Explaining the New DESE Regulations

There has been much chatter recently about the Commonwealth’s new regulations regarding Student Learning Time (SLT) issued last month. For the purposes of its study and regulations, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) considers SLT as in-person instruction and live remote synchronous learning. After surveying schools statewide about their actual hours of time on learning, DESE determined that one-third of schools were not providing enough SLT and established the following minimum levels of SLT:

For hybrid models, 35 hours averaged over 10 days and across all grades

Daily opportunity for live interaction with teachers

For remote models, daily synchronous learning and an average of 40 hours of synchronous learning over 10 days and across all grades

These requirements went into effect this past Tuesday. They do not mean that each school must meet 35 hours (or 40 for remote models) every two weeks; the district must average them across all of its grades. This does not include kindergarten or pre-kindergarten, however. So if the younger students, for example, are in school 20 hours per week, and the older students are only in school 15 hours per week, the entire district would be in compliance because the average would be 35.

The other question that arose during this implementation period is what constitutes time on learning. DESE has defined SLT as live instruction, whether it be in person or online. In other words, so long as a teacher and the students are present together (or in the case of remote, online together in real time), then that counts as SLT. Recesses, lunch breaks, transitions, and handwashing do NOT count as SLT. So if a district follows a one-week on/one-week off model, and the students are in the school building from 8:30am to 3pm, this would not satisfy the regulations.

By now, all districts out of compliance should have revised their learning model and put it into effect this week. If your district is not meeting these new regulations, consider reaching out to your superintendent or school committee and finding out how they plan to.