According to most recent results from the Program for International Student Assessment, the U.S. placed an unimpressive 25th out of 64 countries in math and 27th in science.
Did you know students in the USA spend much less time in school than students in many industrialized countries around the world? Many wonder if this could be a contributing factor.
To support this belief, researchers compared how certain K-12 schools in Maryland and Colorado fared on state assessments in years where there were frequent weather-related school closures. They compared this data to other schools in those states that had relatively mild winters.
Here is what they found:
- Each additional inch of snow in a winter reduced the percentage of 3rd, 5th and 8th grade students who passed math assessments by between .5 and .7 of a point.
- Winters with average levels of snow fall (17 inches), the share of students testing proficient was 1-2 points lower than winters with little to no snow.
The advantage of using snow as a factor is that weather is outside the control of school districts and provides a source of variation in instructional time that should be otherwise unrelated to student achievement.
Collectively, this research suggests that expanding instructional time is as effective as other commonly discussed educational interventions intended to boost student achievement, including increasing teacher quality and reducing class size.
Although the evidence is mounting that expanding instructional time will result in learning gains in k-12 students, evidence on the costs of extending the school year is startling. A recent study in Minnesota suggests increasing the number of instructional days from 175 to 200 would cost nearly $1,000 more per student per year.
Despite this financial burden, some k-12 schools and districts across the country have already begun modifying or extending the school year. For example, the Massachusetts 2020 initiative has provided resources for several dozen schools to increase the number of instruction days from 180 to about 200.
Is your school or district revisiting the academic school year? Share your thoughts with us on our blog!