California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II

Recommended and Required Instructional Minutes

Currently, in the state of California, there are 54,000 instructional minutes (DOC; 107KB; 9pp.) required per year for each grade from four through eight. Many school boards have adopted more than the minimum requirements to meet the needs of their adolescents.

California’s Education Code (EC) outlines both the required and recommended instructional time for middle grades courses. Local stakeholders determine the number of minutes per course.

  • The State of California has no hourly requirements for course work, other than for physical education. Students in grades one through six, inclusive, must be provided with physical education instruction for a total of not less than 200 minutes each ten school days, exclusive of recesses and the lunch period. (EC Section 51210[g]). Not withstanding EC Section 51223, “All pupils, except pupils excused or exempted pursuant to EC Section 51241, shall be required to attend upon the courses of physical education for a total period of time of not less than 400 minutes each ten school days” (EC Section 51222[a]). Finally, if a school is identified as an elementary school in the County-District-School (CDS) code system, EC Section 51223 states that, “Notwithstanding the provisions of Sections 51210 and 51222, instruction in physical education in an elementary school maintaining any of grades one to eight shall be for a total period of time not less than 200 minutes each ten school days, exclusive of recesses and the lunch period.

In cases where a middle school operates on a block schedule, the State Board of Education has the option to consider granting a waiver for the required minutes for physical education (refer to the State Board Policy #99-03).

The Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools Kindergarten through Grade Twelve (2005) (PDF; 3.19MB; 411pp.), Chapter 1, page 9, recommends 50-60 minutes a day for all students, not including homework. It also provides guidelines for algebra. “By grade eight, students’ mathematical sensitivity should be sharpened. Students need to start perceiving logical subtleties and appreciate the need for sound mathematical arguments before making conclusions. Students who are not prepared for Algebra I by grade nine should instead receive specialized instructional materials that focus on the prerequisite standards described in Appendix E. An algebra-readiness course will prepare students for success in algebra and subsequent advanced courses.”1 (For more about algebra readiness, refer to pages 262 and 264 of the Mathematics Framework.)

  • The Science Framework (PDF; 3.84MB; 313pp.) does not recommend a specific number of instructional minutes. Beginning in 2006, eighth-grade science scores were included in the school's Academic Performance Index (API) baseline.
  • The History/Social Science Framework (PDF; 2.91MB; 249pp.) does not recommend a specific number of instructional minutes. Eighth-grade students take the California Standards Test in history/social science. These scores affect the school’s API.2
  • The Visual and Performing Arts Framework (PDF; 2.8MB; 294 pp.) does not recommend a specific number of minutes for the instruction of dance, music, theatre, and/or visual arts. 

Time for All Courses

Time to Meet Student Needs

1Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools. Sacramento: California Department of Education, 2006, 78.
2Middle Grades Frequently Asked Questions. Sacramento: California Department of Education.

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