Should the school year be longer? A large-scale study throws cold water on a popular idea
By Amy Crawford / June 1, 2013
Thanks to Hurricane Sandy and record snowstorms in February and March, this year Boston-area schools will be open for business through the end of June. Students will likely spend the extra week, which is required by law to make up for this year?s five or more weather-related cancellations, staring wistfully out the window.
But while to students the class time might seem like an unfair encroachment on vacation, this extra week of school during the hot months is just a taste of what many education reform advocates would like to see: Kids may be on their way to spending more of every summer in school.
Researchers have long been aware that test scores drop between the end of spring and the beginning of fall, and many education reform advocates have suggested that shorter summer breaks could stop that backsliding, especially for students from poor families. Beyond that, however, it?s common sense that more time in school means more learning. A longer school year has garnered support from a range of officials, from local school committee members to US Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Last year, Duncan called additional time ?a critical investment that better prepares children to be successful in the 21st century.?
But a new study of Mexican elementary schools suggests common sense might not have it right. The research, conducted by economists at the University of California Riverside and published in the Journal of Economic Development, looked at schools across Mexico, where the time between the start of the year and a national exam varied from 143 to 183 days. Despite ongoing efforts across Latin America to increase the time students spend in school, the researchers found that the time difference had little impact on students? test results?and in the poorest districts, where students struggle the most, additional days seemed to have no effect at all. [snip]