside of statute and administrative code are included in the notes.

There are many exceptions to instructional time requirements across states, and not all of them are indicated in this 50-State Comparison. Unless otherwise indicated, states that have hours/minutes per year and days per year require both. This resource does not reflect instructional time policies specific to four-day school weeks.

Click on one of the 50-State Comparisons below to show how each state approaches instructional time in current policy or choose to view a specific state’s approach by going to the individual state profiles page.

Key Takeaways

  • Thirty-one states plus the District of Columbia require at least 180 days of instruction.
  • Fifteen states place parameters around school start and/or finish dates. Twenty-seven states indicate that local school districts are to determine start and/or finish dates.
  • Thirty-five states differentiate the hours/minutes in a day or year, or the days in a year, based on grade levels.
  • Twenty-five states provided or specified the option of year-round schooling in state policy.

50-State Comparisons

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Feb. 6, 2023

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