Yesterday, USA Today championed more time in school in an editorial. States are getting behind the idea by providing grants for schools to extend instructional time (see Ed Week article here). But opt-in programs are hard to evaluate precisely because schools are choosing to participate. So how might we figure out whether and how much instructional days matter?
Dave Marcotte, an economist at the University of Maryland - Baltimore County, turned to mother nature for guidance. Marcotte reasoned that variation in winter weather made non-trivial differences in the number of instructional days before students took the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) exams.
So how do kids do when snowfall decreases the number of instructional days before state tests? In Marcotte's paper, "Schooling and Test Scores: A Mother Natural Experiment," published this fall in the Economics of Education Review, we find out that that students who took exams in years with heavy snowfall performed worse than their peers in the same school who took MSPAP exams in other years. A 19.1 inch increase in a school year's snowfall is associated with a 1.2% fewer 3rd graders passing the math test. The effects of instructional time varied by subject - math scores were affected more than reading scores. They also varied by grade level - 3rd grade scores are affected more than 8th grade students' scores.
Teachers - go buy an SUV. Global warming will help increase your school's test scores.
(Image from velverse.com)