ISBE Issues Memorandum Clarifying Definition of “Instructional Day”

The Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) recently released a memorandum in response to questions it has received about the definition of an “Instructional Day.”  As part of the Evidence-Based Funding for Student Success Act (Public Act 100-0465), Section 18-8.05 of the School Code, which required an Instructional Day to be a minimum of five hours, was repealed. Consequently, there is no current statutory minimum number of hours or minutes that constitutes an Instructional Day, meaning that school districts have more flexibility in determining the method and timelines of Instructional Days.

The memorandum, which can be found here, provides preliminary clarification to inquiries about the minimum requirements of an Instructional Day. Most importantly, the memorandum clarifies that there is no statutory minimum number of hours or minutes that constitutes an Instructional Day.  ISBE encourages school districts to work with their school boards and collective bargaining units to define an Instructional Day, and to innovate with respect to new ways of engaging students in learning that center on student competencies and mastery of subject matter.  The memorandum also makes clear that an Instructional Day need not be confined to classroom-based instruction, and may include, but is not limited to, online instruction, independent research projects, work-based learning and internships.

The memorandum further states that school calendars must contain a minimum of 176 instructional days. However, school districts that have approved calendars for 174 instructional days for the 2018-19 school year will not be required to modify calendars for this school year.

Additionally, the memorandum indicates that Instructional Days interrupted due to reasons beyond a District’s control (e.g., snow days), will count if student learning has occurred.

ISBE also noted that additional guidance on Instructional Days, as well as chronic absenteeism and student absences will be forthcoming.