States adding time to compulsory ed requirement

States adding time to compulsory ed requirement

(Colo.) With the body of research growing that links student achievement to good attendance habits, several states have expanded their age requirements for compulsory education at both ends of the academic spectrum, according to a new survey from the Education Commission of the States.

Oregon, for instance, has moved its entrance requirement from age 7 to age 6, while Rhode Island changed their admission mandate from age 6 to age 5. Meanwhile, Texas raised the other end of the compulsory attendance to age 19 unless already a high school graduate.

Ten states now require students to attend school for 13 years while a dozen require 12 years of public schooling and ten states have a mandate covering 11 years.

“Research supports the benefits of extending schooling on both ends of the K-12 spectrum, in the early years and through high school graduation,” said researchers Louisa Diffey and Sarah Steffes in their report.

“Most states begin free education at age 5, and some provide extensions to younger students or allow local education agencies to make this decision,” they noted. “Additionally, states often allow younger children to enter kindergarten before the required lower age limit if they will reach that age during the school year or within a specified time frame.”

Most state constitutions contain provisions that guarantee access to a free public education. But there is a lot of variance nationally on when children can begin school as well as when they must attend.

The least number of years students must attend school is nine years, which is the law in seven states: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Wyoming. The most required is thirteen years, which is the law in nine states–Arkansas, Connecticut,  Hawaii, Maryland, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas and Virginia–and the District of Columbia.

Twelve states require ten years of schooling: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Washington.

Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and West Virginia require 11 years in schools; California, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin require 12 years.

Much of the focus in recent years has been on early learners. The commission research team found that only 13 states and the District of Columbia require school districts to offer full-day kindergarten. That said, 35 states reported that 80 percent of their students attend full-day kindergarten.

They also noted, however, that making sure students finish four years of high school is just as critical.

“Access to educational opportunities is just as important at the end of a student's public education as it is at the beginning,” the authors said. “As high school graduation rates have increased to 83 percent, states continue to look for policy tools to support students in completing their secondary education and acquiring the necessary skills to excel in career or postsecondary opportunities. Research indicates that an additional year of high school is associated with a 10 percent increase, on average, in lifetime earnings, which supports an extension of the upper limit of the age requirements for compulsory attendance.”