In a press conference held at John Thomas School of Discovery today, Governor Nixon said Missouri’s requirement of 175 classroom days gives the state the fourth-shortest school year in the U.S, and he called on the legislature to expand to 180 days of instructional days each year.

As a report from the Missouri Department of Higher Education highlights, the state struggles with the same achievement gap seen nationally. So while this is a step in the right direction, Missouri should not simply be trying to match the same time requirements as other states, but leading the charge to expand learning time for their students, especially those living in areas of concentrated poverty.

An expanded school schedule enables students to have more time for the core academic instruction that they need while also getting the arts, music, and physical education classes they deserve. Teachers also benefit with more time to collaborate, use data, and plan their lessons. We know that expanding learning time can’t be simply more of the same; rather, it must be more and better learning time that prepares students for success in today’s 21st century economy.

As Missouri prioritizes improving their education system, I hope that they aim to create flexibility that allows school districts to consider expanding learning time past the 180 day minimum.

In the meantime, I do want to applaud Gov. Nixon on his proposal today. This is a step in the right direction toward ensuring that Missouri’s children have the time they need to be prepared for college, career, and beyond.