Common sense, data, and school days

It just sort of makes sense: more time in class makes for more learning. Many countries have longer school years than the standard 180 days in the Unites States and they seem to benefit with higher scores on international assessments like TIMMS. However, it is also true that comparing, say, U.S. and Japanese educational systems is like comparing Michigan apples to Kagoshima mikan.

Now in the Winter 2010 edition of Education Next, Dave E. Marcotte and Benjamin Hansen add educational data to the discussion in their article Time for School?. The article is based on end-of-year test scores and the small year-to-year differences in instructional time due to variations in snow days. While the differences and the effects are small, they are not negligible and seem to be consistent over different studies conducted by the authors and their colleagues.

Clearly, this can be significant for educational policy. Marcotte and Hansen argue that it is also potentially important for school planning and for assessment of school performance from year to year. At least one graph they showed was rather jagged but smoothed out as a result of applying a correction for time in school.

One does wonder if the simple disruption to continuity of lessons due to snow days might be a confounding variable. That said, this is a potentially important result which is certainly worth more study and perhaps some experiments with longer school years.


2 Responses to “Common sense, data, and school days”

  1. Ben Hansen Says:

    Thanks for your comments and thoughts on the article. I actually thing the estimates we find are somewhat large. In regards to the interruption effect of snow days, I do think that could play a role. That’s why I also used test date shifts in MN which affected the number of instructional days in a way seen by teachers at the beginning of the year.

  2. uberVU - social comments Says:

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

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